How to reduce staff turnover

Research by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) reveals some unsettling facts for employers about the coming year. Apparently, ‘one in five workers plan to leave their jobs in 2014‘ – that’s 20 per cent of the workforce looking for a different role. The majority of those want to move to a new employer, too.

With recruitment costs estimated by XpertHR at between £1,457 and £11,000 depending on seniority, retaining staff is clearly something that businesses should make an urgent priority.

However, you’d be mistaken if you thought the solution was to throw money at disgruntled staff; the biggest reasons for leaving have absolutely nothing to do with the annual salary.

Here are five ways to reduce turnover and retain your greatest asset – your staff:

Tackle stress

An article on HR Grapevine claims that stress is the ‘single most important cause of unhappiness’, followed by anxiety and depression. Finding ways to reduce these mental illnesses would clearly be a massive step forward in minimising turnover. This is a huge and delicate topic, though and so there’s no one, singular solution. To prevent issues escalating, managers would be well-advised to hold regular one-to-ones with their direct reports to monitor workload and determine whether there is a problem. It might be that individuals require some training on how to say ‘no’ or to delegate tasks to others. Another option is to look seek ways to streamline or automate procedures to alleviate unnecessarily administrative burdens and cut workloads – maybe this can be discussed in the one-to-ones?

Almost more importantly, employers should try to create a culture whereby mental illness is discussed openly and without prejudice. For this to be the case, it’s likely that a few educational pieces will be required, for managers and employees. Many managers remain reticent to broach the topic of mental illness, thus training is vital if it can instill them with confidence to address stressful situations before they can escalate further. Setting up an occupational health telephone helpline might be another good idea, providing all employees with access to expert, confidential advice.

Offer opportunities for progression

There are usually two main reasons for lack of progression, the first being that the company itself simply doesn’t have that many openings – perhaps it’s a start-up or a relatively small company. The second is that the individual employee simply isn’t sufficiently experienced for the roles on offer.

Dealing with the first scenario is tricky and it might be that you simply have to accept that people will want to move on after a few years. To try and reduce these exits, make sure to advertise all vacancies internally before they go external, thereby enabling employees to apply.  Consider creating new roles for promising individuals, if it presents a benefit to both the business and the individual. Secondments, rotations and job shadowing might be other short-term fixes to consider. Essentially, you want to take any action you can to make it clear that your employees do have a future in the company, even if the vacancies have not yet arisen.

For those employees that are keen to progress but fail, always provide constructive feedback regarding applications. Perhaps carry out a skills audit and determine whether there are any gaps in knowledge that can be fixed. Training and education was listed by the ILM as the second biggest New Year’s resolution, therefore offering development can equally be considered as an effective retention tool.

Assess the company’s culture

Something that most businesses steer well clear of is obtaining a clear picture of the company’s culture from the workforce’s point of view. It might result in some unfavourable comments, but this insight can be advantageous if it is used to make much-needed changes. To obtain an honest idea of the picture, bite the bullet and carry out an employee engagement survey. Assure participants of anonymity to encourage decent responses.

Some of the biggest gripes (and a common reason for leaving) is a pressure to work long hours. The study says that improving work-life balance is one of British workers’ most popular resolutions, thus employers have a huge opportunity here for a quick-win. Promote flexible working options, emphasise that presenteeism is actually not a good thing, maybe even offer employees training on time management / prioritisation. Naturally, there are occasions when employees will need to work late and in such cases, approved time off in lieu (TOIL) can ensure that they don’t miss out on down time.

Culture isn’t simply about helping people stick to the nine to five, of course. With myriad management styles, a manager’s approach isn’t always going to suit all workers, plus many are promoted from technical roles without proper training. Hence frequent management training is key and if the ILM study is anything to go by, it’s something that managers themselves (13 per cent) actually want.

Demonstrate a sense of value

The ILM study shows that 16 per cent of those seeking a new job are doing so because they don’t feel valued or respected by their direct line manager, colleagues and/or the company as a whole. Yet it’s not difficult to do.

Taking a consultative approach to management is one effective method; listening to staff and allowing them to be part of a process is a sure-fire way to make a worker feel that their contribution is useful and that they make a positive difference. Offering development opportunities similarly indicates you want to invest in their future.

Saying ‘thank you’ is one of the easiest, most effective ways to imply value and is absolutely essential for personal motivation and self-esteem. Gone are the days where employees worked with their heads down, according to Forbes we want individual recognition and respect for our contributions. Recognition schemes can consequently have a great impact, equally serving to raise morale. Valued employees are those that have a voice, are respected and are thanked. It’s not really that much to ask, is it?

Introduce performance-related reward

Despite saying earlier that salary complaints are not among the main reasons for leaving, inconsistency and unfairness around the compensation process is. Lack of reward, an opaque scheme or blatant favouritism leaves hard-working employees not only frustrated but looking elsewhere – after all, there are plenty of companies willing to reward talent far more appropriately.

Rather than an ad-hoc salary reviews, it’s more professional and fair to introduce a performance-related reward scheme, which can associate the attainment of objectives to pay and bonus. The benefits of this type of scheme is that it is transparent and makes the employees themselves responsible for their compensation: meeting or exceeding objectives could result in a rise and bonus.

Reducing turnover isn’t simply about giving in to staff demands; it’s about demonstrating that you know they are the company’s competitive advantage, that those who work hard and show loyalty will be developed and rewarded. Essentially, it’s a two-way street and by taking these measures into consideration, it can be a pretty harmonious place to work.