Employee retention is a huge issue for many businesses at the moment. There are quite a few worrying headlines in the news at the moment for employers. Job advert numbers are hitting record levels – there were 2.29 million active postings at the start of October. A quarter of employees are planning to move jobs in the next 12 months.
The impact is being felt in the day-to-day operations of many small employers who are struggling with recruitment and employee retention. While certain sectors and levels are having a particularly tough time of it, the challenge of recruiting people is something that’s affecting most companies.
And many small businesses are really up against it when the talent pool they’re fishing in is the same one that the likes of Amazon are interested in. Particularly when those types of organisations are offering huge sign-on bonuses and hourly rates that are well above what smaller employers can offer. And as we head into the Christmas season, this problem’s becoming even more acute.
Inevitably it’s affecting employee retention too, with employees tempted by the generous packages that are on offer. The loss of any employee is disruptive, but especially if it’s an employee who’s been with you for a while. The loss of all that knowledge and experience can be a real blow. If it’s then coupled with a struggle to replace them, it’s even worse.
Why are employees leaving?
We’ve already mentioned one major reason: money. Salaries have been rising steadily while at the same time the cost of living’s going up. So, for some employees, the motivation is mainly financial. They need, or would like to earn, more money than they’re currently getting. But money’s not the only reason that employees might be thinking about moving on.
Some might be trying to achieve a better work/life balance – having experienced remote working life during the pandemic, they might realise the return to a physical workplace doesn’t suit them as well. So they’re looking for alternative options.
Line manager relationships are key too. A poor working relationship is one of the biggest reasons why people choose to leave their roles and impact employee retention rates. Or they might be struggling under a heavy workload. Everyone expects some pressure in their job but if deadlines are consistently unrealistic, there’s going to come a point where employees start thinking about moving on to avoid burning out.
Sometimes it’s more to do with the fact that employees believe there are few options for them to develop in their current role, or a lack of career progression opportunities overall so feel they’ve no choice but to look elsewhere.
What can you do to increase employee retention?
So what can you do if you’re a small employer who’s facing employee retention and recruitment problems?
It might be that you can mitigate some of the issue by taking the opportunity to redesign activity: more cross-team collaboration perhaps or using automation and technology to take on some of the load.
But this is unlikely to solve the problem completely, so you need to look at all other possible options. There are a whole range of things you can try – some might be more costly than others; some might require a time, rather than financial, investment. Here are some ideas to help you.
- Enhance the remuneration package
Clearly if there’s anything you can do in terms of overall remuneration, then that’s great as it’ll encourage more employees to stay, and help you put together a more competitive package if you’re recruiting.
It doesn’t just have to be the salary; elements like increased employer pension contributions, private health insurance, a more generous annual leave provision or other forms of paid leave will all enhance the value of what you’re offering. You could also look at whether you’ve scope to offer more flexible working patterns and locations too as they can be particularly attractive to employees who are trying to find ways to manage their working and personal responsibilities.
- Offer more development opportunities
As a small employer it’s unlikely you’ll have many levels that employees can work their way through, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a career path with you. Smaller companies can often give employees more opportunities to get involved in a broader range of activities than larger companies can.
So think about whether you can give employees the chance to move around and learn more about other roles too. At the same time, look at development opportunities available. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a lengthy off-site external programme; there are so many good-quality, low-cost courses available online that it might be more about giving them some working time to carry those out in bite-size chunks.
- Listen to what your employees have to say
Employees value and feel empowered by having an employer who listens to them then acts on what they have to say. There are several ways to do this, perhaps by setting up an employee committee or using employee surveys to ask how they feel about various aspects of your company. They’re a great way to directly ask for feedback about what employees want from you, what’s going well and what could be improved on.
If an employee’s made the decision to leave, never miss the opportunity to talk to them to understand why via an exit interview. Be prepared for the fact that some of the information you hear might be uncomfortable but it’s really important to listen properly to it and take any action needed as a result.
- Celebrate success and say thank you
Don’t overlook the value of having a business where you take the time to thank employees for the contribution they’re making. Think about what you can do to make your employees feel appreciated and remember it doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.
Depending on your budget, you could explore whether an employee benefits platform might be a convenient way to offer perks and discounts to your employees. Or you could introduce a recognition policy where they can have their birthday off, and where other milestones like work anniversaries are marked in an appropriate way. Remember that to really have an impact though, showing appreciation needs to be ongoing, not just a one-off activity. Even just emailing or chatting to employees to thank them for something they’ve done can have a really positive effect.
- Focus on employee wellbeing
Helping employees stay fit and well is a win for everyone involved so is there anything you can do to support this? Perhaps you might be able to find local businesses you can work with to set up a scheme, like discounted membership at a local gym. You could offer other wellbeing-related benefits too, like paying for eye tests.
Wellbeing isn’t just about taking care of physical health though so you could consider whether an employee assistance programme might be of interest. It’s an employer-paid scheme that provides employees with confidential access to independent advisers to help them with a whole range of issues they might be experiencing.
EAPs can be set up separately but can also be provided via employee engagement platforms alongside any perks and benefits you want to offer. There’s often quite a lot of overlap these days, with many providers offering a ‘one stop shop’ for engagement, wellbeing and benefits.
- Make the working environment more welcoming
The physical working environment can have an impact on how employees feel. If most of your employees are based on site, think about how it might affect them. It’s unlikely someone would move on simply because they didn’t like the building they’re in, but it can be a contributing factor – after all, they’re spending a lot of their time there. Be mindful that younger generations in general are more aware of their surroundings and value a pleasant environment. Even simple gestures can help; providing things like fruit baskets and free coffee and tea and biscuits can be a nice touch.
Do you need more advice on recruitment and retention issues?