Written by Kate Pritchard
A high employee retention rate has a major positive effect on any organisation. The longer your employees stay with you the more you’ll benefit from the valuable skills and experience they’ve accumulated. You’ll also continue to enjoy the benefits of any important relationships your key staff will have developed with customers, business partners and suppliers. And of course, having a happy, stable employee base is an important foundation for improving team performance and productivity.
On the flip side, there are plenty of negatives if your top talent keeps leaving. For one, the average cost of replacing an employee – if you include management time, training and recruitment expenses – is up to 200% of the employee’s annual salary, according to experts. On top of that there’s the likely disruption within the remaining team if they keep seeing their colleagues moving on, and the possible negative perception customers will have of your business if they see high employee turnover.
Recent research from Investors in People found that nearly half (47%) of the UK workforce say they will be looking for a new job in 2018, so how can you improve employee retention and prevent top talent from leaving? Providing good pay and conditions are important, but they are just necessary hygiene factors. When looking at how to retain employees, one of your priorities should be a continuous listening strategy. This helps to create a two-way dialogue with employees to identify and address workplace problems that might tempt people to leave, boosting engagement and reducing employee turnover.
Here are five suggestions that can help you achieve this:
We live in a feedback culture in our private lives. Every day we’re able to provide comments and ratings on the goods and services we buy. If we feel there’s a problem, we’re able to have our say. And if things have gone well we can also give praise. Smart companies are extending this to the work environment. In addition to running surveys, give your people the opportunity to provide feedback whenever and wherever they want – such as through mobile apps and online communities they can log into when it’s easy and convenient for them. Your staff should not have to wait for a specific survey or review meeting to let you know that something is or isn’t working for them – by then it could be too late. Providing the ability to give feedback makes them more involved and engaged, in turn boosting employee retention rates. Demonstrating this, analysis by Gallup found that employees who class themselves as ‘engaged’ are 59% less likely to leave.
Staff have different needs and different problems at different stages in their careers and you need to be able to address them. Tailor your feedback strategy to meet these needs – listening to them at key milestones on the employee journey, such as during recruitment, onboarding and exit is at the heart of improved employee retention.
Often decisions to leave are not triggered by a specific event, but build over time. Research carried out by Willis Towers Watson found that over a quarter of employees are at a high risk of leaving. Continuous listening will help you combat this, aiding the detection of early warning signs when it comes to potential employee turnover and allow you to fix problems, either at an individual or company-wide level to ensure important staff are content, committed and likely to stick around.
You need to make listening and acting on employee feedback an everyday part of the way you run your business, if you want to increase employee retention. This includes regular listening through surveys – annual surveys, pulse surveys and also surveys that individual managers can trigger to assess any challenges they are facing within their teams or departments.
As well as using continuous listening to let employees share their feedback whenever they want, it can provide deep insight during times of change or when your company is making major announcements that affect staff. Survey your people before you make the announcement, during the process and afterwards to get their feedback. Use this to fine-tune your strategy so that staff both understand and are engaged with the changes, boosting employee retention rates.
One of the key advantages of continuous listening is its speed – you can see exactly how staff are feeling on an up to the minute basis, across your organisation. This also enables you to pinpoint areas of concern, and take immediate action. For example, if all of a specific team or particular department are unhappy, continuous listening empowers managers to ask them more specific questions that get to the root of the problem, enabling you to fix it before it worsens and impacts employee retention rates.
Underpinning all of these points is one key fact – if you want staff to continue giving sincere, honest feedback and opinions they have to feel their voice is being heard – and that it’s making a difference. Thank people when they contribute insights and communicate how and when you are planning on using their feedback. Wherever possible involve them in developing solutions to the issues they raise and keep them updated on any changes to company processes or policies that have resulted. And if you have not been able to use their feedback to drive change, acknowledge this and let them know why.
Business leaders agree that the skills and experience of their talent are central to their success. Employee retention is therefore a business imperative. Engage with your people through continuous listening and show you are acting on the insight they provide if you want to motivate and keep them for the long-term. Reducing employee turnover will then directly improve your business bottom line.