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How to prevent high employee turnover

For any business, employee turnover can be an issue, and particularly for small businesses when it can create a large hole. On top of this, there’s the cost of replacing them, the productivity issues and the lower morale potentially caused when others have to cover their work.

So the more businesses can do to keep top talent, the better it is for business. The question is how. While it will probably come as no surprise to hear pay (or the lack of) is still the main bugbear for employees (51% think they can get more money somewhere else1) , the good news is that many of the things we can do to reduce turnover are relatively simple to implement. The even better news - especially for smaller businesses - is that most of them don’t have to cost a fortune.

While we can never retain 100% of our staff, you can start to think about trying to change some of the things that may be causing high employee turnover. Investors in People’s (IIP) recent job exodus survey1 highlighted why employees vote with their feet. And here are some ideas on how to prevent them from walking out the door permanently.

Being a rubbish boss

With 42% of employees in the IIP survey saying poor management is one of the main reasons why they’re unhappy in their role, it’s clear that a good boss is something employees rate highly. But what is being a good manager all about?

Different people are likely to have differing opinions on what makes a great manager – for some the human element is most important, while others value their boss’s ability to push them to achieve new things ad help them develop. However, there are several characteristics that are universal in good management.

Trusting your employee, backing them up (instead of throwing them under the bus when things go wrong), and listening to them and encouraging them can all lead to respect, a morale boost - and ultimately, longevity within the company.

Strong leaders can inspire hard work, and good managers who are open and honest and listen to thoughts and opinions tend to run effective teams.

And don’t underestimate how far a bit of recognition goes – everyone likes a shout-out for a job well done, even if it’s a less public thank you for those shyer members of staff.

Not providing career development opportunities

No career progression made a third of employees (33%) unhappy at work. Research shows that millennials in particular value career development opportunities.

According to 2015 research from recruitment consultancy Robert Walters2 , a whopping 91% of millennials said career progression was a top priority. And more than half (53%) had been disappointed by the lack of personal development training.

While this can be tough for smaller businesses in particular where the ability to move up the ladder may be slower and via a less defined path, there are still things every company can do to help make sure you keep your millennials (and others) engaged.

Make it clear that you can see employees moving up when the opportunity arises. But even if a promotion isn’t on the horizon, you can still show your staff you can satisfy their ambitions and recognise their potential by:

  • Offering training
  • Handing people a bit of extra responsibility (but don’t forget the recognition)
  • Have them shadow senior staff for a few days
  • Give them an allocated amount of free time each month to come up with business ideas – this won’t be for everyone, but allowing your employees to be creative with their skill and experience can result in some excellent business ideas and more engaged employees

The above suggestions can also help employees feel valued – vitally important when IIP’s survey also found that 34% of staff leave because they aren’t valued – rising to 38% on workers aged 16-29.

Allowing a toxic work environment

Though not highlighted in the IIP survey, an unpleasant working environment can certainly lead to staff turnover. A recent article in The Metro – though extreme – made for unpleasant reading. But even on a lesser scale, workplace bullying and belittling someone can quickly drive people away. And if employees feel unable to speak out because they’re scared of reprisals or think they won’t be believed, the cycle will continue.

Even without the human side of things, the actual work setting – whether it’s noisy, dirty or windowless can all play a part in someone’s decision to look for pastures new.

Employers have a vital role to play in establishing and fostering a good workplace culture. First and foremost, one where employees know they can speak candidly is a must – and to more than one person. If you’re the problem, they’re unlikely to want to speak to you about it.

Although not always easy, leading by example is another must. How can you expect your employees to act in a certain way if you don’t? Whether that’s finishing on time a few days a week, or being open and honest when you make a mistake. While it’s important employees respect their managers, that respect is earned - and easily lost.

Simple things like being unafraid to get to get your hands dirty and help other team members out when needed, or acknowledging people’s birthdays, either by buying cake (always popular!) or letting that person finish a couple of hours early can all go down well. Even just taking the team out for a drink or a bite to eat after a particularly big win or successful project can help boost people’s productivity and happiness levels.

And look at the physical aspects of the workplace too. Can the décor do with a spruce? Can you change furniture, layouts, equipment, introduce some greenery? Or even encourage staff to get some fresh air outside.

Ignoring employee benefits

According to Employee Benefits and Staffcare research, 82% of employers offered benefits because they are an effective retention tool, while 81% did so because they helped recruitment3.

It’s clear that a competitive benefits package goes a long way when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent, but it’s important that you tailor the benefits to your employees’ needs or give them the option to choose those that matter most to them. Younger workers may prefer a simple health cash plan or dental insurance, while older workers may value something that offers financial protection for them or their families, such as Critical illness cover or Life insurance. One of the best ways to find out what your staff will value is simply to ask!

Whether you’re big or small, offering a range of employee benefits can help you compete. But if you’re thinking the budget simply won’t run to adding to your existing benefits package or to introducing one, think again.

Employee-paid benefits – also sometimes called flexible benefits or voluntary benefits – are a cost-effective way of offering the things that your employees want at no or low cost to yourself.


1Investors in People – Job exodus trends, 2017
2Robert Walters whitepaper – Attracting and retaining millennial professionals, 2015
3Employee Benefits research, 2017

Topics: Insider