Retaining Staff…How to do it!

The challenge of successfully retaining staff is a nightmare that haunts every manager and leader.

If the challenge is faced correctly, it can propel forward the results of a team and build a brilliant working environment. But if it is dealt with badly or not at all, it can cause high staff turnover, poor employment branding and recruitment fees bigger than your turnover.

I have had the experience of building teams up to as many as 150 staff, and have tried many techniques to raise the levels of staff retention and enjoyment in organisations. Over the coming weeks I will share with you some of my most effective, tried and tested, techniques. I hope you will benefit from my experience and will attain results of which you can be proud.

  • Open communication with the team is a must. It’s very easy as a leader to become cocooned in your day-to-day activities and fail to realise that your plans are non-existent from your team’s point of view. To guard against this, you should have meetings or get together on what has been achieved, what needs to be achieved, and where everyone should be heading. These meetings will be critical to the future success of the business. But remember that some staff may take the meeting as an opportunity to switch off, so build in an exercise that gets them in a group (unsolicited by yourself) to present back what has been discussed, as well as making new suggestions for how the goals might be achieved. Getting them to work together in this way is a great team-building exercise, and provides an opportunity for you to identify future leaders, based on the role that each individual naturally takes on within the team.
  • Make sure that each individual has clear objectives and responsibilities. When building teams and retaining staff it’s important that everyone appreciates the overall goal of what needs to be achieved, and understands what role they personally need to play, and how their defined role in the group fits into the overall objective. By clearly defining individual roles and objectives, you will build a more inspired team who produce better results and overall outcomes.
  • Involve the team in the interviewing process. If you find yourself in an organisation with big growth plans, and where a key part of the management role will be recruiting and hiring new teams, it’s vital to involve existing team members in the interviewing process. For example, you could consider arranging for candidates to have a drink with the team at the final interview stage, or perhaps have team members carry out interviews relating to different parts of the role description, to see what their thoughts are. Making the interviewing process inclusive means that a more all-round decision can be made, where everyone puts across their view, leaving you to make the final decision.
  • Carry out thorough research into salaries and packages for your industry or niche. Many companies can get the soft parts of team building and retention right, but if you overlook rewards and salaries, you may become an easy picking ground for your competitors. Managers who have a good relationship with their recruiters ask them for an overview of the market and expected salaries for the roles advertised. Or in fact, with the right job boards, you can gain this information for free. Some companies even hire consultants to carry out salary surveys, but I have experienced many situations in which the information has been incorrect, and usually below market par. Really, the message is: don’t over-pay, because you will attract individuals for the wrong reasons, and don’t under-pay, because you will lose staff and find it hard to replace them.
  • Evolve a development programme that’s in line with the departmental and corporate strategy. The challenge in managing and retaining staff is how to hold onto the high achievers – the shooting stars. One of the strongest tools for this is a career development programme. This can take time to build, but once it’s complete it will act as a road map to success in your company. Over the years I have seen this work very effectively in companies, because staff see and can accomplish their career goals without needing to move out to move up.
  • Build realistic training programmes designed around each individual. To make the career development plan real, you need effective training behind it to ensure that bridges can be built between one role and another. This requires an understanding of the skills gap and production of internal or external resources that will deliver missing abilities. One great way of doing this internally (and another great team-building exercise) is to have individuals design a course around a subject they are competent with, and deliver it to the selected team members.
  • Recognise when individuals are doing well, and encourage them. The best form of recognition is instant. Good leaders who retain staff spend some time each day walking the floor: they don’t stay in their office all day. While walking the floor they look out for team members who are doing something well. When this happens, they go out of their way to praise the individual and make it public, and perhaps even use the situation as a case study in future discussions.
  • Arrange time out the office to focus on team building and camaraderie. Even though this may appear to be a costly waste of time, it actually works very well. Firstly, it can bring your team closer together, because they experience each other in a different environment, outside work. This can prove advantageous back in the office. Secondly, it’s a great tool to use as a reward at the completion of a project. Once the project has been successfully completed, the team know there is the out of office event to look forward too.
  • Use appraisals as an opportunity for communication as well as evaluation. Going back to my first tip about communication ­– the appraisal process is an excellent platform to achieve this on a one-to-one basis. Appraisals shouldn’t only be about rapping someone’s knuckles, or patting them on the back: they should also be an opportunity for open communication, providing an opportunity for each team member to express their thoughts on various matters, not just their own performance.
  • Clear the route for progress when individuals show potential. If you decide to design and build a career development programme for your department or organisation, it is paramount that people see that there is real potential for progression. So make sure that all internal candidates are interviewed for positions as well as outsiders. And when individuals are promoted internally, recognise them among their peers during your get together or away days, and give them a small token to remember their success.
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