Retaining talent — it’s not all about the money

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Written by Alice Withers on 16 September 2015

Recent figures released by suggest that retention is becoming a priority for UK businesses. Companies seem to be investing their budgets in their current staff rather than using them for recruitment, with the average advertised salary showing a decline in recent months and in comparison to last year.

“Companies are clinging on to the skilled workers they already have, rather than bringing in new talent at the top,” said Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna. “They are rewarding those loyal employees that stood by their side during the recession, but who hadn’t seen salaries rise since these lean years…. But by boosting the salaries of their existing staff, employers have less money in the bank for recruitment. This means the jobs market focus has shifted from recruitment to retention.”

Although salary increases can improve your staff retention, they often aren’t feasible — but there are a number of other steps you can take to tackle retention. Your first priority should be to get an idea of how engaged your staff are. Employee engagement surveys are the ideal way to do this, as they allow your staff to give their honest opinions on how they feel about their, jobs, colleagues, management, and the organisation in general. Using an outside organisation to run these surveys can help increase the survey’s credibility and make staff truly feel that their responses will remain anonymous.

Once you have an understanding of how your staff feel, you can take steps to address any issues that have come to light. For example, staff may be looking for more focussed training and development to help them progress within their careers. Alternatively, it may be that the key to your staff wellbeing is to offer more flexible working options, such as home working or job shares.

Analysing the results of the survey in a number of different ways will show you if engagement differs by department, age, length of service, seniority, or any number of variables. This means you can focus any interventions on the staff that really need it.

Luxury Family Hotels named Sunday Times Family Hotel of the Year in 2014, is a great example of a business already using this approach. Group HR and training manager, Sarah Mellor, says: “An employer it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint the actual reasons employees have for choosing to take employment elsewhere. Using a staff engagement survey has helped to level the playing field and we now have honest feedback from our employees, making them feel valued and giving insight into how we can improve as a business going forward.

“Feedback from the teams was full of positive suggestions about how we could improve the guest experience and we’ve been able to implement a group charter that has led to all of our hotels creating their own charters as well, which has created a real sense of ownership.

“Our employees are working together to drive our business forward and make sure our guests have the best stay possible, which is wonderful to see. One thing that’s clear is that retention isn’t always about money  and once you understand how your employees feel, it’s much easier to take a proactive approach to keeping them.


About the author

Alice Withers is a researcher at People 1st. She can be contacted at