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How to combat the New Year recruitment crisis and hold on to staff in 2020


There’s something about January that makes many of us feel like making drastic life changes. Whether it’s going meat-free, putting your house on the market or finally taking the plunge and handing in your notice at an unfulfilling job, the start of the year often emboldens us to take the leap and start afresh.

For employers, this can mean a mass exodus in the first few months of the year. While you’re busy putting your 2020 plans into motion, your staff may be preparing to move on, leaving essential roles unfilled and compromising your ability to deliver on key objectives. In fact, according to a poll of 2,000 employees, 32% of workers are considering jumping ship in 2020, with 24% of respondents having already begun their search for a new role. These figures represent an 8% increase on last year, pointing to a “New Year recruitment crisis” for many employers.

32% Staff Retention

Faced with such alarming statistics, what can employers do to persuade those with one foot out the door to stick around and turn new recruits into long-serving members of your team? Here are some of the key frustrations that may motivate a move and what you can do to combat them.


“I feel like I’m not going anywhere”

Feeling like you’ve hit a dead end in your career can be incredibly demoralising, and if the only way to move up is to move out, be prepared for employees to look elsewhere. Before you embark on a recruitment drive to support your 2020 objectives, ask yourself whether you can promote internally or train existing staff to take on more responsibilities. Upskilling employees in new technologies or processes and looking for ways to maximise learning opportunities will send a clear message that you are invested in employees’ development and value their contribution. When the annual “new year, new me” mantra takes hold, knowing that your employer is interested in your career goals can be a powerful incentive to stay.

Now is the time to consider how you can tap in to people’s skill sets and ambition. Do you have an employee who has consistently made requests for more challenging projects? Has an employee intimated that they would like to lead a team, or come to you with innovative ideas that may benefit the business?

Capitalising on this commitment is likely to not only improve stickiness but contribute to your productivity and success.


“I don’t feel appreciated”

Even the most enthusiastic employees can begin to check out once they realise their efforts go unnoticed. There are a number of things that can lead to an employee feeling undervalued, such as managers or coworkers taking credit for their work, getting interrupted in meetings, or being passed over for a promotion. Fortunately, these things aren’t expensive to fix. You may wish to consider:

  • Introducing monthly recognition awards and sharing winners’ achievements through a company-wide email or notices in communal areas
  • Encouraging managers to make a conscious effort to provide on-the-spot positive feedback on a daily basis
  • Promoting peer-to-peer feedback through an allowance for small rewards or “micro-bonuses”
  • Giving shoutouts in meetings for excellent work, supporting a colleague, or simply persevering with a difficult task
  • Actively letting employees know the impact their contribution has had on the business, as well as passing on positive external feedback
  • Treating employees to breakfast or lunch to celebrate a job well done or as a thank you for hard work
  • Sending an email or note to show appreciation and praise work that you were particularly impressed with
  • Developing set metrics for performance so that employees are judged by the same standards when it comes to promotion opportunities

As well as improving retention through enhanced job satisfaction, fostering a culture of appreciation can go a long way towards boosting motivation and productivity, and promoting the right attitudes and behaviour. It can also be a real confidence booster, further reducing the risk of employees resigning due to feelings of inadequacy.


“I’m tired of the 9-5”

In today’s labour market, flexible working is key to retaining talent. For many people, pay is no longer the main motivator in taking or leaving a job; instead, greater flexibility and better work-life balance increasingly occupies the top spot on employees’ lists of demands. In fact, as millennials reshape the standards for modern workplaces, flexible working is often seen not as an additional benefit but as the default position. With this in mind, if you don’t offer some form of flexibility, it’s likely that your ability to attract and retain staff will suffer.

Employers are often fearful of flexible working, concerned that productivity will take a hit. In reality, engaged and motivated employees are likely to drive operational efficiency more than stubbornly enforcing the traditional desk-based, 9-to-5 way of working. If retention is high on your list of priorities, consider how you might allow more flexibility in how long, when, where and at what time employees work.

Think about:

  • Advertising any future vacancies as open to flexible working, and reminding existing colleagues of their right to request the same;
  • Developing a flexible working policy so that staff understand the types of requests the organisation will consider, how they will be dealt with, and your commitment to flexible working;
  • Trialling new ways of working – whether that’s job sharing, working remotely for one day a week initially, or allowing employees to start and finish earlier to fit around family commitments; and
  • Sharing and celebrating examples of flexible working successes.

5 additional tips for healthier retention rates in 2020

  • Review your recruitment practices. Are they effective in attracting the right candidates? Do your job advertisements provide a true reflection of the role? If not, the gap between expectation and reality can be a catalyst for high turner.
  • Don’t wait for the exit interview. If you wait until an exit interview to find out why a valuable employee has decided to move on, you’ve missed a golden opportunity. Hold regular reviews so that you can proactively identify and remedy issues before they destabilise your workforce.
  • Approach matters fairly. One sure-fire way to create animosity is to apply one rule for one and a different rule for another. Develop clear policies and procedures and train managers in how to apply them consistently.
    Conduct a pay review. In order to avoid losing talent to competitors, most organisations recognise the need to at least give incremental rises every 12 months. A formal pay benchmarking exercise can help you to establish the market rate so that you can set competitive salaries without overpaying.
  • Management practices and culture. As the saying goes, people don’t quit a job – they quit a boss. Take a step back and evaluate whether your management practices and culture may be at the root of people’s frustrations. Are grievances taken seriously? Do staff feel unsupported? Is there a tendency to micromanage? Answering these hard questions may help you to target specific areas that are negatively impacting retention.

Do you require professional employment support? Your Bira membership entitles you to free HR and employment law advice from Ellis Whittam to ensure that you are doing all you can to retain quality staff, be compliant and succeed.

See Bira Legal Service

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