How to retain your superheroes

Posted by Prospect‘s UK Team

It may seem strange for a recruitment firm to be writing about talent retention. You might think that
what we want more than anything is disaffected people looking for new roles. In reality, that isn’t
our aspiration. We spend every day trying to find the best people for each job with the aim of not
just filling the role but hoping the successful candidate will then be a longstanding member of the
team, happy and enthused in their role and delighted that we helped them on the way.

Our job stops at the point at which a candidate accepts an offer. From that point on, it’s over to the
new employer to ensure that their recruit become the loyal, driven and committed employee they
were looking for. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always pan out that way. Too many firms see the
recruitment process as the end of the journey and adopt an almost sink-or-swim mentality to the
staff they acquire with the inevitable consequence that churn rates in our industry range between
20%-30% with all the associated costs and disruption and, for agencies, the negative impact on client
service and client retention.

This is by no means a PR industry disease. Gallup’s State of the Workforce Report found that 85% of
employees were not engaged at work and that 81% would consider leaving their job at any time if
the right offer was made to them. The figure for engagement is different across the world with,
sadly, the UK as one of the worst performers with only 8% of employees claiming to be engaged at
work. You could put that another way as a 92% failure rate.

There is also a huge disconnect between what employers think they need to do to engage their staff
and what staff say that they want. 89% of employers think that money is the primary reason why
staff leave whereas only 12% of people state money as the primary reason. The old ‘chuck them
some cash’ sticking plaster is just that and fails to solve problems of engagement or reduce churn.
And then there’s a further disconnect between the 90% of employers who believe they have an
employee engagement strategy and the 25% who actually do!

If the aspiration is to make each and every employee an engaged, committed and hard-working
member of the team, with the commercial upside of reducing churn and retaining the best talent in
what is a very talent-scarce market, then what should every firm be doing to give itself the best
chance of success? Here’s five simple steps:

1. Provide learning and progression opportunities. It’s not just about climbing a hierarchy;
people want to be stretched and developed, learn new things and push themselves toward
new challenges. Doing the same job as they did before albeit with a shiny new title won’t cut
it.
2. Lead transparently. People aren’t stupid. They know when they’re being lied to and they
know when something is a fudge. Far better to be open and honest and build bonds of trust
as a result.
3. Personalise their incentives. We’re all individuals and we are all motivated by different
things. Adopt a flexible incentive programme that recognises this such that each thank you
feels just that bit more special.
4. Manage well. The easiest to write and the hardest to achieve. Too many employee
engagement strategies major on celebrations, culture, progression, parties and bonuses and
insufficiently on the day-today skills of the manager that people report to. And this matters
as academic data reports that 75% of people who leave their jobs do so because of their line
managers. A focus on good quality management is likely to have the biggest impact of all on
employee retention.
5. Be respectful of everyone regardless of their seniority. Phrases such as ‘doesn’t suffer fools
gladly’ have no place in the modern workplace. They are code for – bad-tempered and ill-
mannered. Respect every person’s contribution and they’ll reward you with their
commitment and tenure.