How to retain staff


SmallBusiness.co.uk looks at how to keep hold of key talent.

 How to retain staff
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SmallBusiness.co.uk looks at how to keep hold of key talent.

If you take your employees for granted or expect them to feel grateful for having a job, you’re not alone. According to research from recruitment firm Hyphen, 70 per cent of UK workers feel taken for granted.

Employers seldom fail to acknowledge the importance of treating staff right. Gayna Hart, managing director of software supplier Quicksilva, makes the obvious but important point that the investment you’ve made in hiring and training should not be allowed to go to waste, especially since ‘it’s so difficult to recruit these days’.

But if it’s difficult to recruit, it’s also difficult to retain skilled staff, despite rising unemployment in the economy as a whole. ‘There’s no magic bullet,’ says Jim Hayward, senior partner at management consultancy Baringa Partners. ‘If there was we would all do it.’

For Hayward, the answer is ‘lots of little things’, from once-a-year staff holidays to personalised Christmas cards for all 250 employees. ‘When we were a relatively small company we hand wrote all Christmas cards and as we grew that became quite a task. But rather than get a generic company card, all staff still get a personal card from the managing director,’ he adds. Staff turnover at Barringa is less than 4 per cent.

At Quicksilva, Hart says it is all about getting the culture right. ‘You can pay people great money, provide great benefits but if the environment or culture is not what they want, they’re going to start looking around.’ At its Wiltshire base there are kennels where employees can bring in their dogs, a staff vegetable garden and staff barbecues are a regular fixture.

Breaking down barriers

It’s also important to give ordinary employees some quality time with the top brass, according to Darren Fell, managing director of online accountancy business Crunch. This starts before a contract is signed, with the final interview for each new recruit taking place with Fell in the pub. ‘I don’t want them to feel it is an interview; I want them to be themselves. This goes a long way in the future,’ he says. An open-plan office also helps break down the sense of hierarchy and has contributed to a churn of just four staff since Fell started the business in 2007.

Retention doesn’t have to be costly. Hayward remarks, ‘It isn’t all about the money, it’s about the time. The money saved on recruiting people and training people will outweigh any of the monetary costs.’

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