Employee Engagement & Retention
When you first start your business the focus is on you and/or a business partner. Then you begin to focus on employing other ‘employees’. You look for people you can trust and who can be flexible with their time and responsibilities. You look for people who will be as passionate about your business as you are. Then (hopefully) the business will move into a new phase where you are achieving success and people naturally relax a little. You, as the business owner, begin to think strategically and focus on building plans to grow the business. This reignites your passion and energises you again. This is the time to think proactively about employee engagement & retention.
For the staff that you have hired – have they been reignited or are they in danger of plateauing and
a – coasting along until someone begins to performance manage them or
b – they start looking around for a new challenge, possibly a salary increase and ultimately leave the business.
When an employee resigns it can have a big impact on your business and in fact cause it to stagnate – your focus is redirected from growing the business to organising a replacement, encourage others to step up and take on more responsibility in the interim and trying to manage any drop in morale with other staff. If this individual was an outgoing character you can really miss their presence in the happy feel/vibe of the working day and perhaps the extra’s they did i.e. remembering birthdays, organising flowers/cake etc.. is now forgotten. Perhaps they had strong sales or customer service skills and the clients loved them – how will you manage that loss? And what about the confidential information they take with them – have you protected yourself against the possibility of them sharing that knowledge or going to work for a competitor?
To avoid the possibility of the above you have to think about a retention strategy and make it part of your strategic objectives – working ‘on’ the business. Clark says that retaining staff is about far more than extrinsic job factors like pay. To be effective, a retention strategy should be holistic and cover intrinsic factors such as career development, meaningful work and flexible benefits and working. An employer’s retention strategy should be unique to that organisation and focus on the elements that are most relevant to the people working there.
She identified a framework of eight key staff engagement/retention factors;
Autonomy: Employees want to feel empowered and giving high-potential people the room to be part of the decision-making process will help them feel a part of the organisation.
Meaningful work: Regardless of their job level, people want to derive meaning from their work and feel that they are making a worthwhile contribution to the organisation. Although the ‘busy work’ still needs to be done, ‘getting routinely assigned with what they consider remedial tasks’ can lead to a lack of engagement on the part of staff.
Affiliation: Individuals want to feel part of a bigger entity and there are a number of ways in which organisations can encourage belonging, ranging from mentoring programmes, group discussions and company events.
Flexibility: Organisations should have policies and practices that encourage flexibility in relation to benefits and working arrangements. Employers need to be innovative in their approach. If organisations are employing the right people there is no reason why productivity levels cannot be maintained in the context of a more flexible schedule.
Career growth: The key message here is that if employees are confident they’re developing valuable skills and can reach their potential, they’re more likely to stay. The organisation should set clear expectations for career progression and help to facilitate internal promotion opportunities.
Belief in leadership: Having faith in the organisation’s leadership can give employees confidence and encourage greater commitment to the organisation, which in turn can boost staff retention.
Confidence in the company: Believing in the leadership of the organisation goes hand in hand with employees feeling they are a part of an organisation that has a future. This will help to give people a sense of security. To help achieve this, the organisation can take steps like clearly communicating its corporate strategy and growth plans, as well as taking every opportunity to share business success stories.
Reward and recognition: Although remuneration is not the only factor capable of prompting better staff retention, employees need to feel that they are compensated fairly for their work. Individuals also need to feel that they are fairly compensated for their efforts and are usually in a position to benchmark their salary and benefits against others working in similar roles. The author appreciates that not all organisations can compete with the salary and benefits on offer in other organisations, but there are many ways to show that the employer values its staff, ranging from a staff recognition scheme to simple congratulatory emails.
While many organisations spend a lot of time getting right areas such as structure, roles, process and governance, a strong leadership team ‘trumps all of those factors when it comes to the engagement, productivity and future development of employees.’
And all of an organisation’s efforts to fulfil employees’ needs will count for nothing if an organisation does not have in place effective employee communication practices. Communication should be interactive and provide opportunities for employees to have ‘a real conversation with leaders’. Effective methods include regular one-to-one meetings with leaders and creating internal brand ambassadors.
Unfortunately, organisations do not consider whether or not they are fulfilling employees’ needs until it’s too late. This means that people could already have left the organisation – and it is when high-potential people resign that, typically, employers sit up and take notice. Organisations should be proactive, and not reactive, about staff retention. By planning ahead and thinking about what people want from their work, employers have a far better chance of retaining valuable talent.
Source – Robyn Clark, Workspan, Vol 57 No 9, September 2014. pp44-47.