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How to keep your staff (and keep them happy)

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Retention is always going to be a hot topic for HR. With millennials taking over as the dominant workforce and with the trend of the gig economy rising, it is important that organisations know how to keep staff churn low. But remember, retention rates aren’t just statistics, they’re your people and if they aren’t happy, even if they don’t physically leave, they may have already checked out. Keeping staff happy and engaged not only reduces attrition, it can help boost productivity levels too.

Research shows that the happier staff are, the more productive they will be (14% more productive on average). Surely then, if your staff are happier at work, they will be more engaged and then in turn, less likely to seek employment elsewhere?

If you are worried about retaining staff, then you need to get a solid picture of how they are feeling, why they are thinking about leaving or why they left. What you don’t want is for staff to become complacent and just turn up, do their core hours and do nothing to drive themselves or the business forward. Identifying what staff care about, what frustrates them and what inspires them, can help you develop a benefits strategy that shows that your staff are at the centre of what you do.

Identifying the issues that are causing your staff to leave is the most obvious place to start. Exit interviews will still be useful but staff may not always be honest about their reasons for leaving. Hindsight is a funny thing and if you ask staff to reflect on the reasons for leaving they may unable to tell you, especially if the real reason is a culmination of lots of little events that are causing them to leave. Annual surveys may help you see the reasons that people are unhappy but again, reflecting on a years’ worth of events will never give you a true reflection of engagement (or disengagement) over an entire year. In the moment surveys provide a great way to really tap into the pulse of your employees and help you uncover the reasons they might not be very happy today, allowing you the opportunity to fix what is broken or invest in what is working. Sending pulse surveys and push notifications direct to the employees own mobile phone could be the way to identify how many people are responding to your benefits programme and give an indication of how high the engagement levels actually are. An added advantage is the fact that the IT infrastructure is already available for HR to utilise. People spend 5 hours a day on their phones, and 95% of this time is spent on apps.

There may also be trends you are unaware of that are driving staff to leave. Looking at patterns in retention and attrition rates will show you which sites or teams need most attention, or when people are most likely to resign.
– Are people making the jump straight after Christmas for a job that offers more money in order to pay off Christmas debts? If this is the case, you could consider introducing a benefit that not only combats the issues but shows that you care about your staff. A fair deal loan benefit is a simple to administer programme that shows you understand what your staff are struggling with and that you want to help. Showing willing to retain your staff will most certainly demonstrate that you want to keep them around. You may find that staff are leaving after the same amount of time. Do Millennials get the itch to move on after only a couple of years? Why not celebrate the long standing employees with an annual awards ceremony? Unlock new benefits after a certain amount of time to give staff something to strive for and show that their loyalty is appreciated. Or suggest training and development activities after 6, 12 or 24 months which will re-engage staff and help them feel like they are benefiting as an employee even if they are not receiving promotions or payrises.

One of the biggest obstacles you may face is addressing how your staff view your company. Is it just a stop gap position, or have you got long serving staff who might be stuck in their ways? Cynical staff can be toxic and attitudes can spread throughout the office, creating a culture of negativity which isn’t pleasant for anyone. Spread the happiness by celebrating little wins. Make your staff feel appreciated through an in the moment Reward and Recognition programme. This can be anything froma public thank you to a point based system, whichever method you choose this can help make everyone feel like they are making a difference to your organisation. You can also change the way staff see your company by getting them involved. It is easy to feel left out when you feel like the last to know. Create an employee engagement group, led by employees, to promote benefits so staff know what they are entitled to and to suggest programmes that staff are more likely to adopt. Not only will this give people more direct involvement outside of their day to day role, but they can work as ambassadors for your business and encourage others to see the benefits of working at your company.

Encouraging staff to develop in their role provides a chance for them to focus on carving out their own success

Showing the advantages of staying an employee can be achieved through offering longer term development and training opportunities to your staff. Encouraging staff to develop in their role provides a chance for them to focus on carving out their own success. Even when no promotions are available you can avoid staff feeling they are stuck in a rut by offering them the chance to build their skillset so they are ready when the internal opportunity arises. Even if you can’t offer them more money, a new job or a bonus, you can still give them a reason to stay. Remember, when people feel like they make a difference, they do. If you allow staff to start feeling like they are making a difference to their environment, their colleague and the business, it will benefit everyone.

Talk to your staff to find out what is going on. It sounds obvious, but it is surprising how many HR teams don’t. Face to face conversations are refreshing in the digital age and gives an open forum for staff to air any concerns they might have. Having an open dialogue between front line staff and senior management teams will help staff feel visible and have a sense of what is happening in the business, that they are part of it and potentially make them trust you a bit more. With so many generations in the workplace now you can’t expect everyone to behave the same way. Tailored benefits and communications to staff will be more appreciated because you are not just treating them as a statistic or like everyone else. It shows you care that they are there and that you want them to stick around.

Unfortunately, employee churn can’t be entirely avoided. People will continue to come and go and if their heart is set on moving on, there isn’t anything you can do to stop them. There are things you can change, to make staff happier and more productive, and if you focus on these you might find your staff stick with you for a little bit longer and are happier whilst they are there. You may find that even when they leave they remain advocates of your employer brand, and that sort of loyalty, you cannot buy.

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John Ormond House
899 Silbury Boulevard
Central Milton Keynes
Buckinghamshire
MK9 3XL

Click here for a map.

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10 key insights on employee happiness

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