Holding on to really good people

Employers already know that ‘full employment’ means it can be hard to find great staff. The job market is tightening, and if you are looking for highly skilled people or senior professionals what used to be difficult can now feel almost impossible. Unfortunately, the natural desire to offer more money is not the panacea it might once have been. The extension of this is that your existing staff now realise that they have options. Probably more now than for a very long time. Obviously, if finding new people is a challenge, it is pretty sensible to take steps not to lose key team members.

So, how do I know all this and what makes me any kind of expert. Well Sagegreen HR has a lot of clients. Unsurprisingly (!) they are all employers and they cover the country being across all sectors and sizes of organisation. We do their HR so we see exactly what is happening, on the ground in real time. We also do a reasonable amount of recruitment on their behalf, whether that is for a partner or Director level, more junior marketing and admin type roles or technical/professional expertise. Simply put we are living the situation just like everybody else and don’t need a news report, survey or economic forecast to tell us what is happening. At the same time, therefore, we see what business owners and managers are doing to try to keep important team members.


I would love to say that all our clients are now major exponents of the new ‘art’ of Employee Engagement, all their people are so committed to them that they don’t have any trouble with staff turnover. If only. For a lot of business owners and managers their days are so full experimenting with ‘new-fangled HR initiatives’ doesn’t really feature as highly on their priority list as perhaps it should. However, some less sophisticated, perhaps more pragmatic, even you might say instinctive initiatives are being tried and here I am going to share with you the ones that seem to be working. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be the single magic potion that works universally but it appears you can make some really good headway.


Big Idea Number 1 – Treating people properly

Mmmm, as an employer I know you probably think you do this already or if you don’t you might not care about the impact you and your management team are having. Well, the simple truth is people leave jobs if they don’t feel valued, if they can’t see their future with you and if they think the grass is going to be greener elsewhere. Money may be a factor but generally it’s a secondary issue – they are disgruntled, start looking around and find they can get more money. If they were not disgruntled, they might not have looked in the first place. Feeling valued really means being respected. Respected as a person, as a skilled employee and as an integral part of a team. This is not difficult to do, costs nothing and usually makes you feel better than acting otherwise with people. This is not about going soft or tolerating poor performance or letting people behave badly. It is a combination of many simple things. Talking to people about what is going on, how the business is doing and what you need from them – i.e. why they are important. Saying thank you and well done – with sincerity. Ask their opinion, use their ideas, give credit where its due and encourage people to question and challenge. Give them the feeling they are involved. If you have a relatively small business it’s very simple. If you have a bigger, perhaps multi-site organisation or layers of management it may need to be more structured and we can certainly help you with that by sharing what we have seen others do. In short understand how people want to be treated and do that – do not rely on how you are happy to be treated.


Big Idea Number 2 – Be different

We have seen some interesting approaches that are designed to give staff reasons to stay, or at least think twice before they leave. Obviously, people need to earn money from their work. However, as an employer you cannot meet an insatiable appetite for more pay. But what you can do is make you pay and benefits package either different to the competition or much more pertinent to their people. Here are a few simple examples we have come across that seem to be working.

One of our clients, employing about 60 people of different ages and lifestyles, implemented a Health insurance package for everybody – yes everybody. Not only that, it was a Rolls Royce type cover. The reaction was incredibly positive. Because it was a diverse group the actual premium person was on average about £500 per year. OK, so it cost £30k but think about the cost of losing/finding new people.

Another chose to offer everybody, yes that word again, life insurance and critical illness insurance. So, the most junior person realised that if life dealt them an expected blow, they and their family would be materially better off than working elsewhere. The cost of this type of cover if you have a diverse team is extremely low but generates disproportionately high goodwill.

A third client simply got more flexible – offering more ‘working from home’ opportunities. The ability to trust people who work from home, say 1 or 2 days a week can unlock the kind of work/life balance for people they value very highly.

The learning point here is simply offering people something that really matters to them that they will not get easily elsewhere so leaving then has a real downside. As you can see these do not have to break the bank or be so ‘out there’ that you cannot live with them. If you can understand what that might be for your team then perhaps you can find a really effective way to keep hold of them.

Big Idea Number 3 – Invest in your people

This is not rocket science nor is it revolutionary. The overwhelming majority of your team are keen to enjoy new experiences and acquire new skills. Sometimes you can do this by giving them new opportunities, or sometimes by paying for training or perhaps just giving them the latest technology to work with. Unsurprisingly the younger generations may value this more highly than others but don’t be fooled into thinking those nearer the end of their career don’t appreciate it. If you commit to continually developing your people that’s another reason not to leave. Simples.


So, as you can see there really are some straight forward ways to build team loyalty. They need not tax you too much or cost you a fortune.

If you would like to chat further about the things we have seen work then give us a call or drop us an email.


Graham Whiley CEO

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