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Staff recruitment and retention: a simple guide

Any business is only as good as the people it employs. While employees tend to stay put in difficult economic times, an upturn brings with it a whole host of talent eager to go somewhere bigger, better, or different.

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For any company, this can be the proverbial double-edged sword. There’s a nice big pool to fish from, but meanwhile, your experienced, knowledgeable and talented staff are equally attractive to someone else.

When everything’s ticking over nicely, and staff turnover’s small, there can be a tendency to sit back and relax. But while you’re admiring the view, your competition is positioning themselves as a more appealing proposition.

It’s important to attract the best people for your business in the first place, and then hang on to them once you’ve got them. So just how do you not only keep your people but attract fresh talent?  

Staff recruitment and retention

Recruitment

Staff recruitment

While staff recruitment used to be all about salary, the last 30 years has seen a marked change in the make-up of our workers - today’s workforce is older and includes more women and disabled workers than in the 1980s1 – and this means a shift in what attracts people and ultimately makes them stay. While salary’s always going to be important, things like flexible working and an attractive set of employee benefits can now turn heads more than ever before. In fact, according to a study by Capita2, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with an employer that offers a good employee package, while 68% say they are more likely to take a job for the same reason.

So, what other things do you need to think about when it comes to recruiting the best talent? Here are a few things to consider:

Social media

In the ever-switched on world of social media, you can bet that potential employees are checking you out and deciding if you’re a good place to work – and they won’t just be looking at your website! The web is the best way for prospective employees to check out whether what you’re saying in your job spec and/or careers page is an accurate portrayal of what life’s actually going to be like working for you.

Interview

It’s easy to get a bit complacent about interviews. After all, the candidate was interested enough to come to you, right? So you’re just checking they can do the job and will be a good fit with the company. Wrong. With the job market starting to look more buoyant, chances are that the person sat in front of you will have a handful or more other interviews to go to, so you need to be out to impress as well. A well thought out, organised interview is a must.

Fit

A canny employer will always look beyond the experience and qualifications, and consider the person themselves. An exuberant, loud, joke-making employee is unlikely to be happy in a department where silence and silo working is encouraged - and nor will their colleagues. Equally, the reserved, quiet person may be uncomfortable in a Marketing department that excels in banter.

There’s no point in picking out the best-qualified person if they’re going to be back out the door in 6 weeks and you have to start all over again.

What happens on the off chance you can’t actually find the right person? Find out the areas where you’re missing talent and think about why you’re not attracting the right person for the role. Is it the way you’re pitching yourselves in the market? Or is it because people don’t see you as an employer of choice? Asking the hard questions - though sometimes unpalatable - can be the driver for change.

Staff retention

Staff retention

Once you’ve got your man or woman, the work of actually making sure they stay begins. Keeping employees happy depends on a number of things. Here are 5 things to think about.

1. A competitive, fair salary

To ensure you remain attractive, salaries should be benchmarked against your competitors and the industry in general - and regularly reviewed. But when a salary is aligned to employee compensation packages and/or a forward-thinking benefits package that includes employee wellbeing, staff feel looked after and cared for.

2. Empowerment

No one likes to be micromanaged. A culture of trust from the top down where managers and staff are allowed to get on with their jobs - and make mistakes - goes a long way.

3. Recognition

We all like to be thanked. Recognising employees for their good work makes people feel valued. This could range from a financial bonus, retail vouchers, or an extra day’s leave. But never underestimate the power of a simple thank you.

4. Relationships

A poor relationship with managers is one of the main reasons why people leave jobs. Managers can sometimes be promoted into the job and just be left to their own devices, but it isn’t always easy making the switch from ‘one of the team’ to being the one who has to tell them what to do. You might like to consider whether leadership or management training might help. Typically, these can be formal classroom-style learning, e-learning on the company’s intranet, or even on-the-job mentoring and coaching.  And while you’re at it, don’t forget about staff training and development opportunities too.

5. Working practices

A flexible approach to work can be the decision changer when it comes to staying at a firm. Allowing employees to work from home or work flexible hours can ensure loyalty - especially where people have childcare or elder care to consider. Also allowing staff to bring in their own tablet or smartphone to carry out tasks can increase productivity through familiarity with their own technology. And it really helps if your company software is compatible.

The cost of replacing staff

replacing staff

Does it really matter if you lose key staff? After all, that’s part and parcel of doing business. People come, people go. These stats may make you think differently:

  • the average cost of replacing a member of staff is £30,6143 - around £2,500 more than the average UK annual full-time salary4
  • a huge 40% of HR’s budget is eaten up by temporary staff, while temps also account for 25% of HR training5
  • the productivity of temporary staff is 20% lower than permanent employees. In fact, it takes around 28 weeks for a new employee to reach their optimum productivity level6

With the cost of losing staff so high, if you do lose staff, it’s always worth finding out why. An exit interview can be a useful way to help you identify any emerging trends, whether that’s people finding their role too stressful, a lifestyle change that means their working pattern can no longer be maintained, or they didn’t feel they were learning anything new so got tempted by a company they felt were more cutting edge.

Once you know why people are leaving, you can do something about it, whether that’s implementing training to help line managers spot and support stressed employees, introducing flexible working to accommodate staff with child or elder care commitments, or tweaking the staff benefits you offer to better reflect what your staff are looking for. In some cases, it may just be that someone felt it’s time for a new challenge; but at least you’ll know.

Choosing the right benefits package

Employers who match their benefits to the needs of their workforce - both currently and with an eye to the future - are likely to place themselves head and shoulders above the opposition.

Choosing colours

Getting the employee benefits balance right shows that you value and care for your employees. But how do you make sure you’re getting it right?

We’ve seen that the working demographic has shifted and will continue to shift in the future, so examining the make-up of your employees will help you understand what motivates them and if you’re set up to meet their needs.

An employee survey asking about their roles, working practices, wellbeing, or the benefits they value can help you ensure you stay ahead of the game. And with more than a quarter (26%)7 of employees saying their employer is either not very considerate or not at all considerate about their wellbeing, it’s an exercise that’s well worth doing...

But don’t forget this is an exercise you’ll need to repeat – what works for you now, may not work in two years’ time.

While it’s impossible to prescribe exactly what will work for you, it’s likely that a good mix of benefits will all work together to promote a culture of health and wellbeing.

These could include benefits that provide financial support in difficult times, like Income Protection, Life insurance or Critical Illness cover; ones that promote good health, like dental or medical/health cash plans; ‘soft’ benefits like eye care, cycle to work schemes, or gym membership; and ones that support your employee’s life outside of work, like flexible working.

Whatever the size of your business, whatever the sector you work in, choosing the right benefit package can help increase employee loyalty and employee morale, while helping to bring fresh expertise and innovative ideas through the door.

And where employees feel valued and their wellbeing cared for, they’re less likely to go off sick and be more focused on their work - all leading to increased productivity and the business benefits that go hand-in hand with it. 

1 The Modern Workforce report, Cass Business School on behalf of Unum, 2013
2 Capita Employee Insights report – 2016/17
3 Cost of Brain Drain research, Oxford Economics commissioned by Unum – February 2014
4 ONS ASHE annual survey of hours and earnings – 2016
5 Centre for Economics and Business Research, ROI Model. March 2012
6 Cost of Brain Drain research, Oxford Economics commissioned by Unum – February 2014
7 CIPD -Employee Outlook 2017