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How to boost staff retention

Do top performers keep leaving your business? Is high staff turnover distributing productivity and costing you a fortune? Staff retention is a critical issue for many business leaders.

Contemplate for a moment why people typically leave your business. Now reflect on the extent to which you and your leadership team work deliberately to influence these decisions. Do you understand why people go? And, most importantly, do you take the steps needed to keep talented people invested in their role and your organisation?

Attitudes of “If they don’t want to be here, we’re glad to see them go,” are common but unhelpful if building a thriving organisation is what you are trying to achieve.

The truth is, if you want people to be emotionally invested in your business and committed for the long term, you need to earn it. Respect, trust and loyalty go hand in hand.

Here are some of the most important steps you can take to boost staff retention.

Build a culture people want to be part of.

People are far more likely to stay with an employer who provides a healthy workplace environment built on respect and decency. Be very clear about how you expect people to behave and hold yourself and every other member of the team accountable to those standards.

Develop careers

Create a culture where people are encouraged to give things a go, learn and strive to get better. Reward these behaviours and people are more likely to invest in building a career, not just doing a job.

Expect every member of your leadership team to adopt a coaching role and to work with their people to grow their capabilities. Encourage managers and staff to proactively look for opportunities to learn, take on new challenges and advance their careers.

Invest in managers

Reflect on how often people are promoted into management positions without the training, let alone capabilities, required to do a good job. Its extraordinarily common for people to be promoted on the basis of their technical strengths, with little evidence of their ability to engage, coach and lead other people.

The simple fact is a manager’s behaviour and competence have the biggest influence on the vast majority of people decisions to leave. Irrespective of whether someone is leaving to advance their career, work in a better environment or earn more money, there is typically something the manager could have done to keep them. It’s a harsh reality that often people leave because they don’t like or trust their boss.

Talk to people and listen

Don’t wait until people have already decided to move on before talking to them about how they are feeling about working for your business. All too often organisations place priority on exit interviews with departing staff, but fail to listen to people along the way.

Paying lip service to staff engagement surveys, avoiding difficult one-to-one conversations and resisting honest feedback from the team are among the most common mistakes organisations make.

Being a good listener is a vital skill for any CEO or leader of people. Listening isn’t waiting for your turn to talk. Listen to understand. Ask probing questions that will give you deeper insight into the underlying drivers of how people feel.

Be flexible

More and more employees are demanding ways of working that allow them to maintain greater balance across all areas of their life. The millennial generation, particularly, craves flexibility on where and when they work.

Take comfort in the fact that most people understand you have operational priorities to deliver on and that their working arrangements can’t stand in the way of their ability to be productive.

Act early

It’s astonishing to me how often, when people announce their resignation, their employer responds by scrambling to keep them. Offers of more money, promises of changed cultures, creation of new roles, all suddenly become possible because the person has threatened to leave.

If you’re talking to your people and you know they are at risk of moving on do something about it. Stop thinking you’ll have time to get to it tomorrow. The truth is if the person leaves you will be forced to carve out time to find their replacement.

So, avoid the inevitable pain that comes from putting people management priorities off and take the steps you need to now.

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