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How do I stop good people from leaving?

There are costs associated when good people leave, often in recruitment fees and lost productivity until a replacement is up to speed. Staff turnover is also disruptive – for colleagues and customers alike. So how do you retain your star performers? We asked People Puzzles HR Directors Paul Gordon and Carole Gibbs for their tips.

‘People don’t leave a company, they leave a boss,’ says Paul Gordon. ‘So you have to ask yourself are you a good boss or a bad boss? It’s about leadership and good leadership is about motivating people.’

What pushes staff away?

Paul identifies a number of factors that demotivate staff. ‘Good people don’t like being micro-managed,’ he says. ‘That is a major factor. Impatience is another. Not everyone is going to do everything straight away. A constant state of urgency drives people away.’ Being overly critical and having a ‘boss always knows best’ attitude are other demotivating behaviours. ‘People will start wondering what the point of them being there is if you know it all,’ Paul says. ‘If you’re doing these things, people will leave because of the way you’re leading them.’

What makes people want to stay?

There are many things that managers can do to motivate staff and right at the top of the list for Carole Gibbs is training and development. ‘It doesn’t really matter what type of training it is,’ she says. ‘People like to feel that they’re growing and have the opportunity to try out new things. It doesn’t have to be a formal training course. It could be carrying out research or devising a new process. Those little things keep people interested in their job.’

Paul agrees. ‘It’s about having a personal development plan,’ he says. ‘The plan might not necessarily be upwards; it could be about broadening general skills.’ And that development needs to start from day one. ‘Most people leave an organisation in the first year – often because they haven’t been on-boarded correctly,’ Paul points out. ‘Having a proper induction process, a buddy system and/or early stage mentoring can help new recruits feel comfortable from an early stage.’

Longer term career prospects

For those who have proven their worth to the business, there may be a worry of losing them to a competitor. What can managers do to keep staff from being headhunted? ‘In that instance I would want to be having a good career conversation with that particular person,’ says Carole. ‘I’d ask them what their aspirations are for the future and explore how the business might help them realise those ambitions. And then put a plan in place. If you do that, the chances are they won’t start looking.’

Flexible working

Of course, there’s always a chance that if they’re offered a £15k pay rise elsewhere they might follow the money, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. ‘But it might not be about money,’ Carole adds. ‘It might be that flexibility is more important to them.’ Offering a flexible environment can sometimes trump pay, especially for those with caring responsibilities at home. ‘In small businesses, it’s possible to have informal flexible arrangements,’ says Paul. ‘Millennials have been shown to value this, so long as you have a framework for it so it’s not unstructured or isolating.’

Good communication

Regular communication is essential for successful management, and Paul advises regular one-to-ones in addition to a once-a-year appraisal. ‘I’d have informal chats at least once a month to ask what they’re doing, give feedback and find out what isn’t working for them. They might have an issue at home, for example, that could be easily resolved by changing their working hours. But unless you develop a rapport, you’ll never find that out.’

Giving back to the community

Facilitating volunteer or charity work is another great way to engage staff. ‘for example, if someone has a parent with Alzheimers’ disease, you could set up a charitable fundraiser for it that involves the whole business,’ says Paul. ‘People then see that the organisation values more than just profit.’

Nurturing work relationships

For Carole, the key to a happy employee is building a respectful and trustful relationship with their line manager, whom the employee can go to for help when they need it. But good practice needs to come from the top. ‘If the senior managers have good quality conversations on a work and personal level with their direct reports, you will see that cascade through the business,’ she says. ‘The bottom line is, if individuals are managed by someone who trusts and respects them and who will help achieve those dreams, then you’ll keep those people.’

Paul Gordon

Paul Gordon, People Director

Carole Gibbs

Carole Gibbs, People Director

If you’d like help with your induction processes, coaching your managers or putting in place training and development plans for your staff, talk to People Puzzles on 0808 164 5826 or email hello@peoplepuzzles.co.uk – we’re happy to help.

Lynn has been a fantastic support to us and an ongoing fountain of knowledge. If you have a business and/or staff you need to take care of, you need a Lynn on your team!

Kerry Berry, Director, S&K Berry Associates LLP

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