What you can do to slow down a high staff turnover

Whether your organisation suffers from a higher than usual turnover or not, it benefits organisations to look to slow the rate of unwanted people turnover. In the war for talent, it pays significant dividends to retain good people. This article explores how experienced leaders, line managers and HR professionals can take fresh approaches to talent retention.

Staff turnover is natural, most organisations actually benefit from some movement of talent which enables overall career progression and experience development of those in the company. However high, or increasing rates of turnover can be expensive, damaging to morale, can negatively affect intellectual property and retained knowledge about ‘how we get things done around here’, and can negatively impact external reputation.  Also, it is highly likely that you will see reduced productivity, resulting from the time it takes for new hires to be recruited, onboarded and get up to effectiveness and this can lead to extra stress, pressure and long hours being soaked up by the current team.

Start with the end in mind, you can’t improve what you don’t measure

Despite the undoubtable impact improved talent retention can have in today’s cost-constrained VUCA market (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), talent retention initiatives that start life without a watertight business case supported by actively tracked performance metrics are unlikely to make it across the line. It is critical to determine, measure and report against thoughtful metrics and desired outcomes that prove the return on investment (ROI) is critical.

For this reason, our first approach with any client is to support them to identify the compelling case for ROI, starting with a base-line figure of current talent attrition metrics and measures that are salient and pertinent for them. It’s also important to establish an average cost-per-hire, taking into account all influencing and contributing factors. Once your key metrics are clear you can then measure and determine the impact of your actions.

Empowering your managers to manage

Cultural change can seem like a very nebulous topic and indeed a vast and sprawling mountain to climb. When it comes to increasing staff retention through cultural change, one of the most effective ‘strides’ you can take is addressing manager-level development. The line manager-relationship is one of the most critical factors in retention of talent regardless of wider company culture. Amongst the vast body of work out there on colleague engagement, relationship with our line manager, or seemingly lack of it, is one of the most common causes of people becoming disengaged with an organisation and then they leave. As the saying goes ‘people leave managers not organisations.

Managers play a vital role in enabling a person’s connection, clarity, wellbeing and career development within an organisation, which is a huge and complex responsibility above and beyond their technical day job for which they are normally promoted to ‘manager’. And let’s be honest, most managers aren’t afforded enough hours in the day to do both their manager roles and their technical roles well, nor are the majority of managers equipped, trained and developed to carry out thorough, engaging and enabling people management, which is so essential to organisation effectiveness.

Whether through one to one coaching or via cost-effective group sessions, organisations can equip managers to raise their skills and knowledge and develop their leadership behaviours. By improving manager performance in areas such as mindset and motivational goal setting, resilience and emotional intelligence training, leading and communicating through change, managing talent and careers, and more technical aspects of employee relations such as managing sickness absence, poor performance and handling grievances a positive cultural ripple effect can be created which in our experience leads to reduced staff turnover.

Change your approach to managing employee relations – outsource to experts

As I said, managing employee relations effectively is critical to staff engagement, reducing staff turnover and productivity. However, employee relations situations can be incredibly complex and time consuming for managers and HR teams alike and this reduces the strategic contribution everyone can make.

Getting expert support and guidance to support the situation quickly is essential and it’s a little-known fact that employee relations case management is increasingly becoming outsourced to onsite experts. There has been a well-documented rise in recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) to onsite outsourced providers over the last decade, and over the last 3 years there has been a sharp rise in the same approach with employee relations – ERPO. This adds expertise, P&L flexibility and often a reduction in HR costs to an organisation – a big win all round.  Outsourcing can add valuable objectivity and insight to your employee relations, as external analysis can spot trends and flag issues in the organisation. Also, ER is litigious, it requires up to the minute case law knowledge and deep skills in stakeholder management, which often in-house teams don’t have. Moreover, it enables in-house teams to focus on strategic priorities. This supports a more positive relationship between HR and the workforce as they are freed up to work more strategically in true HR Business Partner roles, and enables better dialogue and effective case management.

Connor successfully support, amongst others, a global manufacturing and a leading pharmaceutical company with all of their UK employee relations case management. As a client recently commented

We haven’t had a single grievance or employee appeal against the employee relations decisions made, which is a staggering statistic.”

Actively support your people through their life transitions

It’s important to remember that your organisation’s talent does not exist in a vacuum; all employees’ careers are set in the context of their unique personal lives and the significant events, which affect their needs. With more of the population in work and for much longer, employees’ circumstances can change numerous times over the course of their career and with a far greater knowledge and awareness of mental health and well-being challenges that play out for people over their working lives, organisations are getting their act together in understanding that the way to support their people today is very different to previous decades.

Many organisations are providing short to mid-term support to people who are going through significant life transitions, to help them cope effectively with it. Specific examples are people returning to work after career breaks – maternity, caring for sick children or relatives, compassionate leave, or even divorce.

Ernst & Young have reported that 10% of women don’t return after maternity and a further drop of an additional 20% leave in the following two years. For one of our large public sector clients, the statistics were even more alarming to them. Over 50% of their female employees were leaving voluntarily each year.

Specifically designing and running women returners initiatives is often a priority that we are engaged about as strand of reducing unwanted turnover, and equally there are more and more organisations talking to us about supporting men and women alike. There can be significant talent retention payback for organisations that support and coach all employees through their life transitions so working and home lives can blend more harmoniously together.

To summarise

In conclusion, it’s easy to blame external reasons for high staff turnover, however looking within the company (and deploying a little creative ‘outside the box’ thinking) can slow the rate of unwanted staff turnover.

In connection to “Empowering your Managers to Manage” – Connor deliver a Line Manager development curriculum that addresses four key aspects of the managerial role, blending an understanding of individual style with the capabilities needed to manage others and whilst connecting with the wider organisation.


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