5 top ways to retain your staff without breaking the budget

You’ve probably read this before: we’re in the middle of a talent shortage. To challenge employers even more, the very real issue of talent retention is also getting its share of discussion, and with good reason; not only are skilled talent hard to find, they’re getting harder and harder to keep.

But while these issues are simmering away, I do believe that employee loyalty isn’t dead. People still want to remain loyal to their employers; they just need the right environment in which to do it in.

Plenty of businesses have their own way of encouraging staff motivation. Google is known for its Innovation Time Off policy, where engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their time at work on projects that interest them. While this kind of initiative has proven to be winning, birthing Google News and Gmail and other successful products, it’s obviously a costly exercise that not every company can sustain financially.

So what can you do?

Every candidate I meet gets asked a variation of the question ‘why are you looking for a new job?’ I’ve taken stock of the responses and have put together the most common reasons, in no particular order:

1. Salary: But it’s not what you think. You don’t necessarily need to be paying all your staff the top-banded salaries, but they’re telling me loud and clear that they do want to know that what they are being paid is fair. Benchmark salaries, know what your competitors are offering and be open and honest with your staff. Remember, it has much less to do with the bottom dollar and almost everything to do with an overall feeling of value.

2. Performance Reviews: Do them, and do them when they’re due. Many, many candidates I’ve met with have cited late or sometimes non-existent performance reviews as a contributing factor to their decision to change jobs. Don’t avoid the discussion, no matter how unpleasant it might be. People need to know if they’re performing to their employers’ standards, and they also need the open opportunity to discuss anything they might need addressed.

3. Quality of Work/Projects/Brands: This is especially true for designers (the talent I work with), but I imagine it’s relevant to many roles in advertising and marketing and beyond. Wherever possible, allow all staff some access to the bigger/better/higher-profile projects. Yes, even juniors. It can grow confidence, motivation and loyalty. And as I’ve said before, some of the best ideas come from where you might least expect!

4. Reward Great Work: How worthwhile would you feel if you were always being overlooked? Acknowledge people who have done a great job, stood out from the crowd, stayed back late to finish a project or come up with a great idea. It doesn’t have to be a financial reward – it’s probably more than enough to simply mention them at Friday drinks. (And another point: HAVE Friday drinks!).

5. Flexibility: Remember that people have (sometimes complex, often busy) lives outside of work. Parents’ days can be tough: there are school drop offs and pick ups, the kids get sick, it’s Dad’s Day at Kinder or you just miss your kids (I’m guilty of this one). People study, care for an elderly parent, and do a raft of things that sometimes don’t fall conveniently into the ‘after hours’ time frame. Where possible, allow some flexibility around this.

While there are many other things a employer can do to try and encourage happy and motivated staff (some I’ve heard of: access to an in-house chef, weekly massages, breakfast provided every morning, a myriad of social activities, office ‘comfort zones’ and games rooms, ski trips, free iPads/Pods/Phones, etc.), it’s interesting to me that, consistently, it’s the simpler things that continue to rate a mention.


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