Retaining staff – top tips from Loch Associates

Published by Jennifer Williamson on 24 February 2022

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Guest article from Pam Loch, Employment Solicitor and Managing Director of Loch Associates Group. Pam joined our panel of experts on our Shaping your future webinar to cover issues and questions from employers relating to people. We invited her to guest author an article on the topic to help businesses.

We know that staff retention is one of the biggest challenges for employers at present. The Kreston Reeves Shaping your future research of over 650 businesses found it to be in the top two constraints on future growth, alongside supply chain issues.

So what can you do to retain your staff?

Career plan, training, and development

Having a clear pathway with a career/development plan is one of the most important ways to attract and retain staff nowadays. Training staff not only supports them with their career progression and makes them feel valued but also develops new skills, stimulates fresh ideas and encourages collaboration between individuals that might not usually interact.

We regularly deliver training for our clients and have found that it’s not only staff but also managers who benefit from being upskilled. From an employer’s perspective, having managers with the confidence to deal with challenging situations sensitively and effectively is crucial in maintaining the overall engagement and productivity of your workforce.

Flexible working and retention

Alongside development and training, many employees want more flexibility around where and when they work. By Summer 2022, it is expected that the right to request flexible working will be available to all employees and requests will need to be considered within a much tighter legal framework.

Increasing numbers of employers are marketing themselves as a ‘flexible employer’ so it’s important to assess how flexible you can be. Businesses are turning to ever-more creative solutions with some choosing a 4-day week or offering more flexibility during the working day so that employees can continue to manage their work hours around picking up the kids from school, or looking after elderly or dependant parents.

Enhancing benefits and changing the approach to leave

Parental leave

Extending parental leave beyond the basic statutory requirements is another popular way to be attractive as an employer at a relatively low cost. One study by Indeed in July 2021 reported a 201% rise in extended leave provisions in the last 3 years. While not all employees will want or need to access this, the kudos of being known as a family-friendly employer is likely to outweigh the additional cost of extending it.

Some companies are also offering unpaid ‘grandparent leave’ to make them more attractive, while others are making it paid leave. It’s definitely worth reviewing what you offer and benchmarking yourself against your competitors.

Buying and selling annual leave and unlimited annual leave

Buying and selling annual leave has been around for a while now but some employers are offering ‘unlimited’ annual leave. While this headline grabbing initiative may be attractive to new recruits, as well as an incentive for existing staff, experience of this has been mixed to date. There are some employees who will take full advantage of unlimited leave while others may struggle to take their full entitlement whilst covering absent colleagues.

There’s also the risk that lines become blurred between requesting additional leave and forming a new work pattern, circumventing the formal flexible working request process and causing additional issues with capacity. Introducing unlimited leave needs careful consideration and we recommend taking expert advice first to ensure you have the right policy and procedures in place for your business.

Menopause support

The statistics around women leaving work because of menopause symptoms are startling; 25% of women going through menopause surveyed in 2016 said they had considered leaving work because of their symptoms. With an estimated 4.4 million UK women over 50 in work nowadays, it’s important to retain those employees, as well as keep in mind that younger women can go through menopause early too.

There has also been an increasing number of Employment Tribunal decisions where women have won sex and/or disability discrimination claims because their employer has failed to support them. It’s important therefore to review your current approach and consider implementing a Menopause Policy to demonstrate commitment to supporting female staff of all ages.

Other staff benefits

With the cost of recruiting new staff believed to be at least £25,000, reviewing your benefits is a worthwhile exercise but you also need to take the time to understand what motivates and engages your own staff and think creatively about positive ways to make them want to remain with the business. A good way of doing this is via a staff survey, which can be anonymised to encourage honest feedback.

Bonus schemes and other financial incentives can be costly but are effective retention tools. However, there are many other ways of improving staff loyalty and engagement without necessarily incurring a significant outlay. From salary sacrifice schemes such as Cycle to Work and electric vehicles scheme, discounts at local gyms, to team lunches or drinks and ‘Employee of the Month’ schemes. There are some simple and inexpensive ways to let your employees know they are valued.

An Employee Assistant Programme is an inexpensive way to provide vital wellbeing support to employees. Arranging for some staff to become qualified as mental health first aiders or offering sabbaticals, are other attractive ways to demonstrate your commitment to your employees’ wellbeing.

Overall, the best approach to benefits is likely to involve offering a range of core benefits with add-ons available to suit an employee’s individual needs. You could make these dependent on a reasonable length of service to encourage your employees to stay with the business but you need to consider all the ramifications of doing so and what your competitors are offering.

Simply saying ‘Thanks’

It doesn’t cost a lot but saying thank you to staff and giving praise for a great job done are two ways you can help to show you value your staff. Feeling valued is one of the most significant ways to improve your staff retention and it doesn’t cost a penny!

If you would like further information or assistance on this topic, get in touch with Pam Loch, Employment Solicitor and Managing Director of Loch Associates Group. Pam’s team of Employment Law Solicitors and HR Consultants can guide you through and help you manage your team during these challenging times.

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