Keeping your best employees onside should begin the first day they clock on, says pharmaceutical company Amgen.
Bernadette McBarron, Australian human resources director at Amgen, says when new staff members arrive the company “really connects employees quickly to the organisation”.
Basics like clearly defined roles and goal setting are covered as well as demonstrating to staff why the company is important. “It's a really good culture to be a part of,” McBarron says.
“Everyone you meet understands why Amgen provides such high value and service to patients in the community,” she says. “They get what Amgen is about and they feel very proud to talk about their role and what they do.”
Research shows that workers who are properly “onboarded” – in other words, given the knowledge and skills to become effective and productive staff members – have higher job satisfaction and are less likely to leave.
McBarron says that getting a few of the HR basics right can help businesses hold on to good employees. The first step is making sure pay and bonuses are fair and competitive. Staff who have been with the company for five years or more get five weeks' annual leave.
The company also tries to create “a great place for people to work”.
The third Friday of every month and all Fridays in January are a “family and friends Friday” where employees can leave at 2pm. The company also has a strong 'wellness' program, provides a flexible workplace and staff are entitled to two days off a year to undertake community work.
Staff turnover has been running below the industry average during the three years that the company has had its retention strategy in place.
How to tell when someone's ready to bail
McBarron says there are two major indicators that a staff member is thinking about leaving: a rise in absenteeism and disinterest in their work.
“If you think somebody is thinking about leaving it's OK to ask them some questions about how they are feeling about their role and if there's anything you can be helping them with,” she says.
There's no doubt that the departure of a staff member, particularly a high performer, can be costly to a business. Not only is there the cost of hiring a replacement worker, there's also the loss of productivity involved in backfilling the departed staff member's role before they're replaced and in the amount of time it takes the new worker to get up to speed.
Mercer has estimated the total cost of staff turnover at 50 to 150 per cent of an individual's annual salary.
Mark Allsop, a partner at Deloitte Private, says there are a few general principles which companies can follow to hang on to staff.
Find out what's important
Firstly, businesses need to understand what HR professionals call “the employee value proposition” - that is, what do employees get from working for the business?
Pay is obviously important, but Allsop says for many people pay is only one of components of employee satisfaction. “It's also worth investigating whether there are some other underlying issues that are causing the individual to leave the organisation,” he says.
Feeling like a valuable part of an organisation is important to employees and is easier for a small business. A formalised recognition and rewards process and simply letting staff know they've done a good job can help, says Allsop.
A flexible workplace and a clear idea about career direction are also important.
Giving people interesting and varied work can help retain staff. But this isn't always possible and Allsop says that for some staff there are other things that are more important, such as regular pay, flexibility and enough time to pursue outside interests. The job may also be viewed as a stepping stone to something better.
Allsop says managers should seek feedback about the workplace from staff. Rather than waiting until there's a problem, this should be done proactively in a regular, structured way.
“Stay close to your staff and understand what it is that's driving them and what their attitude is towards the workplace,” he says.
Adam Randall, owner of Adelaide-based IT support company Creydall Systems, says the starting point to hold on to quality staff is to hire good staff members, pay them fairly and reward good performance. He has one staff member who likes whisky, so gives him a bottle occasionally, while he has given another staffer $2000 bonuses for bringing in new business.
Randall also makes sure that he lets competent people get on with the jog instead of micromanaging them. “Good people put up with that for a little, but then they'll decide it's not really their cup of tea any more and head off,” he says.
It is inevitable, however, that some staff will leave no matter what their manager does. Randall tries to stay on good terms with departing staff, because they might want to come back in the future.