In this article, our Managing Director Jane Braithwaite turns troubleshooter to answer independent practitioners’ frequently asked questions on business matters. Today she is answering a question on employee retention. This article was originally written for Independent Practitioners Today.
This month: ‘How do I improve staff retention and ensure my team is stable? Recently, I have lost two members of staff and it will take me a long time to recruit and train new team members.
Losing a member of staff is always painful and has a significant impact on team performance and the morale of the remaining team members. When an individual chooses to leave their role, it is natural for their colleagues to feel unsettled and to question their own position within the organisation.
They are also likely to be asked to pick up extra work while a replacement is found and then take responsibility for training and mentoring the new recruit. The whole episode puts immense pressure on the entire team and can have a damaging effect on service delivery. When the Covid pandemic first hit us, many of us suspected that one of the negative outcomes would be high unemployment. But we were wrong and the opposite appears to be true. The majority of jobs survived the end of the Government furlough scheme and the fear of a huge spike in unemployment has not materialised.
Record number of vacancies
Vacancies are now at a record high, with some newspapers reporting 1.2m vacancies and a shortage of skilled workers, which is having a drastic impact in many industry sectors, including the healthcare and care sectors. One recruitment specialist has reported ‘fierce competition for talent’ and there are reports of graduate lawyers being offered starting salaries of £150,000 and signing-on bonuses by employers desperate to compete in this shortage market. In general, though, average pay rises are not keeping up with the increase in the cost of living, and while wages are rising, they are not rising as fast as prices. This will lead to more people searching for a new role purely for better remuneration. Currently, it is so much harder to recruit due to a shortage of available candidates and so replacing staff is much harder and more time-consuming. Retention of key staff is vital to protect our organisations in the current climate.
How do we ensure we retain our employees?
Most managers assume that salary is the major motivator for their employees. While salary is important, especially with the rising cost of living, for many people there are other more significant factors. Many employees are more highly motivated by other factors such as flexibility, culture, career development opportunities, geographical location and their relationship with their direct manager.The pandemic has led to many people thinking about what they want from their working lives with a new perspective. They have been reminded that life is short, and they want to make the most of their time, both at work and in their social lives. Many are burnt out by the pandemic and desperately in need of a break to regroup and recover. Most have taken fewer holidays over the last couple of years and this has had a cumulative effect on exhaustion. The well-being of employees should be a major concern for all employers. The recruitment firm Randstad UK says that, in a typical year, 11% of workers would move roles, but its recent research in a survey of 6,000 workers found that 69% of those surveyed were feeling confident about moving to a new role in the next six months.
The Great Resignation
This trend is often referred to by the press as ‘The Great Resignation’ and is going to be hard for industries like healthcare, where the prediction is that some employees are looking to leave the sector completely, resulting in a reduced pool of available workers. If you have had resignations within your organisation, one valuable way to learn why your employees are unhappy is to hold exit interviews with employees before they leave. An exit interview should be hosted by an individual who is not directly working with the employee so that the meeting can be credibly viewed as confidential to encourage honesty and transparency. The interview offers an opportunity for the employee to express their reasons for leaving and to suggest ways in which the organisation can improve to retain valuable workers in the future. A similar approach should also be adopted with all employees to understand what motivates them most about their work, what they are happy about currently and where your organisation is able to improve. Asking questions like what additional support would benefit them will give you valuable insight into options to improve. An HR expert will wisely advise you to create the Employment Value Proposition (EVP) for your organisation, to help you with the retention of employees and the recruitment of new team members.
As business owners, we spend much time thinking about patients and clients and how we want them to perceive our organisation, but, to create an EVP, we need to think about our organisation through the eyes of our employees. An EVP states what employees receive in return for the talent, enthusiasm, loyalty and contribution they deliver to our organisations. Your EVP will give you a competitive advantage in retaining your employees and attracting the best employees to join your organisation. This is especially relevant to organisations that do not have the budget to compete with the remuneration offered by larger competitors. You can promote other unique qualities that differentiate your business from your competitors, thus attracting the right talent.
An EVP should provide incentives that reward hard work and create a supportive, inclusive working environment. Start by identifying all the benefits of working at your company and the unique strengths of the organisation versus its competitors in terms of remuneration, working environment, career progression, learning and development and culture. This could be done as a team exercise at a workshop-style meeting or through the use of a simple questionnaire sent to all employees. Covid has changed the face of the working environment and more companies are adopting a hybrid working solution. Where this is not possible – for example, in many healthcare settings – businesses are providing more flexible working solutions such as job sharing and condensed hours to attract target audiences who value flexibility and a healthier work-life balance. Opportunities for career progression are also an attractive proposition for high potential individuals who are looking for challenge and growth. Many employers like to showcase success stories of people who have risen through the ranks and who have been encouraged and supported throughout their career journey from entry-level positions to senior-level roles.
Examining the company’s policies on training, performance development and promotions will give clarity on the company’s attitude towards career progression and growth and how the company supports this by providing opportunities for learning and development and rewarding good performance management and development practices. The culture reflects everything from human, social and even political issues. Identifying with the corporate culture can help candidates determine whether or not their values and beliefs are aligned with those of the company. If candidates share the same beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours as those identified by the company, this gives them some reassurance of a harmonious working environment which could lead to a longer-term working relationship. Other benefits can also cover aspects such as financial strength and constant growth, unique services and a strong commercial footing, and reassuring candidates in terms of security, stability and longevity. In each stage of the EVP definition process, consider how the company fares against its competitors in terms of remuneration, working environment, culture, and career progression. This will help to establish the company’s unique selling points against the competition and promote aspects that are more generous or attractive than your competitors. Creating your EVP will help you identify areas where you need to improve in your organisation and this will lead to increased employee retention. According to research from Gartner: ‘Organisations that effectively deliver on their EVP can decrease annual employee turnover by just under 70% and increase new hire commitment by nearly 30%.’