10 Staff retention strategies

June 3, 2015 Uli Aschenbrenner No Comments

By very conservative figures (and in easily measurable means), it costs a hospitality company at least $3,300 AUD to hire a new staff (here’s a calculator if you want to calculate it yourself).

How do you get to that figure? While there are certainly hidden costs in staff turnover, the hard costs are in lost productivity, interviewing, training and recruiting (let alone overworked staff or lost knowledge).

When you lose someone, the person who left was doing something. Even if those tasks are partially picked up by other staff, something ends up being dropped off.

With your remaining staff now put under pressure managing a greater workload, they become disengaged and productivity slumps. The longer they are in this state, the longer it takes to regain their goodwill and the more likely they are to end up resenting any changes in the future (even if you think they’re positive).

Losing an staff also means you’ve lost knowledge in your company. Lost knowledge can be specific to industry, work history, company history, customer history or a variety of other key pieces of information (even just passwords!).

Not only that, but once you’ve lost that staff, you now have to spend time creating an ad, meeting with recruiters, posting the job, interviewing and training (not to mention the actual recruitment fees if you go down that track).

Customers can also become dissatisfied (if they’ve had a regular point of contact) and you may have to either build up goodwill again or you’ll lose them.

All of these are vital to your business, or at least key to maintaining productivity.

All of that time costs you money. And while you certainly shouldn’t keep problem staff for the sake of risking the above, you should look at ways to coach and encourage your staff to avoid disengagement and resignation.

With all of that in mind, here are 10 staff retention strategies to help you get the most out of your staff, and help them get the most out of their work:


Before we get into the specifics of staff retention, it’s worth spending some time understanding which staff fit into each category. That is, top performers, medium performers and lower performers.

Top performers

Provided your top performers aren’t causing havoc in your company by creating disputes with all other staff (I’ve seen this happen). Your job is to retain these people.

Medium performers

Medium performers are usually in need of either inspiration, coaching or more skills. Your job is to develop and retain these people to become top performers.

Lower performers

Depending on your business, the costs, or problems associated with lower performers, you may wish to look at replacing lower performers or moving them into another position. Just because someone doesn’t perform well in one role, doesn’t mean they won’t in another. Everyone has their talents.

Now that you’ve got a greater understanding of which category each staff fits into, you’ll be able to better apply the strategies and tailor them to your company and staff.

1. Clear on-boarding process

While you may not have had an on-boarding process for your existing staff, it’s an important piece to have for any growing business.

The ability to grow a business is often down to it’s ability to scale, and in order to scale you need systems and processes. Yes, I know, no one likes to have a corporate culture, but having procedures doesn’t mean you lose culture. In fact it ensures you maintain the culture you have developed.

On-boarding your staff sets an example for what they should expect, guides them in an uncertain time, and helps to ensure all team members are of the same viewpoint.

This goes a long way to creating cohesive teams and the retention of new and existing staff.

2. Regular staff assessment

For the sake of both the company and staff, assessing both performance and behaviour are an important undertaking. It allows you both to have a benchmark to actually measure performance, decide whether things are improving and give a sense of achievement.

If you have no form of measurement, you’ll have no way of determining how staff are going, whether they’re happy, whether performing, or whether you’re adequately supporting them.

Assessment can be in climate surveys, KPIs, teamwork and more. You can get a more corporate one here, or a simpler one here.

3. Development, professional growth and training

Growth is a basic human desire. It’s something that helps us feel fulfilled in our life, helps us to appreciate where we’ve come from and who we’ve become.

With proper assessment, you should be able to determine where each staff has strengths and weaknesses and where they can develop the most. While the aim shouldn’t necessarily be to improve their weaknesses, it’s important to provide an avenue for personal and career growth.

This can be in learning new technical skills, interpersonal skills, management skills, emotional intelligence skills or communications skills.

While not necessarily ensuring your staff will stick around, investing in them certainly helps to give them a sense of support and enjoyment in learning new skills.

4. Company climate surveys

As a method to deliver development, professional growth and training, climate surveys are a tool to assess things such as:

  1. Creativity
  2. Innovation
  3. Satisfaction
  4. Senior management
  5. Interpersonal relations
  6. Functional expertise
  7. Compensation
  8. Benefits
  9. Analytical thinking
  10. Mentoring, and more

This helps give feedback to provide an understanding of how your staff perceive your company and what you may need to do to improve the way you’re communicating or the value you’re showing your staff.

You might think you’re doing all the right things, but if you’re not doing what’s important to your staff, or simply not showing them the effort and investment you’re making, it may mean your efforts are wasted.

5. Healthy work environment

Having a healthy work environment doesn’t just mean having a safe environment. A healthy work environment encompasses working conditions both physically and mentally.

While physical working conditions have improved significantly over the last one hundred years, there is still considerable opportunity to improve the psychological working conditions.

Having to deal with pressure, bullying and immature leadership is just as taxing and dangerous to staff health as harsh physical conditions. Psychologically unhealthy work environments are often due to leadership. That’s both leadership of the company owner, and managers.

Some considerations for a healthy working environment are:

  • Leading by example.
  • Earning trust, respect and loyalty.
  • Chasing a company vision, not money.
  • Showing empathy, encouragement and recognition.

6. Staff recognition

Everyone wants to feel recognised in their work. Whether it’s increased pay, a bonus, a gift card or a simple “thank you”, recognition plays a large role in staff motivation, making them feel that their contribution is valued.

If you haven’t already, develop a program to acknowledge staff achievements in a fair, sincere way. Ensure you deliver recognition evenly across your team and encourage leaders to praise their team, passing praise onto them when things go well, and taking responsibility when things do not.

7. Autonomy

It’s hard to feel productive or trusted if someone is looking over your shoulder all day. While it’s important to check in with staff and help them to stay in line with company goals, most strong performers value a degree of autonomy. Even if you’re not physically hovering over your staff, excessive updates and approvals on projects can be suffocating.

A good way to ensure staff are productive is to work with them to establish goals, then set an interval to check in on progress. If they need help, encourage them to speak up, but otherwise empower them with responsibility. Chances are, they will rise to the challenge.

8. Flexibility

One of the highest prized elements of work for staff is a flexible work arrangement. This can range from things such as starting times, medical emergencies, and school activities, to working from home or annual leave.

Richardo Semler spoke about a remarkable example of this in his company worth over $200 million, where he removed many of the rules in his company.

By giving your staff flexibility, you build loyalty into your company, helping staff to balance their work and personal demands.

9. Company vision

People want to spend their working days doing something that’s meaningful. You may think your company isn’t a charity, so it doesn’t apply, but there’s always a greater meaning to the work you do.

Apple could simply say they create computers, but instead they say:

“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”

A company vision doesn’t just have to be in the end product either, it can be the way you interact with customers and staff, or how you approach problems. Some examples are:

  • Do you promote ethical business when interacting with customers and staff?
  • Do your products solve the problem or fill the need in the market that they are said to?
  • Do you have a commitment to fairness and true leadership?

Your company may not be set up to help those disadvantaged, but that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to something. Many organisations organise for their staff to spend the day helping charities, which not only helps people, but helps to build your brand in your staff and customers eyes.

10. Competitive pay

Remuneration is another important consideration for staff. It not only helps them live the lifestyle they want (and feeling like their lives are progressing), but also goes to say how much you value their work.

Rather than waiting for your staff to become disgruntled and feel undervalued, take the time to re-evaluate remuneration by looking at salary guides, government statistics or the job market.

If you can’t afford to increase their pay, explain the situation and ask them for suggestions on how to improve the workplace. It might be a fruit box in the office, coffee or a ping pong table. Little changes can make a big difference.

If you withheld raises and bonuses during the down times of the business and haven’t implemented positive changes since, you’re already appearing to undervalue your staff.

Bonus: 11. Keep staff informed

It’s hard to feel like you’re a part of a team when leaders aren’t communicating with you or keeping you in the loop with company developments.

How can you work towards a vision when you don’t know what direction the company is going in?

Involving staff with updates and getting staff feedback and ideas helps to make them feel involved and also lends them to feeling responsible and connected to the outcomes of projects and the business.

Instead of running your business like an adult day care centre, allow staff to rise to the challenge and discuss problems openly.

Interpersonal conflicts, gossiping, and hidden meetings all build distrust and ultimately break down your organisation, so ensure you resolve conflicts quickly, communicate openly and give clear direction to the company as a whole.

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