Keeping talent

Retaining good staff is imperative for any successful business. But this can be a challenge in good economic conditions and times of low unemployment. During the global financial crisis, staff willingly reduced hours and took a cut in pay. But now with an improving economy, and if previous pay and conditions haven't been reinstated, staff are more likely to look for job opportunities elsewhere.  

Poaching, or head hunting is quite common, especially in industries faced with a severe skills shortage. In some sales related roles, a new employee may bring with them valuable client contacts. Naturally, businesses want the best staff to ensure future success and to maintain competitiveness. But just as crucial, is valuing the staff you have and keeping them challenged and interested in their roles.

Research suggests that the overwhelming majority of employed Australians are actively looking for work and more than 70 percent are looking outside their current field. More than half of these workers are expecting to find alternative employment within three months. Key reasons why staff leave includes: limited career progression and skill development. This coupled with feeling undervalued will lead to employees to lose faith in the company. Maintaining a work life balance is another key reason why people change jobs. However, the potential to earn more money is further down the list, suggesting that people have more incentive to change jobs than purely monetary.

Keeping employees engaged at work is multi-faceted. Ultimately employing the best team for many employers makes good business sense, which may include poaching, but there are a few ways you can mitigate this.

Foster an honest workplace

Foster a workplace where staff can approach you to talk about issues they face. If people are happy at work they're more likely to maintain loyalty and not give thought to changing jobs. Unhappy or frustrated workers are more likely to look for job opportunities elsewhere and leave with little or no explanation. A high staff turnover leads to increased training costs and corrodes workplace culture. If your employee wants to resign due to personal difficulties with a manager or another staff member, perhaps it's worth considering a change in team or opportunity to work with a different manager.

Engage staff

Value and appreciate your staff. A simple "thank you" speaks volumes. Recognise your staff if they have gone beyond the call of duty such as working overtime. Find out what it will take to keep your staff on board and provide them with opportunities to expand and broaden their skills. Staff want to feel challenged and ultimately advance their careers. Ensure that employees are aware of the company's vision and instill enthusiasm for the future possibilities at your business and the potential for career development. Establishing a good reputation helps creates an environment where staff are happy to be at work. 

Career development

Are staff members working to their full potential? Employees want to use the skills earned at university or build on previous work experience, but importantly develop and expand their skills. Consider if the staff member could benefit from working with another area of the business. Ask for ideas from the employee about where they see their career headed and what skills they'd like to acquire. Give employees scope to expand their skills, and experiment in other areas of the business. Consider long term career development plans, which may include cash bonuses. This may be useful if the employee is a key component of a long term project. Does the employee have leadership potential? Could the employee become involved in management? This could also encourage workers to remain loyal to the business for longer and acts as a deterrent to looking for work elsewhere.  

Follow through

If you agree to second the staff member to another part of the business or make changes to their role - follow through with your decision. If you decline their suggestion provide reasons and be open. Be mindful of the employees' right to a balance between life and work, an appropriate amount of leave and leisure time when considering additional duties.

Contractual safeguards

With a succinctly worded contract employers can safeguard trade secrets and alleviate poaching of staff and loss of clients (who follow that employee to a new job). Common contract clauses outline that the employee has a duty to promote the interests of the business and not engage in outside business activities without the permission of the employer. Or, the employee's contract could explicitly outline what trade secrets or business interests the employee must keep confidential at all times. If your concerned clients may follow a staff member who has left - encourage good working relationship between clients and several of your staff.

Business owners need to find out what will keep employees at work and continue to provide career opportunities, guidance and appropriate incentives. Employees want recognition for the job they do and this leads to happy and loyal workforce. Though poaching is always a possibility you can mitigate this by nurturing the talent you have.

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