When HR professionals plan their workforce strategies, many might, quite rationally, think that their satisfied employees are likely to stay with them for the long-term.  However, this belief that employee satisfaction equals a stable workforce is challenged in Brook Street’s Survive & Thrive London campaign. According to our independent survey of over 1,000 workers across London, almost two thirds (58%) said that they were satisfied in their jobs. However, only a third of workers see themselves with their current employer in just twelve months’ time.

This contradiction, while confusing, is worth noting if employers are to prepare realistic and successful employee retention strategies. It’s important to understand the pull and push factors which affect employee decision making. For instance, our survey found that a better offer elsewhere, rather than a lack of opportunity or dissatisfaction at their current workplace, is most likely to lure employees to competitors. It’s absolutely vital that HR professionals know not only what their employees want but also what their competitors are doing as well. For example, what salaries do they offer?  Gathering this sort of information doesn’t often make it to the top of busy HR professionals’ priorities list, however, without it, HR strategies are not fully informed and are unlikely to achieve their goal.

Our survey also shows that losing an employee to a competitor can have a contagious effect on the rest of your staff. Nearly half of employees that were surveyed said that they would be inclined to look for a new job if a colleague had already done so. This can quickly spiral into a domino effect and employers could find themselves replacing not one, but several employees in a short period of time.

The loss of just one employee could leave a substantial skills gap and for smaller companies this would bring a considerable threat to business productivity.  Furthermore, in a separate survey – conducted by Brook Street for the 2013 London Salary Guide – one in five companies reported that it takes more than two months to replace a member of staff because people are simply increasingly selective about the roles they’ll consider.  That’s why it’s important to keep up with your competitors, not only in terms of their product or service offerings, but also in terms of their workforce strategies and incentives for new employees. 

With an active networking culture as well as the availability of information offered by the internet, social media and blogs, employees are increasingly exposed to temptations of different roles and companies. In fact, our survey shows that there are signs of a renewed ‘war for talent’ in London with 28% of surveyed employees admitting that they have been approached by headhunters or other businesses in the last year. Furthermore, nearly half of workers said that they receive regular job alerts via jobs boards and social networking sites even though they are currently employed.

The reality is that employers simply can’t afford to be complacent with their workforce. Skills shortages are rife across a number of sectors and the easiest way to fill the talent gap is by going to competitors. To minimise risk of losing vital staff, it’s important that employers review their retention processes frequently and that they put themselves in their employees’ shoes to understand what will keep staff in the business.

When companies are proactive in keeping top talent within their walls, productivity and morale tend to be high so it’s important to take time to understand what works, what’s important and where your biggest risks lie.