The issue of staff retention is now of critical importance to most UK businesses. Estimates place the cost of replacing a departing employee at almost £31,000 with senior positions costing firms considerably more. And as we’re all well aware, a number of sectors are also facing skills shortages throughout their talent pipelines meaning that companies simply must hang on to their top performers wherever possible. Many use training and development opportunities as a retention method and believe that highlighting their focus on coaching and nurturing their employees will encourage them to stay. However, the working world has changed dramatically in recent years and if solely providing skills development opportunities has worked in the past, it no longer does to the same extent. So what other factors should firms keep in mind when trying to retain their top talent?

It’s hardly surprising that companies are placing more and more of a focus on developing their staff. At a time when there is a limited supply of skilled talent, it’s increasingly important to hang on to, and develop, the professionals that firms already have on board. But training isn’t what it used to be. In general, the days of being sat in a classroom environment for hours on end have gone and have, in many cases, been replaced by innovative programmes that make use of cutting edge technology. Here at Rethink, for example, we’ve developed a programme for our leadership team across the entire company that utilises a social learning platform which can deliver training anytime, anywhere and on any device. This means that we don’t have to spend an hour at a time undertaking traditional development programmes as, after all, who really has that time to spare anymore?

However, in the past, a programme like this on its own may have been enough to encourage talent to remain at an organisation, but in the modern day employees wants so much more than simply knowing their employer values their development.  This may sound obvious to some but too few companies actually focus on the factors that encourage talent to stay with them. One area is developing a healthy working environment. This doesn’t mean everyone has to become the best of friends, but instead means promoting an open and entrepreneurial culture where people feel they can perform to the best of their ability.

Too many companies also fall into the trap of not considering staff retention before they’ve hired talent. It’s absolutely crucial for organisations to ensure that their EVP is in line with the experience of an employee. In other words, is your business actually living up to the messages it’s promoted to jobseekers? If not, and there is a disconnect between the proposition and the reality, your new employees aren’t going to be happy and are therefore much more likely to seek a move away.

It goes without saying that there are a huge number of factors that contribute to creating a company that people actually want to work for. As well as those highlighted above, businesses should also consider things like target-driven rewards. However, if they are to undertake this approach they need to ensure it’s tailored to individual employees. Nothing says your employer doesn’t care for you quite like being given a reward that isn’t at all matched to their personality. This means avoiding giving a single, male employee Mothercare vouchers, for example or giving a vegan a trip to Gaucho. Of course, offering attractive financial packages will go some way as well, however, like training, it won’t do the job on its own.

Perhaps the most important issue in retaining staff is actually recruiting the right person in the first place. For all the will in the world the fact remains that if you’ve made a bad hire the person is unlikely to fit with the company and, again, is therefore more likely to leave – which will leave you in the lurch. Consequently, even just a little extra work going into the hiring decision could potentially save the firm considerably more effort in the long run.

While training and development certainly plays a part in helping to retain talent, it’s not the be all and end all and offering these programmes on their own and expecting your staff retention to dramatically improve simply won’t happen. Firms are throwing more and more money at their T&D schemes to encourage talent to stay, when in reality they need to be looking at the wider picture.

Iain Blair is managing director of Rethink Talent Management

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