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Colborn’s Corner: New year, new start?


Quentin Colborn

According to a survey by, a staggering 42 per cent of people are planning to hunt for work this month. But is this anything new, and what can or should employers do about it? Quentin Colborn addresses the challenges faced by organisations looking to restrict turnover.

The prospect of increasing staff turnover causes many employers to rub their hands with glee thinking of their least favourite employee about to depart. Sadly, they are normally disappointed; those we wish to leave, remain stubbornly in place, while it is often the good performers who do leave.

So what, if anything, should employers do about this prospective exodus? Well, of course there are two sides. If you are looking to recruit, there is the prospect of more good people being available on the jobs market.

In terms of keeping the better people, are there any tricks that employers should be aware of? Of course there is not an easy A – Z of retaining people, but there are a few tips that all good employers should be aware of.

First must come salary and benefits – common sense, but also must be linked to commercial viability. Sometimes it is quite impossible to pay salaries at the level the market requires, in which case other strategies need to be employed.

Secondly, organisations need to look at how they treat their staff. Research indicates that about 80 per cent of an individual’s perception of their employer is determined by the way their manager treats them.

You can have the best policies in the world, but if they are applied in a poor way then you will not get any ‘credit’ for them. So if you are looking to reduce turnover, consider current management styles and whether there is a need to upgrade management skills within the organisation.

Thirdly, listen to staff. I think that if there is one thing organisations need to be better at, it is taking the input of those who work there. This can apply in two main areas, firstly in their feedback on the organisation, and secondly their input on improvements that can be made.

Canvass opinions

I wonder how many employers actively canvass the views and opinions of employees? Some do and have sophisticated approaches to gaining employee feedback on the organisation. Potentially this has the benefit of enhancing employee satisfaction and hence retention. But, and it is a big but, if the employer canvasses views and then does nothing with them, the exercise is worse than useless, through raising expectations and then failing to deliver them.

During the 90’s, there was considerable emphasis on the ‘quality’ movement, with a big emphasis on Kaisan, the Japanese approach to quality improvement. To some extent I think Kaisan has fallen from the agenda at the minute, but one aspect was the emphasis placed on getting employee involvement.

To me it was epitomised by a visit I made to Nissan, where a sophisticated suggestion and quality improvement scheme was in place whereby employees were actively encouraged to submit and investigate ideas for improving quality and profitability. To my mind, this was a very positive approach to employee involvement which paid dividends in terms of employee retention.

In summary, if we want to improve retention rates and retain those who are key to our organisations, employers need to look at non-pay methods of enhancing satisfaction and building a more effective relationship with employees. Never easy, not necessarily cheap, but what is the real cost of losing employees? I suspect many are unable to quantify that.

Is fear of losing staff a big issue for your organisation? How do you go about retaining key individuals? What changes to your management style in the coming year? Let’s hear your views.

Quentin Colborn is an independent HR consultant based in Essex who advises management teams on operational and strategic HR issues. Quentin can be contacted on 01376 571360 or via [email protected]. For further information, please visit:

One Response

  1. natural turnover
    Good article; two other thoughts.
    I believe that some turnover is good.static organisations go stale. I am convinced that about 15% is normal/healthy.
    i also see people so worried about turnover that they are afraid to address disciplinary/dismissal issues and actually lower their standards and give all the wrong impression to staff who do not want to work with failures

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