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How to: Hang on to star performers

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Neil Gouldson, head of employment at national law firm Rowe Cohen, takes a look at what managers can do to retain their key players in an increasingly volatile job market.



It seems to be getting easier and easier to get a new job these days. Adverts on television, radio, bus shelters and magazines increasingly command people to “change your life – change your job.”

Does employee loyalty exist anymore?

Not so long ago people were presented with a carriage clock to denote 30 years loyal service at a company. How many people will have clocked up that many years at the same company when they come to retirement in the next 30 years? Very few I suspect.

The rapid pace at which jobs come and go are both a bother and a boon to employers. On the one hand there is a steady supply of new candidates knocking on the door. On the other, their best employees are getting their heads turned by a competitor.

So what can managers do to retain staff and maintain the loyalty of key people?

Flexibility is crucial in the modern workplace. The fact that there are more women in the workforce and more dads caring for their child at home mean companies must be flexible around working arrangements to maintain loyalty.

Offering the opportunity to work from home or changing working hours is the very least that can be done to help create a loyalty bond.

Younger staff without families are keen on career breaks, secondments and sabbaticals to enable them to gain more life and work experience. They don’t want to feel as if they are surrounded by dead wood.

There are ten key tips to help retain top players:

1. Reward: Employees must be fairly rewarded and receive the market rate. You can’t expect to pay people below the market average and still gain their trust and ensure their optimum dedication to the business. Monitor salaries in your sector regularly and ensure employees feel as if they are getting a good deal.

2. Recruitment: Recruit and promote people at the right level. Don’t recruit someone over their ability simply because there is a vacancy to fill. Ambitious existing staff who may be looking for a promotion won’t appreciate being undermined by not being asked to step into the shoes of someone who has left.

3. Induction: Undertake a proper, planned induction that explains the culture of the business, ethics and business objectives. Explain your expectations of new recruits and get regular feedback from ‘virgin’ recruits. Inductions, where possible should be carried out by the same personnel each time to ensure a consistent message is given.

4. Mentoring: Buddy newcomers up with an experienced worker from day one. There is nothing more depressing for employees than being dropped in at the deep end with nobody to look up to and no support. As well as motivating newcomers, it’s also a useful tool of responsibility for key members of staff.

5. Career path: Demonstrate career progression. Make it clear when colleagues have been promoted. Make sure internal communication is up to scratch and that employees feel their success is being celebrated and acknowledged. So-called ‘flat’ management structures are all well and good but in some businesses can lead to demotivation if people don’t feel they are progressing their career.

6. Experience: Add value by using charity projects to provide additional experience for colleagues. Offer talented people the chance to work on projects outside their remit or their scope of expertise. Allow them to learn and actively promote career development training. Showing you care about their professional development is vital.

7. Work life balance: Provide the right balance for workers. If a worker is a football referee – allow them time off, without penalty (excuse the pun) to referee important matches. Rewards like this can be one of the most powerful factors in keeping people tied to a company.

8. Creating the right ambiance: Dynamic working environments also have a good social life. Make sure there are a variety of social events. Don’t just have one ‘office drink’ a year at Christmas. Ensure there is a variety of activity going on at the firm.

9. Involve people: Empower colleagues to get involved in the decision-making process. Key employees should feel as if the future of the business can be shaped by them. Prove to them that they have a stake in the business by being an employee. Show them the impact of the suggestions they have made that have helped improve the business.

10. Pay & benefits: Get it right. Flexibility is crucial and what may be right for one colleague may not be right for another.

Contact Neil Gouldson at Rowe Cohen on T: 0161 830 4600.

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Annie Hayes

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