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ZD Guides: Why talent leaves

5 Reasons You Lose Great People & 5 Ways To Keep Them

Is employee turnover and retention a major challenge for your business? Here’s how to retain your top employees.

First, the good news for employers everywhere: employee quit rates are declining. The bad news is that they’re now back to pre-pandemic levels (which weren’t exactly small). Worse still, and as the BBC notes, even those people who aren’t moving on are still thinking about it. Last month saw a 150% rise in job applications in the UK.

Why is talent retention difficult?

Employee turnover is a fact of life. People come. People go. Some level of churn is good because it helps bring in new ideas and stops things getting stale. But there’s a limit. Wave goodbye to too much leading talent and your organisation suffers. Talent retention is difficult because there’s rarely a single reason people leave an organisation – it’s usually a combination of factors.

There are, however, certain key elements that will usually form at least part of the reason leading talent chooses to exit.

5 reasons why companies lose top talent

  1. The money:

    Most workers have a pretty clear and realistic view of what sort of salaries their skills can attract. In our experience, while there are always a few outliers who expect a deputy store manager role to come with a private jet, most know what ‘good’ looks like. While workers might wish they were earning more, pay won’t actively affect employee turnover and retention unless…

    a) Staff find their pay is considerably lower than the going rate
    b) They feel progression up the pay scale is unfair or too slow; or
    c) Their own circumstances force them into seeking a role with a higher salary

  2. The people:

    It’s always the people. The people you work with. The people who lead you. The people who manage in an inspirational, collaborative, engaging way, and the people who, er, don’t.

    A recent survey of 3,400 people across several industries found half of retail workers didn’t like their boss – the highest proportion of any industry.

    If you’re looking for the key to employee turnover and retention, this is a key place to start.

    The progression:

    We don’t just mean promotion, although that’s certainly part of it. Leading talent expects to feel nurtured. People want to feel there’s always a chance to develop their skills and experience.
    Without it, there’s a much greater chance that top talent will drift off in search of employers who offer greater opportunities.

  3. The promise:

    Candidates have certain expectations of the retailers they apply to. In part, those expectations are driven by their own experiences with the brand. And in part, they’re informed by the job ad, the interview, the recruitment process (and recruitment company), all of which create the ‘promise’ of what their working experience will be like.

    If the experience matches the promise – about the day-to-day work, about opportunities for progression, about having their voice heard etc – talent is more likely to stay. If it doesn’t, the opposite is true.

  4. The fit:

    You know when you’ve found a job that feels like home. On the flip side, a job that isn’t quite the right fit on day one will often never feel like the right fit.

What are top factors for retaining talent?

  1. Pay competitively:

    Note, this isn’t about offering the very best salaries; it’s simply about positioning your pay and perks in the right ballpark. Often, a competitive salary with a great employer will encourage more applications than a great salary with an employer whose reputation is less glowing on Glassdoor.

    Find out more about who’s paying the highest retail salaries

  2. Listen to your people:

    A key aspect of understanding how to retain your top employees is listening to what they have to tell you. As Forbes describes it, this is about more than running the occasional staff survey. It’s about “listening generously”, about being present and empathetic. It’s about not just asking workers for their opinions but making use of the information you receive.
    ‘Active listening’ makes employees feel heard. That helps build engagement and engaged staff are less likely to leave.

  3. Get induction right:

    As this recent survey notes, almost half (49%) of frontline retail staff don’t feel their induction prepared them for the role that followed it. As a result, many retail workers feel ‘thrown in at the deep end’, ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the role they’ll face. One of the simplest ways to reduce employee turnover and boost retention is to involve recent inductees in reengineering the process, so induction is a better reflection of the job that follows.

  4. Give workers the training and development you promised:

    Leading talent doesn’t necessarily expect to be upskilled or promoted within their first five minutes with you. What matters is that there’s a plan for their progression, and that it matches what was promised when they signed up to work with you. Creating clear pathways for development and progression is not only key to retaining top employees; it also helps a business to plan its development activities strategically in a way that ensures the business has the skills it needs for the future.

  5. Get recruitment right:

    We mentioned brand fit earlier as a major reason talent leaves. The feeling that you’re a square peg in a round hole isn’t an easy fix. The best solution, therefore, is to ensure your recruitment looks beyond skills, capabilities and experience to incorporate brand culture and values. That helps to ensure you always recruit people who suit the organisation and it’s something your recruitment partner should be able to help you with.

What is the best way to retain talented staff?

Perhaps the most important step in learning how to retain your top employees is to have a retention plan. With a talent retention strategy, you ensure your measures cover the broadest possible range of people and their diverse needs. 

You ensure your measures are joined up, so each benefits from being a connected part of a whole where it can deliver real impact, rather than being a collection of standalone and well-meaning but random actions.

There’s even value in communicating your talent retention strategies to staff because they’ll then see how committed you are to them. Better still, involve staff in developing your retention plan.

Find leading talent (and keep it) with us

Let’s help you find top talent that stays. Talk to us about your recruitment strategy.

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