The Headache of Staff Retention

A common headache for HR professionals and business owners and managers is the recruitment and retention of staff.

The shortage of skills often makes recruitment a challenge and can lead to all kinds of idiosyncratic recruitment approaches when a properly thought out and implemented strategy is required rather than a knee-jerk reaction or quick fix.

Staff recruitment and retention policies need to go hand-in-hand as it is more cost effective for firms to hang onto staff once they have been appointed to capitalise on and make the most of their skills, knowledge and experience.

The fact is that recruitment and retention form part of a continuum. It would be fair to say that the majority of firms are particularly neglectful of recruitment processes.

For large-scale firms, recruitment processes can become anodyne, anonymized and bureaucratic.

For small firms, recruitment can be reduced to an idiosyncratic shortlist of who they know rather than going to the expense of a recruitment agency to do it professionally for them.

Recruiting staff should be regarded as the first stage in their retention.

People who are recruited are effectively in their first stage of induction to the organisation. The recruitment experience creates vital first impressions that indicates to applicants the nature and quality of the organisation they are about to join.

We all know that first impressions count. However, the way companies work needs ensure that positive impressions are continued and reinforced with staff.

If negative impressions are allowed to emerge and take root during a period of months – or even years – they are likely to lead to an employee moving on and the loss of their talent and experience could be detrimental to a firm’s future.

Recruitment, therefore, should be taken seriously and appropriate time and effort invested in it.

An opportunity should be made for it to be a mutual process where there is a reciprocal finding out and establishment of “fit” between potential employee and employer.

Opportunities should be put in place to promote the nature, values and issues the company faces with those being considered for a vacancy.

Honesty is the best policy. All too often, during the recruitment phase those conducting an interview ‘talk-up’ an organisation, only for the true challenges it faces to be realised by employees after they have signed up.

Any challenges are likely to be more readily accepted had they been transparent at the time of appointment. If they are discovered once a recruit is in post the new member of staff may feel they have been misled or cheated about the company’s ethos and outlook.

In addition, recruiting and retaining staff, should not over obsess with the contract of employment. Yes, terms, such as good policies on dignity at work, diversity and all of that sort of stuff, are essential and should be there.

However, recruitment is the beginnings of a psychological contract between the employee and the firm that employs them. It is the start of defining the relationship that will exist between the parties. Congruence pre and post appointment is essential.

This will encompass terms and conditions, expectations, shared visions and aspirations, hopes, dreams and the sense of individual identity that an employee holds and how that is expressed within the workplace.

Indeed, when we are talking about retention the focus upon individual identity is critical. All too often companies impose strategic retention strategies that are generic to all in the organisation and this has the potential to lose the quintessential nature of the individual identity of the employee.

There are many reasons for this, not least the belief that if practices are not standardised, this can leave the company open to allegations of favouritism.

However, if a company is to retain people in the long term, it needs to celebrate their individuality in a truly person-centred way.

This cannot be achieved with ‘one size fits all’ or ‘stock’ procedures.

What is needed is a new workplace approach that ensures that elements, such as recruitment and retention, are seen as whole system processes and integral from the moment a person applies for a job right through to the space that exists after employment comes to an end, for whatever reason.

It becomes a bold challenge for modern HR professionals and boards seeking to be good employers to accept that retention, performance, well-being and a whole range of factors involved in employing people require living, breathing approaches that embrace individuality more than sameness and standardisation.