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How can I boost retention rates and stop staff leaving my company after three years?

  • Publish Date: Posted about 6 years ago
  • Author:by Caroline Macklin

Q: I’ve been running my own business for the last 10 years and several staff have been here since the beginning. However, we are having trouble retaining new hires. Anytime someone new joins, it starts off extremely well – but then they leave after two to three years. How can I grow my business when I can’t retain new people? How do I improve our retention rate?

A: While turnover in an organisation is normal and healthy, it appears that you are struggling to retain employees at a particular stage in their career. This may be due to internal factors or to external ‘pulls’ from competitors. The modern career is often characterised by three- to five-year cycles. Ensuring employees are engaged and developing through these cycles should ensure the longevity of your workforce. You must gather information on why it is happening from as many sources as possible. Here are a few pointers:

1. Focus Group: In order to solve this issue, it is vital to first understand the underlying causes. Insights can be gained by conducting focus groups with employees regarding their levels of engagement, any differences between their initial expectations of the role and the reality of their day-to-day work lives. Care should be taken in preparing for these sessions.

All communications shared must be phrased positively, the confidentiality of information guaranteed and a safe space for discussion established. While encouraging useful discussion is a priority, avoid negative confrontations or irrelevant chat.

To this end, it may be useful to engage an expert to assist you. Following the discussion, it is vital that an action plan is developed so that your efforts have an impact on the organisation and the participants feel their voices are heard. It is vital that there is no negative impact on employees who share less favourable feedback.

2. Exit Interview: Once an employee has handed in their notice, it is usually too late to make any changes to their conditions that would encourage them to stay long term.

Research has shown that up to 60% of employees who accept a counter-offer from their existing employer change roles in the subsequent 12 months. However, their experience of your organisation and their reasons for leaving may help to build a clearer picture of any issues.

Exit interview questions should be developed to capture the employee’s impression of working conditions, compensation, and benefits package and the organisation’s position in the marketplace.

3. External Marketplace: It is important to note the employee is not only moving away from you but also moving towards a new employer.

Is the compensation and benefits package offered by your organisation competitive? Are there schemes or initiatives being run by competitors that could be implemented in your organisation? Are your organisation’s structures appropriate to the market? Answering these questions should give you an insight into your organisation’s strength and brand in the employment market. This information should then be used to develop an action plan to boost your organisation’s competitiveness regarding recruitment and retention.

4. Recruitment Process: The initial stages of forming an employment relationship continue to affect your employees long after they have signed a contract and joined your team. Examine your recruitment process to ensure appropriate expectations are set for the candidate’s performance, their role content and their career development. Employees may become disengaged or disillusioned if the perks of the role or potential for development were oversold at interview, which negatively affects your retention ability.

5. Career Development: Ensure that all employees are aware of the opportunities available for development. Clear pathways should be developed, charting an employee’s potential development through several levels of the organisation and providing training or experience required to achieve this. This information will allow the employee to strive to achieve more.

This article was first published in the business section of The Sunday Independent, on April 29th, and the original version can be read here.

Read more of Caroline’s blogs here.

Caroline Ward - Senior Occupational Psychology Consultant
Caroline Macklin​
​Senior Occupational Psychology Consultant