In the wake of the Great Resignation - what are the main reasons why employees leave organisations and how can you encourage them to stay? HR and recruitment consultant Lyndsey McLaughlin gives her tips on how to get employees to stay - and why sometimes you'll just have to let them go.
A survey by Randstad UK revealed that 69% of workers were considering moving jobs soon, with 24% stating that they expected to change jobs within six months. The Great Resignation, as it has been titled, means that UK businesses are seeing a surge in resignations, partly in response to the ongoing pandemic.
The Chartered Management Institute found that voluntary departures in April-December 2021 were higher than the same period in 2019, as reported by Bloomberg. Most managers surveyed also reported that their business currently has vacancies and that finding new staff has been harder since the pandemic began.
Employee retention can be tough at the best of times, so how can businesses encourage staff to stay during times of significant change? First let's have a look at some of the common reasons why employees leave, in order to understand what businesses can do to get them to stay.
Why do employees leave?
Workers are becoming more aware of the need for a work-life balance, and as such, are taking steps to find more flexible career choices. So, why do employees leave?
1. A lack of flexibility
The pandemic has led to a new way of working for most people, with many being based at home or working within a hybrid model. Workers have become much more aware of the benefits of spending more time at home, and not having to commute. They crave flexibility in their role, so not offering this could mean that your employees begin to look elsewhere and job candidates pass you over.
2. Bad management
Poor management is one of the most common reasons why employees don’t want to stay in their job. It could be that the managers are failing to support them, they are micro-managing them, or they are just generally inadequate at their job.
3. Negative working environment
People want to work in a place where they feel that their spirits are lifted and that they enjoy being part of. If the workplace is negative, suffers from a lot of office politics, or is too authoritarian for employees to thrive in, it will encourage them to want to find somewhere they do enjoy working.
4. Poor salary
A competitive salary is one of the ways employees feel valued. If you are not paying competitively, you won’t retain your staff, and you will probably end up spending more on training and recruitment than you would by increasing salaries.
Money talks: how to discuss pay with your employees
5. No opportunities
Progression is important for employees, although this can be a bit more difficult to offer for an SME. Lack of opportunities is one of the main reasons employees will start looking elsewhere.
6 ways to get an employee to stay
You have an employee that you truly value and they suddenly tell you their plan to resign. Is all lost or can you do anything to change their mind? Keeping employees from quitting does not need to be as difficult as you might think.
Here are some steps you can take to encourage your employee to stay:
1. Have an open and honest conversation
Instead of just accepting the resignation, the first step is to have an open and honest conversation about why they’re planning to leave. It may be that you can’t meet their salary demands or they might be joining a large organisation with more opportunities. However, without speaking to them, you will never know why they want to leave.
2. Ensure recognition
Maybe your employee just feels that they are not valued. If your employee is resigning, make sure you tell them why you want them to stay. Don’t let a good employee leave, without telling them that they’re valued. You never know, it might even encourage them to think twice.
3. Review salary
If your employee is leaving because they have been offered a better salary, you should always take steps to review your salaries and where possible, offer more. Many employers, especially SMEs, feel that they have a budget that they can’t afford to deter from. However, when you consider the cost of recruiting a new employee is around £3,000, it may be more cost-effective to increase the salary.
4. Provide opportunities
It is not always possible for SMEs to provide opportunities to advance within the company, but other alternatives will show you are invested in the employee. You might want to offer free training or help fund a university course. Most employees want to feel that they are progressing in some way and offering these benefits can help encourage them to stay.
5. Offer flexibility
Greater flexibility is important and may be a factor you want to consider offering to encourage an employee to stay. It is particularly prevalent nowadays, since the pandemic has caused us all to create a better work-life balance. Flexibility can come in many forms, including remote working, part-time hours, or compressed hours to suit an employee’s lifestyle.
6. Be open and honest
People value honesty and if you can provide this to an employee who is ready to leave, it may make them think twice. For instance, you might say that although you are not able to offer a better salary now, you will be able to review it the following year, or that you will offer greater opportunities when the company grows. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but if you can lay out your plans and are transparent, the employee might be willing to stick around.
To beg or not to beg?
If you have a particularly valuable employee, there may be the temptation to grab hold of their ankle and beg them not to leave. However, this will probably only lead them to run further, and quicker! The best approach to take when an employee is trying to leave, and you want to hold onto them, is to speak and reason with them.
Listen to why they want to leave and provide them with potential resolutions. Most employers don’t do this, and in some cases, they even get quite offended that an employee is looking to leave. You can’t blame someone for looking out for different or better opportunities, which is why listening to them is key. If their main objective is to work for a larger company, for instance, you could sit down with them and discuss your projected growth over the coming years. If they are stressed with the workload, you could explain what you can do to reduce this, including the potential for flexible working.
Of course, you are never going to be able to hold onto every member of staff, some will just want to leave for pastures new, but you can take steps to try and encourage key talent not to leave. If employee retention isn’t a key part of your strategy right now, it is time to take steps to introduce it. Losing great talent not only leads to extra costs; it can also affect the quality of your business outcomes.
Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog
What to do when an employee leaves the business
Written by Lyndsey McLaughlin
Lyndsey McLaughlin is a CIPD qualified HR consultant and recruitment professional who specialises in HR advice and writing about a range of business and staff management topics for employers and managers.