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The Great Resignation: How to make staff want to stay.

Posted on 30th November 2021

If you’re having trouble finding staff at present, you’re not alone. Government figures reveal job vacancies are at a record high after COVID and Brexit. Employers looking for seasonal staff over Christmas are coming up particularly short, with searches for seasonal jobs down a quarter since 2019 and a third since 2018.

The labour market has been generating jobs for months and is now a victim of its own success, with over 1.1 million unfilled vacancies in the UK. In addition to Brexit-related staff shortages, a quarter of UK workers are planning to quit their jobs over the next few months, in a phenomenon called ‘The Great Resignation’, fuelled by COVID-induced introspection and burnout.

Employers across all sectors are struggling with both recruitment and retention, which is further draining budgets already sapped by COVID. A study by Oxford Economics found that it takes 28 weeks for a new professional hire to reach optimum productivity, which costs £25,200 per employee, over and above the cost of recruitment itself.

Figures released by the British Chambers of Commerce show that 77% of firms recruiting in the second quarter of 2021, had difficulties, with the manufacturing and hospitality sectors suffering the most.

However, there are things you can do to retain your existing staff. A Gallup poll in the US found that over half of employees who resign say their employer could have done something to stop them leaving.

While fair pay is important, you can’t just pile on raises and bonuses and expect that to be enough to retain staff, even if you can afford to in the current climate. And old-fashioned perks like gym memberships and free fruit won’t cut it either. Most employees leave or stay because of company culture and management style.

So what kind of culture and management style makes people want to stay? It’s actually very simple. A company with supportive and nurturing leadership and a people-centric focus will make people feel seen, heard and valued.

But you can’t just decide for your employees what that will look like. You have to listen to people, let them actually contribute to the policies and direction of the company, and make them feel safe to be themselves and make mistakes.

Offering as much flexibility as possible is no longer optional; with so many employers offering home or hybrid working, flexible hours, and flexible leave policies, you’re certain to lose people to your competitors if you don’t make every effort to follow suit.

As many employees have taken a new interest in self-development during the pandemic, employers who encourage staff in personal development are also very attractive. Even more importantly, you also need to deliver on what you say you’ll do. Getting company culture right will help you attract new staff by word of mouth as well as retain your existing ones.

Another thing you can do to attract new applicants is to get your job ad right: put the salary up front on the ad, highlight the flexibility you offer, talk up your company culture, and use more engaging and emotive language, ideally aligning it with the tone of voice on your website. Streamline the application process too, making sure you get back to candidates quickly and don’t subject them to unnecessary form-filling and boring tests.

Finally, no matter how tight your budget is, there’s a very important seasonal tip to follow if you’re serious about retaining staff: don’t cancel the Christmas party.