What companies should do to retain the best staff

Retention strategies play a vital role and should not be understated, Chris Underwood says

With the UK economy firmly on a growth trajectory, the fight for top talent is greater than ever. Businesses must invest significant time and financial resource searching and securing the best senior talent out there. However, many fail to acknowledge the importance of retaining staff once they have arrived. The findings from a recent Deloitte report, Talent 2020 Surveying the Talent Paradox from the Employee Perspective, highlights just how fluid the market continues to be. Surveying more than 500 employees from large companies around the world, the report reveals how 80 per cent of employees plan to stay with their current employer in the next year, however, a further 31 per cent are not satisfied with their current jobs. Another survey by Gallup identifies the same, in fact it found that ’87 per cent of workers worldwide are either not engaged or are actively disengaged with their job’[1]. These stats show that is has never been more imperative for employers to understand the vital role of retention strategies.

Not dissimilar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, employees require a careful balance of different factors (sometimes beyond financial) in order to feel truly satisfied, or indeed, remain within an organisation. A key part of the search and recruitment process involves the candidate and organisation agreeing a remuneration package, including pay, bonuses and various other rewards; however, it often only acts to serve the short-term motivational triggers of an individual. 

Time and time again, top talent is able to source these short-term incentives elsewhere, resulting in businesses spending unnecessary resources as talent moves from one company to another, searching for the right balance of factors. Businesses must therefore address the key, often overlooked, retention factors that will ultimately succeed in securing the long-term focus and commitment of an individual, saving valuable financial resources.

Here are four key retention strategies:

Strong effective leadership

A business must have strong, effective leadership in place that has defined a purpose and mission. It must be clearly communicated throughout the organisation in order for staff to understand and ‘buy-in’ to the role they each play in delivering the purpose. The Talent 2020 report revealed that more than six in 10 employees who plan to stay with their current employers reported high levels of trust in their corporate leadership. Furthermore, 26 per cent of those who plan to leave their job in the next year cited a lack of trust in leadership as a key factor.

If an employee is only financially motivated, it is highly likely they will move to another business with the offer of a greater pay package. However, by making employees feel an integral part of the organisational success, proud of the role they play and the culture of the business, they will more likely stay longer and want to deliver more.


High performance and effectiveness should be monitored and recognised by businesses on an ongoing basis and form part of a high performance culture. A recent report from The ILM, found that ‘base salary, benefits and pension’ are the most important’[2] factors to consider when thinking about ways to keep staff motivated, engaged and retain them within the organisation. However, it’s not always the most important factor to consider. Sometimes recognising high performance can be much more beneficial, this can of course be through financial ways, such as pay-rise, bonuses and equity, but it could also be through personal development, executive coaching and mentoring, promotion or simply public recognition for example.


Businesses should ensure to create a positive culture that supports flexible working arrangements. There is of course legislation that has forced companies to address this issue, but frequently it is only reviewed in light of legislation rather than in light of wider cultural issues. With today’s technology advancements, offering flexible working is easily attainable for many businesses and it is indeed a very common conversation many businesses have with employees. Agreeing with a recent comment by Jo Swinson, business minister, who claims ‘firms that embrace flexible working are more likely to attract and retain the best talent and reap the benefits of a more motivated workforce’[3], I believe it is indeed more about embracing a culture of flexible working rather than adopting this because they feel they have to. Offering flexibility on hours and place of work is an extremely underrated benefit that can retain the very best in any organisation through both good and bad times. 

Organisations also need to embrace a culture that focuses on output rather than presenteeism. Indeed, the Department for Business has revealed that more than half of businesses reported an improvement in their relationship with their employees, and 38 per cent reported a drop in staff absence when implementing flexible working. Flexible working is something that is becoming an increasingly important factor to consider and one many of the top talent will expect to see within new and existing roles, especially for women in high-level roles. Managing a career and a family is a top priority for many and if businesses/organisations are adopting this benefit as part of their overall package and culture, it will help to retain many more individuals.

Engagement surveys

Although employee engagement surveys and monitoring activity are not a direct retention tool, they in fact work very well to highlight areas of weakness in terms of management and leadership, which does in fact lead to high turnover rates. Not only do they give employees a voice, but they can also enable companies to build a benchmark from which they can measure themselves with industry data to gain an understanding of how your company performs against its competitors. A recent study by Accenture revealed that 31 per cent of people ‘don’t actually like their boss’[4] and businesses could only find this out through such surveys, showing the necessity of such a tool.

Overall we can see that the changes do not need to be extensive, however, it is still the case that not all organisations’ are considering each element in retaining staff and are in fact, losing top talent all the time. As the job market continues to grow, it is as important as ever to take into account ways to hold onto this talent.


[3] Gov.co.uk – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/flexible-working-rights-extended-to-more-than-20-million

[4] http://www.forbes.com/sites/alanhall/2013/03/11/im-outta-here-why-2-million-americans-quit-every-month-and-5-steps-to-turn-the-epidemic-around/



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