Battling the retention conundrum

Office desk with wood blocks with text that states Employee Engagement Survey.

Unlocking insights: Ian Barrow on the power of pulse surveys in employee engagement

Retention is HR’s greatest challenge.  Almost a quarter (23%) of the UK workforce is expected to change jobs in the next 12 months, up five percentage points on last year’s figures. Despite ongoing efforts, people professionals are feeling the pressure as they struggle to keep hold of staff. So, what are HR and L&D teams up against and how can they go about improving retention?

WorkBuzz’s latest research found that just 11% of UK HR professionals believe retention is getting easier, with 89% admitting that it’s either got harder or has stayed the same. When asked about the biggest obstacles to retaining their people, the ability to offer competitive compensation came out on top by some considerable margin, followed by challenges with meeting employees’ career development needs and expectations.

Why are your people really leaving?

Against a backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis, it’s understandable why more competitive salaries are tempting employees from one job to another. However, are the majority of employees really leaving because of financial reasons, or has this been assumed?

It could be that salary is indeed a reason for employee attrition, but not by itself. Employees tend to ‘trade off’ concerns around their pay and benefits against the things that make them satisfied and motivated with their role and the organisation they work for. There might be many reasons your staff are leaving, and simply paying them more won’t encourage them to stay.

Look around for feedback

To effectively tackle the retention conundrum requires a 360 degree view of why your employees are actually leaving rather than why they might be leaving. And this requires an employee listening strategy which includes regular ‘pulse surveys’ as well as exit interviews and surveys. Without these insights, you’ll be fighting a losing battle.

Word Feedback on the piece of paper

Pulse surveys are for regular, anonymous feedback and tend to be sent out to employees as short and ‘to the point’ surveys on a monthly or quarterly basis. As they provide a continuous snapshot of the workforce’s opinions, feelings and satisfaction levels, they’re a great way for organisations to check in with their employees on a variety of topics, and obtain an effective sentiment analysis.

Pulse surveys also tend to have a better response rate than larger, more in-depth annual engagement surveys, and being confidential, they’re an effective way to obtain honest (sometimes raw) insights into what’s going on across departments, locations, job roles, and so on.

Know rather than think

Having this holistic view of how employees are feeling, and why, is invaluable for addressing the organisation’s most pressing issues that could well be driving your people away – from management challenges through to diversity and inclusion issues.

Exit surveys and interviews must also be used in combination with the ongoing pulse surveys. These are specifically for gathering feedback from employees who are leaving the organisation and can provide a treasure trove of insights, from why they’ve decided to leave and whether they felt valued, through to what the organisation could have done differently. 

Of course, any disparaging employee feedback will be difficult to hear, but it’s only by understanding where your particular organisational challenges lie, can you make the necessary improvements to address them.

What you know, you can change

Ultimately, if you’re not regularly asking your people how they are doing, how they feel and what problems they’re facing, how can people leaders make effectual changes to the status quo so that employees choose to stick around?

When an employee does choose to leave, it’s vital to uncover the “why” behind their decision. Failure to drill into and address the root causes of employee unhappiness, will only perpetuate the misery, leading to a broken organisational culture that employees are reluctant to join, and quick to leave!


Ian Barrow, Senior Employee Experience Consultant at WorkBuzz

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