Create loyalty through trust to retain key staff

Timothy Barber
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A REPORT by financial services and banking recruitment firm Robert Half released last week which polled 3,000 workers found that 37 per cent are planning to leave their jobs as soon as the economy is more stable, and half would leave within six months of the recession being officially declared over.<br /><br />While people normally move jobs to progress their careers, Robert Half director Neil Owen says that, post-recession, significant numbers of disenchanted workers will be looking to change companies simply because the grass seems greener elsewhere.<br /><br />This raises a problem for businesses. They have always known that retaining staff is vital for success, and it has never been more true than now. But in the past many have taken a one-dimensional approach: throw money at the problem. Research published by consultant Deloitte last year into the workings of the world&rsquo;s 58 biggest companies found that 60 per cent said that they used reward packages to encourage employees to stay. That, needless to say, is no longer an option for most.<br /><br />So what can employers do to retain staff in these straitened times? Neil Owen has been working with City firms, giving seminars advising on staff retention, and he has found that some basic things like ensuring that they have a decent work-life balance and encouraging them to use technology so that they can work flexibly is a good start, but that more is needed. Sometimes, he says, it doesn&rsquo;t have to be difficult. &ldquo;Thank yous and pats on the back&rdquo; can go a long way.<br /><br />But of course it goes deeper than that. A key aspect of retaining talent is about corporate values. Disillusionment is one of the chief reasons that people leave businesses, says Andy Robins, manager on the human capital team at Deloitte.<br /><br /><strong>WORDS INTO ACTIONS</strong><br />Businesses are always very keen to tell the outside world what they stand for, but they are rarely so good about turning those fine words into actions.<br /><br />This is more than a question of presentation. If somebody joins a business that claims to be (for example) a thrusting environment and to offer great promotion opportunities, only to find that this is not the case, then he or she will be disillusioned and be tempted to leave.<br /><br />As Sonja Stockton, head of recruitment at professional services firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers, says: &ldquo;There will be a level of cynicism when employers promise great career opportunities and then close graduate programmes.&rdquo; She adds: &ldquo;Real and sustained career development is a promise that must be delivered, and for that you&rsquo;ll need to show that there is sustained growth potential.&rdquo;<br /><br />A report published in August by Deloitte said that the &ldquo;employer brand&rdquo; is often very visible in recruitment literature, but nowhere else. Loyalty is the key to retention, and if they want to build it, businesses have to promote their values as much to existing staff as they do to potential employees who they are trying to woo. They need to keep proving that they mean what they say. The pretty words can&rsquo;t just be corporate muzak.<br /><br /><strong>VALUES</strong><br />Andy Robins says: &ldquo;These values need to be reflected at important moments: recruitment, induction, line-management behaviour, leadership behaviour and career-development process.&rdquo;<br /><br />Another side to all this is making sure that employees feel that they are a part of the business and that they are not cut off from leaders. Communication is key to creating loyalty. Neil Owen says: &ldquo;Employers need to involve employees in taking decisions. Consulting them in that way makes them feel empowered, which creates loyalty.&rdquo;<br /><br />Deloitte&rsquo;s UK head of human resources, Stevan Rolls, agrees. &ldquo;People are engaged if they&rsquo;re kept informed, they feel part of a supportive team in which the leader is visible, and they know exactly what they&rsquo;ve got to do and how they are expected to deliver it,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not about sugar coating anything, it&rsquo;s about treating people like adults and speaking to them.&rdquo;