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Five ways to address high staff turnover rates


Helen Darbyshire, HR advisor at Harrison Drury, offers some practical advice for business owners and managers on addressing high staff turnover rates.

While every organisation needs a certain amount of staff turnover (or it becomes entrenched in old practices), too much can have adverse effects – the draining effect of ongoing recruitment, working harder to stand still, the wider impact on staff morale and an inability to resolve customer issues efficiently.

While there is no silver bullet to solving workplace attrition, here are some ways businesses can mitigate the risks caused by high staff turnover.

1. Appoint the right people

Many business sectors suffer from high staff attrition rates. Such are the pressures to fill vacant posts, it can be tempting to appoint individuals that are not up to the job. The only problem is if you appoint people who are fundamentally not suited to the role they will never stay no matter what you do.

Therefore, the issue of staff turnover becomes a self-perpetuating one. The short term need to recruit has to be balanced against taking the time to get the right people. Look at your best performing staff. What traits do they have? Once you know this you can tailor your selection process to identify these critical success factors.

2. Manage expectations

In the interests of attracting people to your business, it’s tempting to paint an incredibly positive picture of your workplace. The risk is that the reality never measures up to an employee’s expectations and in this scenario people will feel betrayed and be more likely to leave quickly.

It is much better to be honest and truthful so that the individual knows what they’re signing up for and doesn’t feel misled. To avoid this, be clear and honest about the role. What does a day in this company and in this role look and feel like? What do people who are already doing the job say?

If you are open about this at the outset you can assist people to self-exclude themselves and attract candidates who are genuinely interested, rather than those ‘just looking for a job’.

3. Make selection as realistic as possible

Despite its low reliability, the traditional CV and structured interview is still prevalent. Interviews can still provide part of a selection process but they have to probe enough to ensure people with the right skills, experience and behaviours are selected.

Job interviewFor example, asking the candidate to cite a real life example of how they actually dealt with a customer who was angry with them is far better than simply asking how they would cope with a particular customer. You can also ask what they would do differently next time thus giving a good indication about how effective they are at reflective learning.

Where you can apply them, practical ‘in tray’ exercises, made up of the items that the individual might be likely to encounter in the role on an average day can prove very insightful. By giving them, for example, a series of e-mails and asking them to prioritise and draft responses within a given time frame you can see in practice how they organise work, their attention to detail and how good their communication and IT skills really are.

4. Get the induction part right

When there’s high staff turnover it’s tempting to rush the training process to get the individual into ‘productive work’ ASAP. Although this does get the workload problem addressed in the short term, significant risks are attached.

By throwing new recruits in at the deep end before they are ready, and have had a chance to find out about the situations they are likely to encounter, can lead to them feeling excluded, disorganised and inadequate.

If you imagine yourself in that position you can appreciate that someone who felt very positive at the outset might quickly become disengaged and leave. What you are trying to achieve through induction is enhanced collaboration and bonding and the new person feeling like they are a valued member of the team who can make an important contribution.

5. Openly recognise and reward good work

If we consistently fail to acknowledge excellent work, where is the impetus for the employee to do it again? Employees want to be appreciated for the contribution they make and if, time and again, a good job goes unrecognised, the employee is left disengaged.

Even a basic thank you goes a long way. If, by contrast, every little action gets a reward then it loses its power to differentiate and employees lose clarity on what the company wants. Be appreciative by all means but choose the activities which prompt extra praise carefully.

Helen Darbyshire is an experienced HR adviser who has been advising businesses on HR and employment issues for many years. If you have an HR issue you want to discuss with Helen, call her on 01772 258321.

For more information on the services provided by our team of employment solicitors in Preston, Lancaster, Garstang, Kendal and Clitheroe, visit our Employment Law page.

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