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Retention and employee turnover
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Avoid a mass talent exodus with these employee retention strategies

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Businesses must adapt to ensure talent shortages don’t deter their long-term success by following these three key strategies, says Gartner's Piers Hudson.

26th May 2022
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Many UK businesses have experienced a dramatic increase in employee turnover in the past 12 months as a result of pent-up demand from the pandemic, causing employees to re-evaluate what they want from their lives and careers.  

This labour volatility has resulted in many businesses suffering from skills and talent shortages. Gartner's research shows that 53% of chief HR officers (CHROs) identified talent shortage as the top trend impacting organisations today. More worryingly, only 19% report they are ready to address these shortages. 

Once organisations recognise their critical workflows, they can look to redeploy talent based on critical task needs to solve major workflow gaps

This higher turnover represents a permanent shift for many organisations. With the rise of the distributed workplace, geography is now less of a barrier in the hiring process, and social connections are therefore weaker – making both the economic and emotional costs of changing jobs significantly lower.

Moving forward, businesses must adapt to today’s competition for talent to ensure talent shortages don’t deter an organisation’s long-term success. Specifically, organisations can pursue three strategies. 

1. Focus on business continuity – not just talent gaps 

As employees continue to join and leave organisations, it is critical HR leaders think about business continuity. 

This means identifying critical workflows – not just critical workers. Nowadays, attrition amongst critical talent can create large gaps in business continuity, therefore strategies for understanding the specific risks in the roles that drive crucial workflows is essential, even when the skills in question are not the most in-demand. 

Once organisations recognise their critical workflows, they can look to redeploy talent based on critical task needs to solve major workflow gaps. For instance, these individuals will have transferable skills and require less onboarding than newer employees. 

Additionally, HR leaders must also be mindful of employee data as this serves as an opportunity for organisations to identify potential challenges for specific teams and demographics. For example, a client shared with us recently that their young employees were generally more engaged during the pandemic. However, upon closer look, they found that employees under 35, who lived alone, had particularly low morale. 

Armed with this knowledge, the client was able to expand its solutions and cater to both employee groups.  

Rather than relying on backfilling empty positions, HR can collaborate with executive leaders to reprioritise the work that needs to get done

2. Confront the mass exodus differently

A Gartner survey of nearly 250 recruiting staff from August through September 2021 shows 67% reported that it is harder to manage requisition volumes since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, recruiters themselves are in demand – with job postings for recruitment staff having more than doubled since the pandemic. 

This suggests organisations will struggle to recruit their way out of mass turnover. Instead, they must find creative ways to assist HR leaders in their recruitment strategies and rethink those involved in the recruitment process. 

For instance, rather than relying on backfilling empty positions, HR can collaborate with executive leaders to reprioritise the work that needs to get done – refocusing the urgent work to available people while other roles are filled. This approach allows executives to contribute to the organisation’s solution set all while improving morale, retention and reducing pressure on the remaining workforce. 

Moreover, organisations should make sure to maintain strong relationships with current and former employees to build their employer reputation to support referrals and incentivise potential hires or rehires. HR leaders can also look at recent retirees as a potential source of contingent labour – bringing them in on a consultant or contractor capacity to help train new, incoming talent.

3. Tailor the employee value proposition

A Gartner study found that 65% of employees said the pandemic has made them rethink the role of work in their lives. 

To slow the rate of turnover, HR leaders must redefine their employee value proposition (EVP) to support employees’ personal and professional lives. While organisations have traditionally focused on compensation, benefits and development in roles, employees today expect more from their organisations, such as supporting their overall quality of life. 

During the pandemic, businesses were forced to invest in wellbeing offerings to boost employee morale and maintain productivity during this period of disruption. Today, emotional and physical wellbeing support has become table stakes and leaders should spend time understanding what is most important to employees. 

Expanding professional opportunities for existing employees is another effective tactic for retention

This aligns with the Gartner research underlining how employees want their employer to support them as a human, as opposed to just an employee. This includes, for example, achieving personal goals.

Expanding professional opportunities for existing employees is another effective tactic for retention. One approach is for organisations to look at where lowering promotion requirements are available to support faster employee progression. This tactic may help offset the departure of employees and the loss of valuable internal knowledge. Another approach is to expand training packages to a wider workforce or help develop employees’ skills in broader areas. This helps support overall career development and thus gives employers a more agile workforce. 

Companies are also looking to compete for talent by offering more innovative work arrangements, like the four-day working week. Others are offering radical flexibility around what people work on, who they work with, as well as what hours they work. After all, Gartner's research shows that 51% of employees agree whether they can work flexibly would impact whether they stay or leave their organisation. 

Riding out the volatility

Many companies are struggling with today’s volatile labour market. This has led to massive talent shortages across companies and unfair pressure on those left behind.  

Yet, businesses can still thrive by making peace with this high turnover environment and adapting their approaches. By focusing on business continuity, addressing turnover as a team and tailoring their employee value proposition, organisations can enhance existing employee relationships and reduce the rate of turnover amongst workers.  

Finally – and arguably more importantly – they must accept that some level of turnover is inevitable and use it to enhance business resiliency.

Interested in this topic? Read How to win the employee retention battle.

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