Brilliant Basics – 3 steps to retain staff in 2019


What steps have you taken to retain staff in 2019?



The world of business is constantly changing. In recent years, the importance of offering your employees a unique employee experience has become crucial when it comes to employee retention. Through management information and analytics we’re now able to understand how much staff turnover is costing us every single year, so why are we still being reactive rather than pro-active?

Business owners and leadership teams regularly reach out to me when they are in a state of crisis. Despite positive growth they just cannot seem to retain staff – very much a one in, one out culture. This has a large impact on their ability to sustain growth and therefore, leaves them unable to hit key milestones.

A real eye opener for me came through working with a new client of ours, which due to the nature of the business (Events) has a hard stop in 2021. Despite this, the organisation is still managing to attract and retain talent. What does this say about the market? People are willing to leave permanent jobs, for a two year project, without getting paid a contractor day rate.

The reason why people are willing to join AND STAY is because the leadership team has put a large emphasis on creating a modern, unique employee experience. Career development, employee insight and developing leaders are three of the core areas that the organisation is focusing on.

This week’s brilliant basics blog aims to provide you with three steps that you can take to retain staff, based on my experience of supporting clients in the first 9 months of 2019.

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Reasons why staff are leaving?

Every single business is uniquely different. There’s always going to be staff who leave due to reasons that are out of a businesses control e.g. location, salary etc. However, I know plenty of people who are willing to commute further or take a salary cut, because they are engaged with the business that they work for.

One of my biggest frustrations is when leadership teams assume that staff are leaving due to pay. There’s been multiple occasions when we’ve ran benchmarking exercises and learnt that the salary and benefits being offered are in fact competitive. However, rather than getting to the core route of the issue, organisation just throw money at the problem. This is not sustainable and goes on to cost the business ridiculous amounts of cash.

Another reason why staff leave but also stay is due to their manager. I really do feel for a lot of managers. Similar to the way that we throw our kids into university, we build this picture of line management being the holy grail. The reality is management is not as sexy as it sounds. You’re now not only responsible for your own workload, but you also have a team below you – with all the fun and games that comes along with managing people. As businesses we do very little to support our managers, particularly new and inexperienced ones. If we do not invest into their development as people managers, how can we expect them to perform well?

A consistent reason that I’ve seen employees leave over the last 9 months has been due to businesses being stuck in the dark ages. A top down approach simply does not work anymore in most scenarios – it hinders if anything. A flat structure, that still has accountability and responsibility will be a key development area for a lot of organisations over the next couple of years. Furthermore, a culture that is driven by the employees (who work closest with your customers) will be key when it comes to retaining staff.

There’s plenty of other reasons why staff leave but above I’ve discussed the core reasons that I’ve seen personally in our clients sized between 6-1000 employees across the UK.

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So what can you do?

Step #1 Give your employees a voice

Linking back to the bottom up culture approach, giving your employees a voice and providing them with ownership of your business culture is going to be a big area of development for a lot of businesses, in my opinion. Not only will this save you time and money as a leadership team, but the accountability and responsibility will naturally engage your staff.

It is so important that you work with your employees at an individual, team and company level to understand what they want and need. The beauty of this model is that you can automate and hand this process over to others, freeing up time for you to focus on your strategy and developing new products.

Providing your employees with a voice will also mean that when you launch new initiatives they will be adopted quicker – saving you time and money. In the past a lot of decisions have been made at a leadership level, which although they may have been good ideas, they simply were not owned or championed by staff.

As you take this step to creating an open culture, your employees will begin to innovate and feedback creative new ways to approach processes, systems and enhance the customer experience (CX).

Here’s a few simple and quick to implement things that have worked well for our clients since the start of the year…

  • Engagement surveys
  • 1-1’s
  • Quarterly lunches
  • Drop in sessions with the Managing Director/CEO/Partner
  • Focus groups
  • New starter introductions to leadership team
  • Mentors
  • Employee engagement/listening champions


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Step #2 Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

This comes up in almost every single employee engagement survey that we run with new clients – openness and transparency is absolutely key if you want to retain staff. When we’re younger, we are taught not to keep secrets, so why do we do so in business?

Linking in with step #1 which forms the building blocks of creating an open culture, step#2 solidifies the process by giving something back to your staff. Communication is so simple, so easy to implement and so cheap, so why on earth are we all so bad at it?

Communicating effectively allows you to take your employees on the journey with you, rather than it just being a job that they turn up to every single day. It keeps people informed on business activities, new clients, developing products and almost everything that the business is up to. It also makes them proud to work for your brand.

Again, I’ve included a couple of things that I’ve seen work well for our clients since the start of the year…

  • Quarterly lunches
  • E-Newsletters
  • Newsletters
  • Blog’s
  • Intranets
  • Friday down time (finish early and have drinks/snacks in the office)

Step #3 Stop being corporate

It makes me cringe looking back at previous blog’s and reflecting on the way that I used to use jargon. If anything jargon in particular just confuses people, as nobody has a clue what you’re talking about. I find myself constantly shouting at my boss Matt for using words and phrases that are not needed.

I know far too many businesses that feel as though they need to behave, dress and act in a certain way. It’s 2019 for goodness sake. I have a number of friend’s who work in professional services and their stories have put me off ever considering working for such a firm.

A corporate culture will typically restrict your staff’s ability to think strategically, creativity and also impact their ability to innovate. If they can’t be themselves in work, then how can you expect them to think out of the box?

So what does this have to do with retention? I regularly speak with other HR consultants in my network who used to work for medium-large businesses, guess why they left? Corporate culture. Corporate cultures can even creep into SMB’s!

Not only does a corporate culture restrict your employees ability to think outside of the box but it also creates a lot of politics internally. This results in lots of conversations happening, with stakeholders that don’t even need to be involved and therefore projects can take months and months to get signed off.

Here’s a few tips…

  • Look for opportunities to improve team collaboration
  • Run ongoing CSR initiatives
  • Create an open and honest culture
  • Remove red tape/potential blockers that are stopping your business from growing

Click Here To Chat With The Team About How You Can Improve Staff Retention


In conclusion there’s lots that you could do when it comes to retaining staff but its about finding what works for your business – hence why employee insight and feedback is so important. For me personally capturing feedback, communicating more effectively and avoiding/removing a corporate culture will benefit every business across the UK.


As always keen to hear people’s thoughts so please like/comment/share with  your thoughts.

Harry Wright

Employee Engagement and Client Delivery Consultant

Rencai Group