building an effective retention strategy

Taking the initiative with retention means developing a strategy that determines why employees leave and what can be done about it.

Developing a retention strategy parallels developing resourcing strategies. It includes both short and long-term planning, and being aware of what motivates employees to join, stay or leave.

An effective retention strategy should be flexible and responsive, not have a one-size-fits-all approach. The one-third of staff actively looking for new jobs within two years may not have the same requirements (e.g. career development) as longer-serving staff.

The cost – or rather savings – of retention, particularly the cost and impact of employee turnover, are also worth establishing, if only as a powerful tool in building the business case for winning support for effective retention initiatives.

There are essentially two general reasons why people leave jobs: they are ‘pulled’ by a better job, or changing circumstances; or ‘pushed’ by dissatisfaction with their current job or employer. The push is typically a lack of career or training opportunities, and often personal work factors.

Pull factors are outside an employer’s control, but some common reasons why employees are pushed to leave can be addressed:

  • Poor recruitment, selection, induction or onboarding.
  • Dissatisfaction with supervision, management, organisational policies, procedures, communication, decision-making and involvement.
  • Lack of personal development/training opportunities (organisational structure and the size of the business may be factors).
  • Lack of career development and promotion, absence of talent management.
  • Issues with job satisfaction, job design, work environment, culture or values.
  • Inadequate appraisal, feedback and recognition (lack of performance management).
  • Dissatisfaction with money, rewards and benefits.
  • Lack of innovation and creativity.
  • Work-life balance, stress, concern about relationships with others, team working.

Selecting the right people in the first place seems self-evident, but with research showing that about one in three people leave their job voluntarily within the first 12 months, the need for a good induction program is obvious. From the start of the recruitment process, prospective employees should be given a realistic job preview to avoid disappointed expectations later e.g. clarity on training and career development opportunities.

At exit interviews, the reasons people give for leaving are frequently untrue or only partially true. They are likely to be reluctant to voice criticism of their managers, colleagues or the organisation generally, preferring to give some less contentious reasons for their departure. The interviewer, therefore shouldn’t be a manager (much less the line manager) responsible for the individual, or anyone who will be involved in reference writing.

Solutions in a costed retention strategy include:

  • Line manager accountability – employees join companies but leave managers
  • Career development and progress – if promotion isn’t possible, a sideways move can boost skills
  • Treat people fairly – even perceived unfairness leads to resignations
  • Avoid being impressed with long hours – most people work best when they aren’t tired
  • Where possible, be flexible with hours and work location – it creates loyalty
  • Recruit accurately – oversell a role and it won’t live up to expectations
  • Give employees a voice – from appraisal to focus groups, act on feedback


For more advice on managing talent, visit Randstad’s knowledge centre Workforce360 or contact a Randstad recruitment consultant, an industry expert who can help streamline the process and support the growth of your business. 

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