When it comes to effective staff retention strategies in Australia, one size does not fit all. The most forward-thinking employers understand that each individual employee has a specific combination of drivers that motivate them, which then impacts whether they invest their talent and energies back into the company.

Many studies have shown that while salary will always be a key factor in staff retention, flexibility and work-life balance are fast becoming significant requirements for today’s workforce. Furthermore, our Talent Trends 21 report highlights specific trends and data on the world of work, with sentiment surveyed from current employees, prospective top talent and business leaders.

Taking the time to discover what your employees need to thrive – especially during challenging periods or times of disruption – plays a significant role in retaining your overall workforce and top performers, developing them into the future leaders of your company.

Here are nine key tips to help keep your employees motivated, engaged and committed to your business.

1. Empower and enable employees

For employees to succeed in their role and choose to stay with their employer, a greater sense of ownership in their work is now more important than ever. Micromanaging and other approaches that result in a lack of freedom do not work towards staff retention in today’s world.

It’s become the norm to provide staff with a clear understanding of deliverables and timeframes, and then give them the space to decide how that work gets completed. Be sure to supply employees with all the necessary information, training, time and resources needed to get the job done, so that they can work independently and focus on producing their best work.

Wherever possible, involve them in any decision-making that directly affects their work and the overall direction of the company – otherwise, at least offer them the chance to ask any questions as even the best managers may overlook some aspects that are key to completing the work. As well as demonstrating your respect for their contribution, this also helps employees to own their role and feel connected to the future of the business.

2. Reward and recognise your staff

Regularly recognising and rewarding accomplishments of your workforce is one of the most powerful staff retention strategies around. Boost your employees’ visibility by publicly recognising them at staff meetings or through a business-wide email. Taking the time to say and share a genuine ‘thank you’ is such an easy and effective way – yet still so underutilised in many businesses – to make people feel valued and appreciated for their efforts.

Importantly, compensate your employees for their hard work with appropriate monetary rewards (salary increase, bonus, lunch or dinner, gift voucher, team lunch and drinks) or non-monetary incentives (day off, early mark, opportunities for career progression such as leading a new project).

4 fast ways to reward your employees

  1. Tend to their taste buds

Any good boss who wants to show the staff a little yearly appreciation could perhaps take the team to breakfast, lunch, coffees or even organise generous snacks for them to enjoy throughout the day. A well-fuelled team will definitely feel the appreciation through these rewards.

  1. Initiate an office party or virtual celebration

If feeding your team isn’t your idea of appreciation, a celebration might be a better and more meaningful alternative. Throwing an office party or after work get together can loosen up the team after a long day at the computer. Alternatively, if a virtual party is more appropriate, it can still have a positive effect.

  1. Give employees some time off

You could take the appreciation one step further and allow staff to start an hour late the next day or even give them a half-day off. Throw it at them when they least expect it. After all, who doesn’t love being told they can leave early, head home, switch off and relax?

  1. Plan a team event

Perhaps a more relevant option would be to organise a sports day or a team building exercise – something that takes them away from the office. A little competition between colleagues is never a bad thing. Consider trivia if staff don’t warm to your sports idea, or perhaps there’s a charitable cause you can volunteer for as they make great team building exercises.

3. Challenge and develop employee skills

Opportunities for growth and advancement are key to retaining your top performers. High achievers tend to be life-long learners. So provide ongoing training and development opportunities to keep their skills up to date and set them up for their next promotion.

Ensure you also challenge your staff with new responsibilities and allow them to lead projects where they can be motivated, reengaged and acquire new skills and experiences in the process.

A great starting point is to have these conversations regularly with your staff, but allow them to lead the conversation. You may have an idea of where you see them growing, however, asking “What responsibilities do you enjoy about your role and where do you see yourself progressing?” means you may uncover some areas that they prefer to progress in, versus a more obvious or common career pathway that others may have taken.

4. Lead and support your employees

The quality of an employee’s relationship with their manager and co-workers are a critical factor in their overall satisfaction at work. As a manager, ensure your expectations are clear, communicate openly and honestly, and keep your promises. Offer frequent feedback and guidance, as well as encourage suggestions and new ideas from everyone in the team. Check in either daily or several times a week to ensure workloads are achievable and appropriate. Spend one-on-one time discussing staff progress so they feel like a valued and supported team member.

Importantly, every now and again, take a step back to self-assess and ask if your actions are helping to foster a positive, motivating environment that also facilitates a culture where they can socialise and have fun alongside work.

As one size does not fit all, you may want to implement an annual anonymous workplace survey to discover areas of improvement and any gaps you can fill that will directly impact staff retention. After all, there’s no point investing in certain initiatives or rewards if it doesn’t genuinely resonate with your workforce.

5. Provide freedom for staff to flourish

There’s a professional to be found in most employees. Often, employees pick a direction that interested them at some point, so if they’re given the space and opportunities to develop, they can become very valuable employees. But you, as an employer, have to give your people the freedom and, importantly, the opportunities to flourish.

Encourage your people instead of criticising them. Let them do what they’re best at and give them the affirmation they need. Contribute ideas and guide them where necessary. These approaches will benefit them, create a close-knit team and lead to a growing feeling of loyalty, overall.

6. Make flexible work a key priority

A good work-life balance is considered important for virtually all workers (95%), according to a study by PwC. Candidates also want to be able to work from anywhere, at any time, by utilising the latest technological capabilities.

With this in mind, catering to different work practices (such as remote work or flexible hours) not only acts as a significant non-financial incentive but also increases employee satisfaction.

7. Build a positive work environment and culture

A strong work culture is critical in any modern workplace, and it’s especially valued by younger workers. In fact, 50% of millennials say a good culture and a strong reputation are the most important factors to consider when choosing an employer.

Businesses should work on maintaining a positive environment by encouraging an ‘open-door’ policy, allowing free communication and the sharing of ideas. Creating frameworks for recognition, team building, and wellbeing are also crucial to creating a welcoming team atmosphere.

8. Be open to criticism from staff

If you want to be an organisation where your people feel they are taken seriously, you have to accept that there will sometimes be criticism of you or the company. That’s not a fun task, but is it a bad thing?

Often, employees can offer new and fresh insights based on their expertise, which you, as an employer, may not have had before. Allow them to be the specialists in their field and take their views into account in your judgement. Invite criticism, be open to it, and let it be known that it is appreciated – but show you are putting it to good use by enacting on their suggestions.

Of course, that’s not to say every form of criticism should be given equal weight in your decision-making; sometimes your employees may not see the big picture of what you do. But you can explain that to them in a transparent way.

9. Have a clear vision for your workforce

Leadership has evolved well beyond its definition of being a standard top-down, hierarchical concept. There can be no managers without employees. So it’s essential employers work together with their staff and avoid dictating orders.

Everyone bears responsibility for the success of the company (the employer perhaps much more, but that's reflected in their pay grade). Once you realise this, it immediately becomes a lot easier to show vision.

Clearly communicate where you’re headed as a business and why everyone should care – if you can achieve buy-in for your vision, staff retention should naturally follow.

Need support with hiring? Get in touch with a specialist Page Personnel consultant today.

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