Avoiding a staff exodus

As the world starts to reopen, employers and employees are beginning to explore the options available to them – and this means change is everywhere

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Management Today

We’re becoming more comfortable with having many different jobs during our working lives – 60% of UK workers are open to switching careers, an increase of seven percentage points since July 2020 (53%). This means many organisations could be facing a staff exodus unless they are actively working to ensure their existing employees are engaged and satisfied.

The government has advised that we need to ‘learn to live with the virus.’ Organisations will need to adopt new approaches to the future – evaluating their skills gaps and growth requirements. New and emerging roles will arise, driven by changing motivations of employees and massive disruption in customer expectations. We’re moving into a time of opportunity, and the job market is expected to heat up.

More than ever before, employees are re-evaluating and questioning what ‘work’ in this new world means to them. The reality is that the impact of furlough, possible or threatened job loss, salary reductions and working – or even not working – from home will have made some people feel differently about their employers. 

Add restructuring and altered career paths or progression opportunities for employees, along with an increased level of poor mental health, into the mix and, unsurprisingly, employers face losing people who have built up critical skills and experience over many years. 

The first step for organisations looking to support and retain their talent is to do the work to identify what motivates their employees and how, in the post-COVID era, this has changed. Without this insight, it will be challenging to understand how to adapt your approaches. Once you know what drives your employees to stay, or to think about leaving, it’s much easier to align the solution to keep your talent engaged; sometimes it can be as straightforward as offering a more hybrid approach to flexible working. 

The first step in ensuring engagement is remembering that your team members are people, and they need to feel that you care about them as individuals. They need to understand ‘What’s in it for them.’ They don’t want to be seen as a ‘headcount’ but as a human. 

It’s personal

Critical to the everyday experience at work is your relationship with your manager and how you feel you are valued by them. Line managers often struggle with communication – particularly when it comes to sensitive subjects that require a coaching-based approach. It is worth investing in upskilling your managers to improve coaching skills as it’s the best way to make conversations feel personal. 

In some cases, employers are facing significant skills gaps; at the same time, COVID has left many people feeling that their careers have been on hold for the last 18 months. Offering practical learning opportunities can be a simple and effective way to address retention, engagement and skill gaps within the organisation. In about 75% of cases, it pays for an organisation to reskill or upskill an employee rather than have to replace them. 

Ultimately, there is no single solution to retention; people leave organisations for many different reasons, some of them entirely personal, subjective and, occasionally, emotional. Employers must focus on creating a positive and clear post-COVID narrative that creates belief in, and excitement at, the opportunities available for future career success. Tune in to the things that really matter to people and ensure that leadership skills – especially coaching skills – are good enough to meet the challenges of the new world of work. 

After the workplace paradigm shift of the last year or so it’s time to focus on re-setting the psychological contract which recognises that people may have increased opportunities to leave – whilst creating the coaching culture and employee value proposition that ensures they are highly motivated to stay. 

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