Do you retain staff that no longer want to be there?

I was asked last year by a colleague who is a senior manager in an organisation an interesting question:

In recessionary times, with wage increases, promotions and job vacancies at an all-time low, you inevitably end up with staff staying in your business even though they would prefer to move on. With a lack of jobs elsewhere and very little that an organisation can do to reward its staff financially, many who would normally have moved on to a job elsewhere that better suits them are staying put. How do you deal with this issue?

As many of you will know, an abundance of larger international and national companies have laid people off and downsized to combat the recession, and yet it is these same companies that will be hiring again in better times to fill the void left. The cost associated with hiring, either direct or through a consultant, can be substantial. Not only do you have to rehire people, you then have to up skill them and retrain them. I suppose the question is would it not have been better to keep the unhappy/non-essential staff in the first place?

In the general terms of this discussion, I guess letting people go to keep your wage bill down is a prudent move when times are hard, especially given that head count is normally one of the largest costs for a business. But unless you, as a business owner, think all is doom and gloom and you will never recover as a company, you are acutely aware that there will be the associated cost of rehiring and the potential for not being able to react fast enough, finding the best candidates to accommodate your new client’s needs.

In the case of unhappy staff, would it not be better to look into what it is that is making them want to leave? I appreciate that a small company with few staff may not be able to offer their staff an alternative role that meets their needs, but larger companies should be able to have open and frank discussions with staff and ask “What is it you want to do? What are your strengths and how can we as a business play to them?”

It all comes back to employee engagement, listening to your staffs concerns and ensuring that HR and your senior managers have the resources to re-allocate unhappy staff or develop them in a way that allows them to feel like they are contributing to the business rather than the employees twiddling their thumbs and spending countless hours searching job sites waiting for something better. Even better….there is no or little cost with listening to your staff, surely this is a financially viable course of action rather than waiting for them to leave and then paying to replace them? Look at all the best companies around the world, Google, Facebook etc….I bet they have a very low attrition rate on staff, why? Because they ensure that people want to work for them and feel suitably rewarded emotionally and financially for the work they do. As well as creating a good workplace, it ensures consistency in the business. If you have ever had a bank manager, let me ask how many times that person has moved on and been replaced with someone else? It is not to say that the new person may not be great at what they do, but as a business owner, you definitely feel a little annoyed that the manager you have built a relationship with over a number of years has moved on and you have to start all over again.

So I ask you all, whether you are an employee or responsible for staff within your organisation, what do you feel is the best way to handle these situations?

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