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Employee engagement – 5 ways to retain top talent

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If I ask my business friends to quote a memory of 2008 I would hazard a guess that most of them would groan given that it was the beginning of the financial crisis. 

For me it was the beginning of a new challenge.  I had just been promoted to partner in the firm and along with that promotion I was given the responsibility of staff partner (don’t panic…I was fully supported by a fantastic HR team!).

Back then I could never imagine the challenges that lay ahead, but seven years on and I can honestly say that it has been an enjoyable and sometimes emotional rollercoaster; I have learnt so much.  I thought I would share my top five tips for employee engagement with you to ensure that you retain the best people.

1. Listen

I have learnt a huge amount from listening to our employees.  This has been both in formal and informal settings.  From a formal perspective we carry out an anonymous staff survey on an annual basis. This is followed up by small group discussions with all staff members.  The feedback that we have received in these sessions has been invaluable and has helped the partner group to steer the strategy and action plans for the future.

In addition, from an informal perspective I am a firm believer in having an open door policy.  Very often I sit with a member of the team over a cuppa and a cake to discuss a variety of issues.  Listening is key to employee engagement.

2. Offer a competitive package

In our world the market has become extremely competitive in recent years, particularly as the bigger firms try to attract talent.  In addition to this, industry roles have increased.  So what have we done about it?  We ensure that we benchmark our salary levels every year to make sure that we are not lagging behind the competition.  In addition, we have introduced a number of benefits which include a Westfield Health cash plan and several salary sacrifice initiatives (e.g. company car scheme, IT equipment, and pension contributions to name a few).  Our aim is to try and make sure that every pound earned by our team members goes as far as it possibly can.

 3. Challenging environment

 The team wants to come to work and carry out challenging and interesting work.  Over the last five years we have grown significantly, with a number of new initiatives and clients coming on board.  This is great for all of our team as it gives them something new to get their teeth into.  It was great to see a quote in our recent staff survey from one of the team which said “they promote an environment for employees to succeed and for the growth of the business – no two days are the same”.  So make sure that you are able to provide the challenges that everybody craves.

 4. Offer training and development

Supporting the team and providing them with the appropriate training to get the best out of them is important.  Always play to each team member’s strengths – spending time to understand this is valuable. Remember that one size doesn’t fit all and a tailored training programme for each individual will very often be more effective than sending everybody on the same course.

5. Recognition

One of the most valuable lessons that I have learnt from my role is that it is not just about the pound notes (although money is still important).  Recognising and acknowledging that a team member has done something well is perhaps one of the most important tips for retention.  A significant proportion of your day is spent at work with your colleagues and it therefore needs to be an environment which people enjoy coming to.  Making people feel valued is a driver of this.  Saying “thank you” or “well done” goes a long way.

There are many other tips for employee engagement and staff retention and these are just five examples.  Retaining the best staff and creating the environment in which people can thrive is a fundamental ingredient to creating a successful business.