Employment is on the rise: Look after the staff you have.

Employment is on the rise: Look after the staff you have.

In recent months, we have seen positivity in the jobs market; unemployment down, employment up. Whilst nobody is claiming the task is completed, the picture looks fairly rosy. However, what does this mean for employers when it comes to staff retention?

A cynical boss might have sat back for the last couple of years and relied upon a slump in the jobs market to keep their best staff where they are. However, that mentality is a now a very risky mindset. Those who have failed to fully appreciate and value their staff, may come to regret it now that the improving economic climate is opening doors for good people.

Nobody likes to feel taken for granted, so if there is a danger staff feel this way, it is time for a change of mindset and positive action.

Good employee engagement leads to better retention, reducing the costs and time involved having to recruit and train new people. Getting employee engagement right is about ensuring workers feel they are involved and recognised members of an effective team, that they are given opportunities to learn and develop. It means helping them to be happy and well-treated at work; that when they raise issues, they are listened to.

There should be regular communication about the performance of the individual and the company, illustrating the presence of credible leaders who care and inspire them. As well as staff retention, this creates a more positive workforce and increased output. As the economy improves and the jobs market grows, a good employer is one who not only looks at the people they can bring in, but cares about keeping the ones they already have. If they don’t, someone else will.

A similar situation arises for employers in businesses, that have recently gone through a buyout. Unless the acquiring company is coming in simply to asset-strip a business, a new owner is buying the people as much as it is the bricks and mortar and hardware of a company. In the majority of businesses, it is the people who drive the success that has probably been the attraction of that particular acquisition.

However, a change of ownership can often bring about a change of ethos, and this is something that can easily upset the workforce. For example, the acquired business may have thrived because the employees responded to a values-driven environment, and a change to working practices being directed solely by financial targets could prove costly.

Yes, most people are in business to make money, and there is no reason that “profit” should be a dirty word. However, a shift in the balance between carrot and stick can change how staff feel about where they work and how they perform.

The nurture element of the acquired regime may have led to a happy workforce, willing to go the extra mile. It may also have led to sales of additional services or products. All of this could be a major contributing factor to the company’s success. A switch to a regime which drives employees solely through the enforcement of targets can see enthusiasm replaced with fear, negating all of the good employee engagement that had driven success in the past.

Often, it can simply be the uncertainty of change, which can negatively affect the workforce. At this point, the importance of communication with the workforce cannot be understated. It can be the difference between employees buying into the changes and feeling alienated.

Good communication is one of the driving forces of good employee engagement. It is at the heart of understanding what it is that a business is trying to achieve, and of having confidence in the performance of the company, which in turn ensures the staff feel like they are an important part of what is happening.

Failure to engage correctly at such times could turn a good acquisition into a bad one, by impacting negatively upon one of the biggest assets any business has to offer.

Sue Alderson is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development.
www.azure-consulting.co.uk. 01924 385600. Twitter: azureconsult