Is Staff Retention a Dirty Word in Your Office?

If there’s one thing we know about your employees it’s that they are valuable and staff retention policies are an absolute must if you want to lead a successful team. You want to hang on to them not only because hiring new employees is both time consuming and costly, but also because of the upheaval losing a valued staff member can cause. Of course with the right recruitment company, the process is that much smoother. There’s definitely more to it though.

There are countless handbooks on all manner of good management techniques and you’ve probably read a few but if you continue to haemorrhage staff, you need to take a deeper look into the inner workings of your office environment. Here are a few things we’ve noticed that make a world of difference to your employee retention rates. From your hiring process to growth and essential tools there are so many aspects of this topic to think about. Whether you are a manager, team leader or a developer most of these topics (if not all) apply to you in one way or another. While these processes may not be the easiest, they are absolutely worth considering.

Honesty From the Start

Our number one rule is full disclosure from the start. Don’t ever mislead candidates, tell them the good, the bad and the ugly. No single company is 100% perfect and being honest about strengths as well as your shortcomings is the best start to a healthy and successful relationship. For example, if your new developer knows that there are some snags in onboarding new technology or software, they are more likely to have realistic expectations and even be excited by the prospect of the coming challenges. If you tell your candidates that your company is Disney Land for developers only for them to find out it’s more like Fukushima on a good day, there will more than just a few stumbling blocks and your new staff member may just run for the hills! Not a single little untruth will go unnoticed and they will result in some uncomfortable conversations at best

Onboarding and Orientation

So, assuming your new developer knows what he or she is getting themselves into they arrive ready and excited on day one to do some awesome and some not so awesome things in their new role (every job has its less exciting aspects). By ensuring your new developer has been welcomed, brought up to speed with all company processes, their responsibilities and any training they may need, the orientation process has been successfully completed. The new employee is able to quickly grasp expectations, readily understand protocols and become productive relatively quickly. When there are gaps in knowledge and communication from the beginning, it makes for a very bad initial impression and leaves a lot of room for error and frustration. Ultimately your business looks bad.

Understand What Makes Employees Stay

Not every employee will leave for the same reason, then again not every employee will be honest about their reasons for leaving either. You have a better chance of retaining good developers by knowing exactly what it is that they value and what keeps them happy. If it means flexible hours, working from home or a different payment/benefit structure, it’s pretty attainable and will positively impact both the employee and the company. These are the ideas that you may come across in the suggestion box or discuss in team meetings – take heed and listen with an open mind, they may not say it twice.

Foster Respect in the Workplace

If Jack Osbourne ever said anything completely rational amidst a feudal sibling meltdown, it was this; ‘It’s the little things that count’. Whilst the Osbournes are far from the idyllic functional family unit, they certainly are more like us than we care to admit. In this context we are talking about the soft skills, niceties and mutual respect required in any working environment. It’s the lubricant which makes things run smoothly. The way we address and treat people affects their reaction to us and how productively we are able to work together. If you ever thought it was okay to reprimand an employee or co-worker in a loud or even mildly disrespectful manner in front of other staff (or behind closed doors), you’re wrong. That’s not how to get the best out of people. Work on your soft skills and find another way. Remaining calm and adopting a more personable approach really take the edge off a tricky situation for everyone involved.

Help Employees Feel Valued

In business; appreciation is more often than not greatly overlooked. Some generations see it as an overrated practice designed to plump the egos of molly-coddled millenniums. This is not true however. Feeling appreciated is one of our most fundamental psychological needs as humans, regardless of our generation, experience and field of work. What’s more is that when we feel appreciated we have higher morale and we work harder. Studies have proven this over and over again. The act of appreciation need not come in the form of a theatrical overture but rather an authentic thank you, a note or an email expressing your appreciation or even a more public acknowledgement is essential. Your developer will get a better understanding of what it is the team needs and how to do it when their successes are acknowledged. This is the clarity which will helps staff to grow, learn and maintain morale around the office. If an employee’s best efforts go unnoticed it becomes difficult for them to maintain morale. A sincere pat on the back and a reward help to break the monotony and boost morale.

Constructive Criticism and Positive Feedback

In line with helping employees feel valued, is giving them positive feedback. Obviously, no employee or employer is perfect but the way in which we give feedback determines how it is received and whether your developer walks away motivated or demotivated. We might think that we have a thick skin and we can withstand heaps of pressure but in actuality, we can only manage this for so long. A study in Harvard Business Review has found that the most effective ratio of positive to negative feedback roughly 5.6:1. Positive feedback is one of the most effective management tools in your arsenal. While negative feedback certainly guards against feedback, positive feedback really does grab one’s attention. Furthermore, positive feedback really helps leaders overcome serious weaknesses within their teams.

‘Negative feedback is important when we’re heading over a cliff to warn us that we’d really better stop doing something horrible or start doing something we’re not doing right away. But even the most well-intentioned criticism can rupture relationships and undermine self-confidence and initiative. It can change behaviour, certainly, but it doesn’t cause people to put forth their best efforts.’

The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio; J, Zenger and J, Folkman, March 15 2013

Encourage Feedback

Many companies maintain an open door policy, where a manager is in theory always available to listen, help and discuss concerns with employees. That said; just because the door is open, that doesn’t mean the person on the other side is receptive. If your developer feels like he or she is actually being heard, they are more likely to trust you, to engage and propose new ideas. When they feel like they cannot express themselves for fear of reprisal or embarrassment – you’ve lost the personal connection that you actually need to have with your employee. Thorough communication is the first step to fostering respect in the workplace.

The Opportunity to Grow

For many employees, the inability to learn or grow becomes soul-crushing and results in boredom and apathy. A high functioning developer is unlikely to find complete fulfilment in a stagnant and change-resistant environment. By offering mentorship, books, workshops or courses you are able to introduce fresh inspiration to your team and continually improve your output. After all, the world of development stands still for no one; there’s always more to learn and something new to be created and most developers need the stimulation too.

Compensation and Competitive Salaries

Not every business is out to cut corners but now and then a company is reluctant to pay a developer their market value. Of course, market value is a very subjective topic which we regularly discuss but this becomes most evident when a brilliant developer gets snapped up and their salary is doubled by their new employer. Don’t lose great staff because you aren’t offering competitive salaries, show them that their work and time are valuable.

A Healthy Work/Life Balance and Adequate Rest Periods

There’s no doubt that being a developer is hard work. There’s always a glitch, a bug, a deadline, a release date and scope-creep lurking behind a corner. Despite these stresses, maintaining a work/life balance is essential in order to work in a sustainable manner. Working extra hours are sometimes a necessary evil when you are dealing with tight deadlines but it should never be the norm nor expected. A good manager and their team are able to work within reasonable deadlines and communicate effectively throughout the process. If your developer has to sacrifice their personal care and family time they will be unable to perform to the best of their ability, they will eventually burn out and leave.

Give Your Employees the Tools They Need

Last but certainly not least, do your developers have the tools they need in order to perform their job to the best of their ability and complete tasks efficiently? For those who aren’t quite as reliant on up to date technology it may not be top of mind, for a developer however, a slow computer and the constraints of a desktop can prove to be unmanageable restrictions. Working to fix a critical issue should never be hindered by the omnipotent blue screen of death. A lack of tools, resources and information are usually the easiest problems to fix but that doesn’t mean they should ever be neglected.

Now that you have immersed your brain in the tactics which can be employed to improve your staff retention rates, what is it you feel like your office is missing? Have we left anything out? This is an incredibly vast topic but this is definitely a good start to kick off a few new strategies and policies.

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