MRM EXCLUSIVE: Ensuring That You Retain Your Employees

For any business, it’s vitally important to retain employees. Losing staff members is not only disruptive, but it’s also costly and time-consuming to find new staff and train them. Together with Nisbets, specialists in catering supplies, we assess how to retain employees within a business, and why they leave when things appear to be going wrong.

Environment and relationships with work colleagues were the two most crucial factors in retaining staff, according to the most recent Nisbets survey, with 16 percent of respondents citing these elements “very important.” This was followed by work/life balance -14 percent. Interestingly, pay came in at number four in the list with 13 percent and working hours/shift patterns at number five with 12 percent and just below this, was the offer of training opportunities with 11 percent.

Although Aideen Whelehan, human resources manager of London’s Lancaster Hotel, agrees and suggests that colleague relationships are important when trying to retain staff, even more so are managers’ relationships with their teams. “We’ve been focusing on this for the last three years and it’s really had an impact. Some people work for money but for most people it’s the person next to you and your manager. This is the person to whom you report so you really have a problem if you can’t connect with them. That’s why many people leave their job.”

Alongside the reasons stated, company culture is another reason why people tend to leave a business. Jo Fowle, managing director of Urban People Recruitment, thinks people tend to stay in a business where they feel part of the culture, somewhere they feel valued. “Companies need to invest time, effort and money in ensuring people come first,” she says. “Richard Branson has been quoted saying that his employees are the company’s top priority.”

Is It All About Pay?

The Nisbets survey has shown that pay isn’t the most common reason as to why individuals leave a business. According to Fowle, pay isn’t high in priority when people leave. “They may say it is, but when you probe further, you find out it’s about a raft of different aspects,” she says. “We find it’s usually that they’ve reached a point where they aren’t learning anything new or growing as an individual. This is key for many people, who may feel stagnant and unable to develop their role. This is one of the strongest leverages to make them look outside their existing company.”

The Nisbets survey has shown that pay isn’t the most common reason as to why individuals leave a business.

Whelehan claims that pay does get people through the door, however, she also suggests that it doesn’t mean they will stay. “You pay someone once – it’s what they expect so it’s only going to make a difference if you pay them more, again and again. The hotel industry isn’t synonymous with massively high salaries.”

Contrary to the industry norm, owner of Gibbon Bridge, Janet Simpson, a four-star hotel in Chipping, Lancashire, pays all staff by the hour “which is not normal practice in the catering industry,” she says,” but if you pay by the hour then you’re not asking them to do something in their own time.” To maintain service standards, all 40 staff members are given in-house training and the opportunities to learn new skills through taking NVQs.

It’s clear that staff development is crucial to staff development; The Lancaster Hotel has a low staff turnover because it develops people and opportunities “whereas some industries don’t,” Whelehan says. “We invest in development opportunities and give people the chance of promotion.”

Those working at the hotel that are based in a supervisory role, such as the reception shift leader, can apply for the ‘Future Leader’ program. After interviews, 16 people are selected to start the programme with two days’ a week training for seven months. “They work in between, we connect them with the business and expect them to develop and stay with the hotel,” says Whelehan. They have the opportunity to listen to the top people in the company about all the elements of the hotel such as strategy and finance, as well as attend seminars.

Through the apprenticeship scheme, young people at the hotel are matched with an appropriate senior member of the team. Whelehan says: “When we had a new painting and decorating apprentice, we buddied him with a senior member of staff so they were working together. The apprentice’s interpretation of work is going to be different to someone who has worked here for 30 years. The benefit for the apprentice was to learn from the stories and experiences from the older colleague and vice versa. They shared experiences. This wouldn’t work with everyone, but we knew this would work well with these particular individuals.”

Engaging with Team Members

Simpson does agree that employee relationships are important, but “one of the most important aspects of staffing is ensuring everyone feels valued at all levels. Our ethos has been to create a community and family feel through the team.” Simpson has retained her core team since the hotel opened 34 years ago which is impressive. “The success of my retaining staff is being on the shop floor and managing the business 24/7, two way communication with my team and making sure they are part of the success of the hotel,” she adds.

The majority of team managers have regular one to ones with their team at the hotel. Whelehan says: “It’s vital for managers to engage with their team, get to know them and have real relationships with them. If you have ten team members, it will take a while to engage with all of them. At first, the manager initiates the one to ones, but eventually the meetings can be driven by the team member. You can’t get to that situation unless you’ve done the groundwork and developed relationships.”

Additional Benefits and Rewards

Perhaps the key to keeping staff is to recognize the hard work that they do. Fowle says: “Employees must feel valued and recognised that they are doing a job well, not just once but regularly.”

Although perks can help in the job, she does suggest that they need to be tailored to the individual. “You can’t assume everyone wants the same thing – for example, not everyone wants a discounted gym membership.”

Employers should always look after their staff and families. “Make them feel appreciated and inspire them to increase their skills and provide the opportunities for them to move forward within the business.”