Retaining Good Employees – The Truth Hurts!

Posted in : HR Updates on 22 February 2017
Catherine Mullin
Think People Consulting
Issues covered:

Clients consistently tell us that recruiting talent and retaining talent is their key priority and this has become more pressing in 2017. This seems to be the number one concern for technology companies in particular who report a shortage of appropriately qualified candidates to recruit and a competitive market in terms of salaries and benefits.

We know from our client base that the landscape for attracting new talent has become pretty treacherous, with employers sometimes entering bidding wars in an effort to retain key personnel who are being lured away. The island of Ireland both North and South has become a mecca for technology companies for a number of reasons and homegrown start-ups are increasing apace. So much so that according to the Danske Bank Industry Sector Forecast Qtr. 4 2016, Information & Communication, Professional Scientific & Technical services are expected to enjoy strong employment growth in the next 12 months with an expected increase of 2,900 jobs in Northern Ireland alone. Great news for the economy but daunting news for small businesses who continue to struggle to secure and retain the best talent. What to do?

Basic Truths:

There are some basic truths to what attracts and retains skilled employees and whilst they aren't rocket science, they are taken from scientific and measured research both from surveying of people at the very basic level to looking at drivers of employee behaviour and even neuroscience. We reiterate a number of the basic truths below, and urge readers to think about how they are measuring up.  Many employees know this but continue to ignore the advice.  Does the truth hurt?

1. Compensate Fairly

Yes, money isn’t everything. Research has found that an overwhelming 58 per cent of UK professionals would take a pay cut in order to feel happier at work and may consider bonuses and perks important. Notwithstanding, if you don’t pay employees fairly they will leave. A rule of thumb is to keep in line with your industry benchmark and be clear what differentiates your offer in terms of the whole reward package including perks, culture and camaraderie and learning opportunity.

2. Recognition

As an HR consultancy, we work with many organisations on their employee engagement and satisfaction surveys. Employees want to be recognised when they go the extra mile or have achievements. Showing that you have noticed and appreciate the effort matters and does not have to be financial. Thank you still goes a long way. Neuroscience (in particular the highly followed Dr David Rock) has shown that individual feelings about their status and knowing that they provide an important and valued contribution are extremely important basic human responses that if threatened can cause the ‘flight’ mechanism to kick in and they begin considering alternative work.

3. Flexible Benefits

We now have a generational mix in the workplace the like never seen before. What matters to a generation X employee (childcare, pension, private healthcare) is not the same as what keeps a millennial up at night (student loans, opportunities to learn and develop new skills and experiences, foot on the housing market, qualifications) for example. Yet employee benefit packages are the same for everyone. Consider reviewing what matters to your employees at different stages of their careers and be willing to flex benefits. There are now quite a number of providers who allow the application of flexible benefits in a straightforward way e.g. Perkz, Perk Box, Faircare, Benefex and more. Beyond this is the wider offer of flexible working, office environment and how personal career paths and learning is managed.  These are absolutely key considerations and will need to be tailored to industry and groups.

4. Career Agility

Many small companies do not have the layers or spans to create a meaningful employee career map and employees end up frustrated at the lack of career mobility anyway and move on. You can address this by thinking agile and providing opportunities to work on key projects, be mentored by more experienced employees or try working in different functions. You get a well-rounded employee who understands how the whole company fits together and who has developed transferable skills and an increased commitment to the organisation.

5. Employer Brand

Companies spend so much money developing the brand for their services and products and so little on their employer look and feel. It is so easy for a potential candidate to do their research and often there is so little information available. Savvy employers know that potential employees check out your website; what brand story are you telling them? Taking time to develop your employer brand and creating the need will be time and money well spent. A word of warning though, make sure your culture matches the pretty pictures, otherwise you will see a mismatch between expectation and reality which is when the rot truly does set it.

Finally, if you are stuck in a cycle of offer and counter offer you need to review what is on offer to your existing employees and potential employees. And remember…

“Nothing will kill your reputation in the labour market faster than doing a great job advertising a work experience you don’t deliver” David Ogilvy 
This article is correct at 22/02/2017

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Catherine Mullin
Think People Consulting

The main content of this article was provided by Catherine Mullin. Contact telephone number is 028 9031 0450 or email

View all articles by Catherine Mullin