3 minute read

From hire to retire: data is the key to preventing staff attrition

A loyal and productive workforce will be vital in helping businesses navigate through the next 18 months and beyond. By gaining insights captured from data, companies can spot trends and make interventions to ensure staff are happy and attrition is prevented, says Nerys Mutlow

Happy workersAccording to Glassdoor the average cost of recruitment for a new employee in the UK is £3,000, as businesses continually put a huge amount of money and effort into finding suitable employees and onboarding them. Be it job advertisements, third-party recruiters or staff recommendations, employers understandably do all they can to find the most suitable candidates. Which poses the question: once employees are hired, why don’t all businesses invest as much in retaining their staff?

In many cases the first time a manager realises someone is unhappy is when they hand in their notice. But with continuous data on employees made available to businesses, this should not be the case.

Turning data into actionable insights

Businesses are privy to information from multiple sources which, when combined with analysis, can be used to identify which members of staff are unhappy. This includes internal surveys, company review websites such as Glassdoor and peer feedback, as well as employees’ general work ethic and regular feedback to managers. Bringing this all together can help managers evaluate who might be at risk of leaving. Additionally, rate of engagement can be a good measurement of employee satisfaction. Open forums, town halls, even applications like Workplace, Slack or Microsoft Teams generally see a consistent level of staff participation from certain individuals. Businesses can look to the data behind these kinds of apps to see if any members of staff who usually participate have dramatically decreased their social activity, indicating that they may feel less engaged with the company.

Performance is ultimately the key factor, and the responsibility falls on managers to identify when something is amiss and try to understand why this is the case. For instance, if a great salesperson suddenly showed a significant drop in performance, a manager should assess their situation. The first step would be to look at whether anything has changed. Does the employee have a new manager, IT system or client? Perhaps they have been assigned a customer unwilling to spend during the pandemic, or their home working conditions might be holding them back. Both productivity and value to the company remain important, but their individual context should also be considered to look at why a member of staff might be acting as they are.

While employee pulse surveys and Glassdoor reviews are anonymised, they can be used as methods of identifying the general feeling of the workforce and recognising whether a certain percentage is unsatisfied. If businesses are aware that 10% of their staff showed negative sentiments and in conjunction 10% were performing weaker than usual, it enables them to see the direction of movement and understand where to make the relevant interventions.

This information is already collected and often maintained in disparate spreadsheets, IT systems and documents. Managers have details on appraisals, the HR department keeps survey results and shares these with managers, and organisations invest in succession planning and talent identification. The next step is identifying how this information can be united into one platform where every interaction is timestamped, audited and controlled, speeding up the process so that managers can better understand whether a member of staff is unhappy, and step in to fix any issues before it is too late.

Adopting an employee 360 view

Businesses spend a lot of effort understanding their customers’ wants and needs and this should be replicated for their staff. Organisations often adopt a customer 360 view from a sales perspective, showing them the value of the customer, their history, health and any opportunities that may lie ahead as well as identify likely attrition risks.

In the customer world, businesses take actionable insights from their customer relationship management (CRM) system, market trends and NPS scores to pull data together which ultimately helps maintain relationships and provides information on who is most likely to be interested in a different offering. Thinking about this from an employee perspective, managers could use the data available to identify the happiness of an employee and better understand their performance conditions and desires. This could help inform them that a member of staff could benefit from a discussion about coaching, additional training or even adjustments to their working practices.

Generally people do want to be the best they can. But sometimes circumstances can lead to reduced motivation. Reviewing data and taking action can help change this mindset and encourage staff to want to be their best self at work. By giving employees a sense of purpose in the workplace, businesses can improve their lower performers, retain their higher performers and save on hiring costs.

Data can clearly identify exactly what motivates an individual member of staff, but often people are most likely to leave a company if they are unhappy with their salary or the opportunities available. While money is easy to resolve, providing opportunities for growth is a much stronger motivator. Training courses, internal initiatives, mentorship schemes, job swaps and secondments are all tangible options. Getting staff involved with groups that give them a voice so that they have an influence on important decisions can help them feel like they are making a difference.

Most tend to consider career paths as linear. But if businesses can change the approach of career pathways to career trellises, whereby staff can jump sideways and learn new skills, employees will be more content, while businesses can benefit from increased productivity and more value from their staff.

The feedback loop

Looking at the data and offering a solution to individuals can be a way to improve employee satisfaction and prevent attrition. Another area of importance is the feedback loop, in which staff feel confident that their concerns will be considered and tackled. Encouraging frequent informal feedback as well as more formal feedback should be embraced to create high performing teams in organisations.

The essence of the feedback loop is deeply rooted in transparency. Companies could consider opening up their survey comments for everyone to see, displaying the raw statistics and feedback without any names or identifiable aspects, instead of selecting the most positive statements or the issues easiest to fix. This would maintain transparency and increase trust, so that employees are aware their comments have been acknowledged.

Another solution could be to maintain a consistent portal with feedback listed and updated with every progression, making this available for all employees to see what the business is working on. Getting staff members on board with this too would help encourage them to run their own programmes of improvement, supported by management to ensure that feedback is being acted upon.

The feedback loop is successful when employees submit their comments knowing with full confidence that they will be read, considered and pursued.

The future workplace

The current circumstances could not have been foreseen a year ago and the workplace has seen significant changes, with remote or at least hybrid working set to be the precedent going forward. Businesses need to ensure that despite these changes, they are doing all they can to retain their talent, maintain engagement and act upon feedback to continuously improve. A loyal and productive workforce will be key in helping businesses overcome whatever challenges they face in the next 18 months and beyond.

Nerys Mutlow, pictured below, is chief evangelist in the chief innovation office at digital workflow company ServiceNow

Nerys Mutlow, Evangelist, ServiceNow

Published 29 October 2020

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