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People & Team


How to stop your employee talent from leaving the business

Employee talent retention
People are the most valuable asset a small business has

You spend all that time, money and effort securing the best hires and then your employee talent decides to leave well before you’d like them to. Find out how two very different businesses keep their best.

Retaining employee talent is far more beneficial to a business than recruiting new members of staff. Existing staff understand the culture and way of working, have close relationships with customers and clients and can be trusted to deliver against targets.

New recruits bring with them uncertainty. They are untested in an environment both as a fit in a team and their ability to do the job well.

Given their proven qualities, star talent may be on the receiving end of admiring glances and offers from competitors or believe that a new start can mean more responsibility or pay. And, while money may seem as the easy thing to gravitate towards in the quest to keep employee talent, there are other strategies that can be implemented if that is not an option.

Better work environments, personalised rewards, improved career development and paid for training can all help, as Be the Business found out.

Collaboration and creativity

Aaron Dicks, co-founder and managing director of Nottingham-based digital marketing agency Impression, stated simply that his business would be “nothing without the fantastic team we have managed to build since 2012”.

He added: “We need to keep our team happy and fulfilled. It is really important to our growth and success. So, we invest a lot in our company culture, working environment and progression of every member.”

In fact, of the present 40 strong staff, five of the original six members still remain with the group. “We have lost about eight or nine people in total over the last four years,” Dicks revealed. So, what has been the secret?

“We have made our practical working space as comfortable and as conducive to collaboration and creativity as possible with bean bags, table tennis, table football and even a beer fridge,” he said. “We don’t ask people to sit down and code for eight hours a day without having some kind of relaxation and fun. We provide more than a job.”

Look after development

Impression also runs bi-weekly lunch and learn sessions where it pays for the food and team members take turns presenting something they’ve been working on to the group.

“We send our team on trips to conferences where they can learn more too,” he said.

It also used a continuous improvement tool called 15Five to revamp its personal development programmes. “We don’t do annual appraisals anymore and instead have more continuous and regular one-to-one meetings, where we set out development plans and set people’s own pace for progression,” he explained.

“We set objectives on a monthly basis and they are agreed between staff and line managers. It is more reactive than appraisals. You don’t just sit and stew on an issue which has been a concern you get a regular chance to air it and have it solved. It gives a chance for those keen to get on with their career the chance to push for accelerated growth and gives us a good grasp of who and where everyone is in the business.”

Impression looks to promote from within whenever it can and even creates new senior roles for the right person. “Yes, money does come into it and we sometimes realign salary with the market price, but it is more about adjusting roles that no longer fit where someone is heading in their career. We can shape roles around people,” he commented. “For me, the most important part of being a manager is ensuring every member of my team feels confident, happy and fulfilled in that role. While salaries are important, it’s all those other things we do that make for a great place to work.”

What percentage of your staff have left in the last year?





Clever rewards

Another founder who believes they have the right recipe to retain the best talent is Michaela Pontiki of London-based healthy lifestyle bakery Arapina Bakery. Pontiki has devised a rewards strategy which she believes greatly benefits both her nine-strong staff and the business.

“We have put in place a social media rewards scheme for our staff as we understood very early on the importance of posts highlighting the effort and creativity of our bakery,” she explained. “So, every picture or video that a member of our team manages to get up on a social media platform like Instagram or Facebook they will receive a monetary reward. However, if they hit a certain target, usually 25 a month, then they get a bigger reward which is often a paid experience. We will invest in whatever experience or training they would like to do so it has ranged from sky diving to two hours of teaching about how to write a blog or a short session in a business school.”

Arapina Bakery’s social media-based rewards programme has not only helped retain employee talent, but has also helped build its Instagram following to nearly 20,000.

Arapina Bakery
Arapina Bakery has a small, but highly-engaged set of employees

Fighting churn

The same rewards structure has also been implemented for any member of staff who writes a blog and sees it published on social media. “They can write what they want to write and take a picture of what they want to take but it has to have some relevance to the business. We’ve had pictures of products and displays, a chef talking through their baking process and the introduction of colour co-ordinated food tags in the business,” she added. “The quality has to be good and it has to meet our values. The final decision of whether to post or not is taken by management, but we thought it was a great idea for the business and our team. Social media plays a big role in showing our customers what is happening in our bakery real-time. It makes us more transparent and it also gets our staff more engaged and being creative. It can be isolating in a kitchen, so it is fun and rewarding for them.”

With the business having an above average sector retention rate, she doesn’t put it all down to nice photos. “In hospitality the turnover is very, very high but ours is very, very low. The social media scheme is just part of a bigger strategy we have in place to retain staff,” she said. “Another is a share scheme where if a staff member keeps hitting weekly or monthly targets and stays for two years then they will get an opportunity to become a partner in the business. We want our employees to have a say.”

READ MORE: Focus on your people talent, and it’s impossible for competitors to copy you.

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