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Staff retention - steps to success in 2016

James Payne, head of business development at Bond International Software


The recruitment industry is in good shape after a bumper 2015 and this year’s growth is forecast to be over 8%, taking the industry beyond £34bn in sales, according to REC. But growth creates its own problems. Retaining current staff members and building strong teams in a market that is booming with opportunities is becoming tougher, as is employee loyalty. Where the employee culture has been based on financial reward, staff retention is a difficult task.


From training to career progression, flexible working to innovative incentives and cultural change, recruitment agencies need to consider new ways to boost staff retention.


Recruitment in 2016 – what does the year look like?

The improvement in employment figures throughout the past year led to an impressive £31.5 billion turnover, labelling 2015 as the best year overall for the recruitment industry. In addition to the boost in sales, 83% of agencies reported a noticeable increase in net free income over the course of the year. However, despite last year’s financial improvement, 44% of agencies believe that financial development within the industry is a major pain point, sharing a recognition of the problems this growth can create in the coming year. According to the APSCo Deloitte UK Recruitment Index 2015, agencies are set to face employment challenges such as growing head counts, the ability to retain talent and being able to build a strong management team.


With employment rates improving and employees and candidates being more assertive in their career decisions, it has become more imperative than ever for agencies to develop a certain level of professionalism. By implementing training and offering educational opportunities, employees and employers will then be able to map out and provide a clear career development path. Alongside this, the ability for agencies to shift from short term targets to longer term business objectives will encourage employees to look beyond immediate financial benefits and instead focus on future career development.


Understanding, however, how to make the leap from simply offering employees the basic salary and great commission to a level of professionalism that is on par with the finance, law and HR sectors is unfortunately not as simple as snapping your fingers or clicking your heels. Agencies need to learn new staff retention strategies such as understanding how to ensure career development, adapt to new methods of working and create an employee friendly culture within and outside the workplace.


So what is the best way to ensure your recruiters are on the right career path and remain on track?


The first step is to make sure that their route is clear and that they can see the different levels to which they could potentially progress. For example, the recruiter may start as a senior recruiter for a year, then move to become a team leader after the second year, and finally a branch or office manager after five years within the job. The second step is to build frequent reviews that allow discussions on the progress of the recruiter and potentially highlight gaps in knowledge or experience that need to be addressed before promotion can be considered. The final step is to create strong training and education programmes that will include professional recruitment and HR qualifications opportunities, as well as ad hoc courses such as client communication or dispute management.


Keeping staff happy


In order to keep employees happy, agencies now need to work towards providing psychological and cultural benefits that will result in a working environment that boosts loyalty, and this can only be done by learning and adapting to the way in which recruiters prefer to work. Flexible working through mobile enabled technologies allow recruiters to operate outside the standard nine to five – but it will be essential to define an individual’s preferences regarding home or flexible working. With the right strategy, however, agencies can gain comfortable, happy and efficient employees.


Tuning in to employee needs, highlighting company goals and objectives and promoting commitment benefit packages all play major roles in strong employee management. Managers need to make the effort to adopt an open door policy to ensure employees feel confident to voice both concerns and ideas, as well as shine a light on company growth rather than individual targets. Offering long term, family friendly benefit packages such as critical illness cover, health insurance and payment protection, acts as another method of staff retention. Ensuring your managers have the right skills and attitudes towards their respective teams is also a key aspect of strong retention.



Now the question lies in how agencies can protect staff from external “influences”. There is no doubt that employees are going to be tempted elsewhere either by a desire to run their own agencies or by head hunters. So the responsibility rests with managers to find innovative ways to minimise employee turnover and reduce the risk of losing key members of the team. Open communication and a shared understanding with your employees of the likelihood of being approached can encourage staff to be honest about their experiences and reduce the temptation to move elsewhere. Managers should also find new, non-financial incentives to offer employees to improve motivation both within teams and the overall working environment. In addition, agencies should consider education reimbursements, such as contributions towards student loans, to demonstrate both employee development investment and a real commitment to building long term loyalty.


Pressing the “Stop” button on employee turnover


Whilst the recruitment industry continues to rely on financial benefits as a primary basis for employee motivation, the concept of loyalty is likely to be considered more as an ideal rather than a reality. In most professions, however, job satisfaction is the key to employee retention. By offering career development schemes, flexible working, “pro-employee” environments and innovative incentives amongst other tactics, the recruitment industry has real opportunities to improve overall satisfaction, resulting not only in financial improvements but also in successful staff retention.


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