The idea of fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions can come with concern for businesses: retaining staff.

We take a look at some ways that SMEs can ensure their hard working and talented staff continue to support their employers in 2022 and beyond.

The need to retain staff

When staff leave a role and the business recruits replacements, there are considerable costs involved – both time and money.

Crafting and posting job ads, sifting through resumes, training and equipment, computer access and the time it takes someone new to learn the ropes.

According to statistics from a survey of over 1,500 HR professionals across Australia and New Zealand, the cost of hiring new employees is staggering.

On average, it costs just under $19,000 to hire one employee.

At the top end of the scale, a new executive costs around $35,500 and a new entry-level employee comes in at close to $9,700.

It takes, on average, 39.2 days to fill a role.

Retaining experienced employees saves considerable time and money but because one size does not fit all employees, it can be difficult.

We won’t be mentioning monetary income as that comes down to a business’s inner workings, but it goes without saying that it costs money to make money.

Below are some great ways to keep these costs down

Reward and recognise

When employees hit goals or go above and beyond, let them know. It can be extremely morale boosting when an employee gets a mention, round of applause or even a trophy or medal for achievements in the workplace. 

Give them a shoutout on a Friday afternoon, take them to lunch or put their name and picture up on a wall. There are many ways to recognise good work.

As an added bonus, seeing colleagues get recognised can be real encouragement for other staff too.

The opposite can be said when this doesn’t take place.

When an employee feels they’ve put in that extra effort and kicked goals at work only for management to ignore or not acknowledge it, can be demoralising.

Encourage feedback

Often, employees have a lot to say about where they work. This can include anything from the working environment to clients to new ideas.

It can also include ways to improve processes that they may have discovered – something that can help a whole company.

On the other hand, they may have found a small issue before it snowballs into a serious problem. 

Give your employees the opportunity and channels to report and voice their concerns, even anonymously if they feel uncomfortable.

Furthermore, ensure that all feedback is respected, can be confidential and won’t affect their employment or income.

Empower employees

Unless absolutely necessary, micromanagement is typically unpopular with employees. Instead, give them the tools, guidance and resources needed to accomplish their goals.

The freedom to find routes to goals is a great way to empower employees and much more effective than creating a ‘my way or the highway’ atmosphere.

When and where possible, involve employees in decision making, especially if the outcomes affect them in any way. If you’re unable to include them in the decision making process, at least ask them for their opinions.

Demonstrating respect for employee contributions helps staff feel connected to their roles and gives them a feeling of having a stake in the company’s future.

Define goals

A healthy workplace isn’t just working towards another paycheck. Perhaps it’s beating previous monthly targets or building stronger databases of clients, helping out when someone is off work or a library of marketing material.

Other common workplace goals include:

  • Getting more done in a set period of time
  • More customer referrals
  • Completing training courses or upskilling
  • Improving NPS (Net Promoter Score) numbers or receiving positive customer feedback
  • Improved social media statistics

When these goals are reached, it’s no good just ticking a box and getting back to work. Make sure to announce wins and reward employees (individuals and as a team) as discussed above.

Keep it social

A great culture and positive vibe is increasingly important to Australian employees.

A recent survey by specialist recruitment company Robert Walters Group found that 50% of Millennials said strong culture and good reputation were the most important factors when choosing a new employer.

Creating a social club is a great way to encourage a positive workplace culture. If employees have the option to contribute a few dollars per week for quarterly outings like meals or fun activities, you’ll find them committed and enthusiastic.

Just make sure not to burden social events with rules like mandatory dress codes (unless the event requires as such, like paintballing) or having to bring homemade food.

If you’re hiring the right employees, put them in a relaxed environment and they’ll naturally create a great culture.

Don’t forget digital platforms too. Your employees might engage more with workplace social media groups or other online communication channels.

A toxic work environment

On the opposite end of the above, is a work environment where employees dread coming to work.

Toxic workplaces are commonly described as when the nature of the work, the people and the resulting environment cause harm to an employee’s mental and physical wellbeing.

This is typically caused by;

  • Employees don’t feel they can be honest with management
  • Age descrimination 
  • Workplace bullying (on and offline)
  • Lack of channels or opportunities to voice opinions and seek help (poor communication)
  • Exclusion from social groups

The statistics show that an unhappy work environment reflects in bank accounts

  • According to humanrights.gov.au, 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress
  • In relation to psychological injury claims, work pressure accounts for around half of all claims and harassment and bullying for around a quarter of claims
  • A survey by Seek showed that the number one reason why Australians quit their jobs is poor management. A lack of career progression was second, followed by needing a fresh start and a toxic work environment in third and fourth place respectively.
  • PwC estimates that employee absenteeism costs Australian employers around $10.11 billion per year. Staff turnover adds to the cost at $3.8 billion in lost productivity annually.
  • The costs of workplace-related mental illness and injury in Australia come to around $15.8 billion to $17.4 billion per year according to a report by apo.org.au.
  • An impact & cost assessment by the Australian Human Rights Commission calculated that workplace bullying costs Australian employers up to $36 billion dollars every year when hidden and lost opportunity costs are considered.

Make your workplace happier (and more profitable)

Take some time to consider your staff turnover – higher is generally worse, and think about how employees engage with management, work and each other.

If necessary, go a step further by reaching out to them for feedback with the option for anonymity.

Being the end of the year, it might be time for a change by implementing some of the ideas above for a fresh 2022.

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