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Employee retention – how is it really done?

Employee retention – how is it really done?

With a reported 1.3m vacancies in the UK, it’s certainly a candidate’s market, and employers are focussing on employee retention to combat high levels of turnover and significant wage inflation. But is it really possible to proactively retain employees in a jobs market like this one? myHRdept looks at the problem, and possible solutions.

Spiralling wages and a post-pandemic urge to move combine to create significant challenges for employers looking at employee retention methods

Wages are spiralling and employees, stifled for nearly 2 years by the pandemic, are on the move, with many seeking greater flexibility than their current employers avail them. So how can we retain our best and most expensive assets, our people?

It’s more important than ever to be talking to employees about their aspirations and their overall satisfaction with their working lives. For those with more employees, a programme of engagement is essential, as is some management training to ensure the exercise is taken seriously by people managers. Employee engagement exercises don’t have to be expensive or complex, and some of the best solutions are the most straightforward.

Engagement mechanisms to aid employee retention

It’s good to talk, and it’s important to encourage openness and honesty from your employees. Some will leave anyway, but it’s better to know how likely that is early on, and to have (and of course to take) the opportunity to plan for that outcome. Our top and, let’s be honest, not terribly complex tips follow.


Appraisals should not be a once-a-year exercise. Whilst objectives may be set at the start of the financial year, they should be revisited, at least on an informal basis, quarterly. The appraisal process is not just about objectives, a section should always be dedicated to the development of job-related skills, and some organisations will look at values too. In recent years we saw some employers turning away from the traditional ‘appraisal’ and, while the practice may not appeal to all, some form of review, whatever label it’s given, is important.

Management training

An appraisal system is only as good as the person who administers it, and it’s a skill that doesn’t necessarily come naturally. A modicum of training, perhaps only an hour, will help managers get the most out of the exercise, and even those who have done them before often benefit from an annual refresher.

Talent reviews

Appraisals are a great opportunity for a 1:1 discussion about career intentions etc. but the talent review process is essential for most senior leaders, as it diarises time to take an objective look at the staff in terms of not just performance, but also their potential. Who has the most potential to develop further and what are we doing to secure them? Who is most at risk, and what do we lose if they go (and how can that loss be mitigated)? Who has exceeded their potential already, and what can be done to fix the issue?  The talent review process is simple, but in our opinion, one of the most powerful HR tools in an employer’s toolkit.

Engagement surveys can aid employee retention

For organisations with more than a handful of staff, an engagement survey can reveal useful insights into the thoughts and feelings of employees, and today’s technology also allows for easy bespoke mini pulse surveys targeted at particular issues. Confidentiality is key to honesty, a well-constructed survey will quickly reveal underlying issues that can be the subject of focussed analysis. If the answer to “on a scale of 1 – 10, how likely is it that you will still be employed by the Company in one year” reveals answers of ‘not very likely’, the anti needs to be raised to address the underlying issues.

By contrast a poorly constructed survey can reveal little, get a poor response, or miss the issues that are most relevant. Constructing engagement surveys is a business to be tackled carefully, and it’s important to ask the right questions and then follow up on the issues raised – a little expert help drafting the survey is a very wise investment

Exit interviews  

While these don’t usually prevent an exit, they can reveal useful insights that might bring a change of approach and help retain others for longer in the future. Exit interviews are often more effectively conducted by third parties who are perceived as being independent of the organisation. Whilst the reasons for all exits are of interest, particular attention should be paid to apparent patterns and exits of short-term employees, which can often indicate issues with hiring and on-boarding processes. Such issues are usually fixable, but to fix them, we first need to know about them!

HR Support from myHRdept

Exit interviews, engagement surveys, appraisal systems, and indeed all of the other things we mention here, can be carried out by HR outsourcer myHRdept. Now in our 20th year, we include in our outsourced HR packages a bank of support hours which could be used for anything HR-related, from HR administration to employment law. For more about the team behind myHRdept, see our meet the team page.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR or employment law needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515, email us at to discuss your requirements, or contact us via our website and we’ll call you back.


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