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Ross Seychell

Chief People Officer, Personio

Keeping staff engaged isn’t always easy, says Ross Seychell, Chief People Officer of HR tech company, Personio. But it’s crucial for their wellbeing — and your company’s growth.

A new study from Personio shows that nearly half (46%) of workers in Europe’s small to medium-sized companies are planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months. What are the main reasons for this?

We have to consider two things: the factors that make people want to stay with a company, and the factors that make them want to leave. Number one on the ‘stay’ side is competitive payment. Close behind, though, is good appreciation and recognition of employees, and an improved work/life blend.

On the ‘leave’ side we see a big correlation between stress and the working environment, which overlaps with the issues of work/life blend and appreciation and recognition. Plus, employees — particularly younger ones — want opportunities to move forward and progress in their careers. If they don’t recognise those opportunities, they will look for employment elsewhere.

What could this worrying statistic mean for organisations?

It’s a definite challenge. Replacing a leaver is a significant cost in terms of time and effort. But it’s not just an inconvenience and the fact that someone else within the company has to pick up their work. It also impacts the company’s bottom line. However, our study showed that 96% of HR decision-makers in small to medium-sized organisations recognise that staff retention is a problem and are trying to do something about it.

What impact has the pandemic had on the way people view employment?

It’s made people question their work/life balance, because home-working blurred people’s work and personal lives. It also shone a light on those employers who are truly focussed on supporting the mental wellbeing of their workforce.

Around a third of the people in our study said they felt the pandemic had a negative impact on their career plans because companies slowed their hire rates and restricted their investment — although this didn’t happen in every sector.

While this feeling has been exacerbated by the pandemic, we’d seen these trends emerging before it began. People, especially new graduates, were beginning to ask: ‘What does my company stand for and can I align with its values?’

96% of HR decision-makers in small to medium-sized organisations recognise that staff retention is a problem and are trying to do something about it.

What can HR professionals do to retain and re-engage younger workers?

Every employee I talk to tells me they want choice and flexibility in an uncertain world. For instance, some people value being in a work environment where they can learn, collaborate, receive coaching and have coffee conversations and lunch with colleagues.

Others like the idea of being empowered to work from home if and when they wish to do so. For progressive companies, it’s about having a framework in place so that individuals and their leaders can discuss the type of working arrangements that are right for them; be more focussed on outcomes rather than input; and ensure that staff understand the opportunities for career progression and growth.

Also, employers shouldn’t make assumptions about their employees. Instead, they should gather real insight by actually talking to them. If you’re a small company, you can have one-on-one discussions. If you’re larger, you can run a survey. However you do it, though, it’s crucial to hear what’s important to your people, because it can vary.

Are regular performance reviews important?

Actually, the term ‘performance reviews’ feels very backwards. We prefer ‘performance growth’. What we mean by that is a balanced discussion between individuals and their managers that, yes, looks back — but, crucially, looks forward, too.

It gives people a chance to reflect on how they’ve done in the last period, based on their objectives and goals. Importantly, though, it’s about where they are going and how they take their knowledge and experience forward to realise new opportunities.

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