How To Tackle The Employee Retention Challenge

Marianne Curphey discusses strategies to help businesses retain talented staff, with international consultant and author, Dr Linda Holbeche.

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Finding ways to retain talented people within your organisation and ensuring that they remain engaged with the business, are two of the key challenges for business in 2019 and beyond, says Dr Linda Holbeche, international consultant, developer and author in the fields of HR, leadership, strategy and change.Dr Holbeche will be discussing change, engagement and trust at her presentation, Squaring the Circle, which she will be giving at Relocate’s Festival of Global People in London’s King’s Cross next week.

How can you keep employees engaged?

Dr Holbeche says that businesses face huge and new challenges and need to find ways to keep employees engaged – or risk losing them to other employers who offer more opportunities and career development.“There are a number of surveys which show that, by and large, people tend to move on if they start to become disengaged, particularly in the UK where we have got full employment,” she says. “For global mobility, HR and recruitment departments, if you have got good people you have got to find ways to hang on to them and develop them, and they will be asking for more in return.”Based in the UK, Dr Holbeche was previously Director of Research and Policy for the CIPD, Director of Leadership and Consultancy at the Work Foundation and Director of Research and Strategy at Roffey Park. An established author, consultant, coach and developer, she is the author of over 50 research reports and more than 100 articles.

Technology – changing the landscape of business

She says technology has changed – and will change – the landscape of business, and that ‘soft skills’ will become more important in this context.“Many organisations are thinking in terms of digital advancement – using Artificial Intelligence, automation and reducing back office jobs,” she says. “However, there are still clearly personal and emotional skills which will make a difference to business and which are still needed.”Those skills include the ability to work in a team, understanding and implementing collaboration and team work, using emotional intelligence, and other soft skills.“Technology can augment what people do and the business can benefit as a result,” she says.

Disengaged employees

If staff disengagement is a threat to your business, what can global mobility departments, HR staff and recruiters do to keep employees motivated?“People are at their most engaged in the first year or two after you have recruited them,” she says. “In those two years you need to make the effort to get to know them and develop them.”She cites a recent OECD report which showed workers often displayed a lack of trust in senior management. The report found that 92 per cent of workers trusted their colleagues, 80 per cent trusted their line manager, but only 37 per cent trusted senior management at the organisation where they worked.

How to combat a lack-of-trust culture at work

Dr Holbeche says this culture of a lack of trust has a profound effect on business and the economy.“In low trust businesses people are not sharing their knowledge or coming up with innovative suggestions as to how to improve the business.”She says one of the solutions is for those in positions of leadership to look again at their leadership style and be willing to change.“In a multi-generational workforce, people expect communication to be on an adult-to-adult basis and have a win-win relationship with a manager, and not to be talked down to,” she says.A recent survey showed that British workers are twice as likely to be considering a move overseas in the next two years. Some of this can be put down to Brexit, but it is affecting other European countries too.“In Britain there is a degree of disengagement at a national level and in the workplace,” says Dr Holbeche. “It is important that leaders change their style and start thinking about the skills that people will need in the future and help to grow those among their staff.”

Changing employee expectations

Today’s employee has different expectations – they want greater input from their employer and are looking for career growth within their organisations.“Staff are saying: we are good, you as an organisation have got to bend towards us, and provide what we need,” she says. “This might be a career path, a four-day week or more of a work/life balance.”The question for employers in a time of such dramatic change is how to increase support, and what is the role of HR in facilitating that, she says. People will want to stay in an organisation that develops them.“These are choices that employers can and do make. What about employees who are doing the back office jobs that will eventually become automated? Do you help them to upskill and retrain, or do you replace them with a few highly skilled people?”She says there is evidence that Brexit is not just affecting the UK, but also having a negative effect on other European countries, who are waiting to see how it will turn out.Dr Holbeche will be speaking at Relocate’s Festival of Global People, which is taking place in London on May 14 and 15. The Festival is a unique opportunity to connect with the fast growing global mobility sector that supports international talent to flourish and international markets.Come and hear from our panel of international speakers about how to recruit and retain the best talent, what works and what motivates your international assignees, and share fresh thinking on the opportunities and challenges in global mobility. Connect with like-minded professionals from the sector and enjoy an opportunity to network in a relaxed setting.

About Dr Holbeche

Dr Holbeche is a regular speaker at national and international conferences, and is currently Visiting Professor in HRM and Organisation Development at Cass Business School (London), Visiting Professor of Leadership Innovation at the University of Bedfordshire, Visiting Professor Strategic Human Resource Management at the University of Derby, Adjunct Professor at Imperial College, London, Co-Director of the Centre for Progressive Leadership at London Metropolitan University. She is also a Fellow of Roffey Park Institute, an Associate of Ashridge Management College and Erasmus Business School (Rotterdam).
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