Donald MacKinnon: Employers need to do more than increase pay to retain staff

Donald MacKinnon

As the new year represents an opportunity to overhaul your life, it should come as no surprise that January is the month when the highest number of employees consider a change of job. According to a survey by Investors in People, published in December 2017, as many as one in five of the UK’s workforce is actively looking for a new job. Given the potential loss of talent and the costs associated with hiring replacements, employers should take steps to avoid mass resignations at this time of year.

With much of the research on employee satisfaction and retention citing low salary as one of the main reasons people hand in their notice, employers may see blanket pay rises as a way to keep staff morale high. However, it is vital for employers to look for solutions which will be effective and sustainable in the long run. When it comes to reasons for changing jobs, pay is closely followed by the desire for a new challenge. Employers should therefore be seeking to boost  employees’ careers instead of their bank balances. For those willing to put in the hours, leadership programmes and management training courses provide the necessary challenge element, as well as the potential for a salary increase further down the line, killing two birds with one stone.

Employers also need to consider the structure of their workforce, as different factors may be more relevant to some than others. Young people typically value camaraderie more than older employees, while higher numbers of men resign over organisation culture than their female counterparts.

Businesses are encouraged to speak with employees directly to find out what steps can be taken to ensure staff retention. However, for this to be effective employers will need to make sure that some of the feedback is put into practice; as empty promises can do more harm than promising nothing at all.

Donald MacKinnon is director of legal services at employment law firm Law At Work