How to motivate staff in sectors with a high turnover

Motivating staff in sectors with high turnover rates takes creativity, but the right course of action may show results in a relatively short period, says Nick Golding

It doesn’t take a genius to work out which types of employers suffer the most from high levels of labour turnover. Call centres, retailers and factories are among some of the worst hit, but investing in motivating staff in these environments can show results even after a short period of time.

Yet many employers are unwilling to invest in motivational benefits for staff working in such industries because they typically expect employees to move on after a short period of time. Cathy Monaghan, head of human resources at PES Consulting, explains: “These are definitely areas where managers think ‘oh well if they are leaving that’s ok because it’s normal for people to leave this job’.”

Regularly recruiting and training a steady stream of employees, however, can be costly for employers. One solution is to put benefits in place that are designed to motivate and retain staff in industries where turnover is typically high. For starters, it can be important for employers to move employees’ focus away from the actual work at hand, which they often consider to be repetitive or boring, by introducing perks that give staff more of an incentive to be at work, and stop them perceiving their role as simply a means of earning cash.

“Organisations need to introduce schemes that make the actual job less of an issue for workers,” says Monaghan.

Employee share schemes are a popular option among organisations with higher-earning employees who tend to be longer serving, but there is no reason why staff in a call centre or factory, for example, cannot buy into their company’s plan. Offering staff in industries with high turnover access to share schemes can help to encourage loyalty to the organisation, as well as long-term commitment as they must stay for the full length of the plan to reap its rewards.

“Any benefits that offer employees a sense of belonging are effective at motivating employees, and a share scheme is a good example. Look at [the] John Lewis [Partnership], a retail company with a low labour turnover rate. This is because the staff own the company,” says Monaghan.

Offering staff the opportunity to access flexible working arrangements can also help to motivate and retain employees. Although the actual work they are responsible for may not be particularly inspiring, placing trust in staff by giving them a say in the hours that they work, can help to motivate and retain these employees. The degree to which this is made available will obviously depend on the needs of the organisation, but it can empower employees by providing them with greater freedom to better balance their work and home lives.

Staff empowerment
Offering flexibility and variety around the hours staff are expected to work can also alleviate the clock-watching culture that employees in repetitive environments such as call centres or factories may often have grown accustomed to. “The working day for these employees shouldn’t be about strict rules over when they can and can’t work. Include staff in the decision-making process over the work rota,” explains Monaghan.

Taking this a step further, some suggest that staff in seemingly-mundane jobs should be given the autonomy to only work the hours that are necessary, rather than sitting around with little to do during quiet periods. Stephen Walker, director at consultancy firm Motivation Matters, says: “Don’t just have different start times everyday, let staff organise their day to reflect the amount of work that they have on.”

EXPD8, the merchandising company that specialises in shelf filling and compliance checking for retailers, has adopted this flexible approach. Where possible, it allows its 700 employees to make decisions around the hours they work, provided that the current job is completed. Peter Bailey, finance and IT director, explains: “Many of our employees decide on what they do and when. We allow them to fit work in around school pick-ups and their private lives.”

Equally important when looking to retain and motivate employees is identifying the workforce demographic and offering benefits that will motivate the individuals within it. One way of doing so is to question staff about what they would value. A survey also shows employees that the organisation cares. “Ask employees what they want, find out what they think, what they want from the job and what will motivate them,” says Monaghan.

She adds that women typically dominate retail stores across the UK, so managers may find value in offering schemes such as childcare vouchers to boost motivation among this particular group.

In call centres, meanwhile, employees are generally younger, so may appreciate perks that appeal to this audience. John Sylvester, director, motivation and incentives division at P&MM, explains: “Cinema vouchers work well when it comes to motivating younger staff, and although it can be hard to get a [clear] focus, organisations must look for what appeals to their employees.”

Benefits such as vouchers are relatively quick and easy for employers to administer. Employers can offer vouchers as short-term, regular incentives that can keep staff interested at work, and fight off spiralling turnover rates. Also falling into this bracket are loyalty cards, which enable managers to incentivise staff and recognise their efforts at work by awarding points for exceptional work which can be translated into prizes.

Cash rewards
Small tokens of thanks work well at eXPD8. In an attempt to keep jobs interesting and to incentivise staff through recognition of their efforts, employees are regularly invited to enter competitions for cash rewards.

“When we do promotional set ups, we ask employees to take pictures and then we hold a competition for the best photo, with the winner getting something like £30. It’s not a big deal but small sums can make a difference and can make staff feel valued,” explains Bailey.

But while such perks are perceived as a nice-to-have, employers should not lose sight of the fact that the main reason staff choose to work in the first place is because of the money. So paying employees under the market rate will often only serve to demotivate and encourage labour turnover.

“You mustn’t underpay people. We think that you should pay just over the going rate for the job you are asking people to do. If you want your people to be exceptional then you should be paying them mildly exceptional money,” explains Walker.

Motivational benefits for industries with high staff turnovern†

Flexible working arrangements
Enabling employees to organise their own working hours can motivate staff and help with retention. Offering variety around the hours staff must work also helps to remove a clock-watching culture.

Share schemes
Schemes that give employees a sense of belonging will encourage motivation and retention. A share scheme means that staff will be rewarded for staying at the company, enabling them to feel a part of the company’s success, and not like someone that can be easily replaced. As employees must remain in a scheme for at least three or five years to receive the benefits, they can also be an effective retention tool.

Recognition schemes
Offering small on-the-spot prizes, or even thanking staff for their work, will help to make them feel valued and boost the likelihood of them staying with an organisation.

Employers should not think that they can get away with under-paying employees in positions that typically experience high turnover. Paying just above average wages can be a good motivator.

Case study – Work-life balance helps to motivate Asda employees

Asda believes that for benefits to motivate staff, they must make employees feel valued and part of the company.

To enable staff to join in the overall success of Asda, it offers a sharesave plan which permits both full-time and part-time employees to buy monthly shares in parent company Wal-Mart at a 20% discount.

Mike Hazelgrave, reward manager at the giant retail corporation, explains: “Obviously, this is aimed at making staff feel part of the company, and [also] part of the Wal-Mart family.” Childcare vouchers and flexible working arrangements are also considered important motivators for the retailer’s predominantly female store-based staff. Both these options make balancing home and work commitments much easier and demonstrate the organisation’s support for its working mothers.

“Although pay is key, flexible working [arrangements] and childcare help for our employees are good motivators,” confirms Hazelgrave.