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Heyma Holmes BPE

Retention of talent is a key issue for all businesses. Heyma Holmes, Partner in the Employment Team at BPE Solicitors, examines why culture, rather than remuneration, is leading the way in retention strategies

The historic belief that employees are only interested in money has long been cast aside and businesses are coming up with more creative incentives and working environments to complement traditional benefits.

Finding the right balance for a business doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it is likely to save money as recruiting and training employees costs the business financially and in time spent in recruitment.

A report by ACAS in 2014 suggested that the cost of replacing an employee was around £30,000 with a large proportion of this caused by the time it takes to find the right candidate.

Right from the start

A business’s relationship with its employees begins before they have even entered the workplace. Setting expectations and exposing a candidate to the company’s culture straight away sets the tone for the rest of the employment relationship.

Irrespective of the urgency to recruit, the business and employee need to be a good cultural fit. A business needs to understand its culture and how to frame it, while presenting benefits that match its image and help it to stand out from the crowd.

Making it personal

Statistics show that long term retention is rarely connected simply to salary and it is often alternative benefits that attract and retain employees. Organisations should therefore try to understand what drives potential employees.

  • Historically, a more prevalent drinking culture led to perks like Friday night drinks. However, as wellbeing moves up the agenda, this idea is out of kilter with many people’s motivations, such as spending more time with their family or getting to the gym.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility can be an excellent way of engaging with employees. Getting employees to vote on a charity of the year or encouraging activities such as volunteering allows employees to support projects which mean something to them.
  • Mental health and employee welfare is fundamental. Work can create high-pressure situations which can risk employees burning out. A proactive employer will ensure appropriate support is in place. Whether this is confidential counselling services or management training to allow people to recognise symptoms of stress, a workplace should look to alleviate the symptoms and be sympathetic to the pressures of working life. Other perks such as sabbaticals allow employees to recharge and explore projects that matter to them, knowing they remain valued by their employer.
  • Family and home time are priorities for many, so offering benefits to reflect that can improve both recruitment and retention. That could be extending medical care to include families, providing enhanced benefits for paternity and maternity leave, and flexible or remote working capabilities to make the workplace more agile and flexible.

Growing with your culture

For businesses scaling up, holding on to a culture is challenging. Let it slip, and they risk losing longstanding and experienced employees who valued the way it used to be. However, retaining the old culture may see you fail to react to changing trends and expectations from candidates.

Irrespective of culture, the average employee turnover rate in the UK is around 15 per cent a year. Regularly reviewing your culture will help you retain employees and ultimately create a place where people are proud to work.

Ask for (and take on board) feedback from employees to help check and shape the business. Listening to feedback will help the company to develop in line with the views of its employees – the leadership merely steers the ship.

Your employees are the most important part of the business. Create and encourage a culture that keeps them there.

BPE is holding a scale-up event aimed at owners and HRDs focusing on retaining your culture on Thursday February 6. For more information and to book a place visit