Learn how stay interviews and improved onboarding processes can help retain talent for your small business.

The past few years have been a sobering experience. One effect has been employees becoming less afraid to voice their needs and expectations.

After 35 years of experience in the field, human resources (HR) leader Liz Nottingham says it’s seemingly only now that we’re “beginning to realize that the heart of HR is around people.” And, according to researcher and coach Lucy Goode, companies are starting to look at retaining employees as an ongoing process, as opposed to merely a penultimate chapter in the employee journey.

Although this might seem obvious, employers usually only begin to think about how to keep staff when the topic of them leaving arises. “Then the conversation becomes about pay,” says Goode. “So, how do you behave [along the way] to stop it getting to that point?”

Nottingham says it’s all about relationships. “Client work is about relationship, HR work is about relationship, and I sometimes wonder if we have the right people in HR with that right view around relationship, reputation […] and a service-driven approach to our work.”

Attention = retention

 Exit interviews are familiar in the workplace; ‘stay’ interviews are a new initiative being embraced by employers in the pursuit of employee retention, used to “dial up the reasons as to why people are staying,” says Nottingham. Using Pulse, an app designed for employees to give regular feedback to their organization on company culture and well-being at work, TRO Group has committed to “listening across the board at every step of the way,” says its talent director, Kirsty Finding.

Quiet quitting (dubbed by Goode a “rebrand of disengagement”) has been a telling effect of what happens when people don’t feel listened to, or toxic workplace culture is ignored. To combat this internally, Goode believes that external qualitative research has the power to “flush stuff out.” Of course, what really counts is the action taken off the back of it.

Transparency: Leave no room for doubt

 Trunk BBI’s managing director Adam Britton was tasked with reducing churn in the business after an intense growth period. “It was a lot higher than 30%,” he says. “We’re now at around 17% for the year.” Britton attributes this to transparency about salaries and objectives for career progression, as well as realizing that people are motivated by a range of different things: money, learning and development, and peer recognition to name a few.

Meanwhile, other measures like clear plans to empower employees to progress at their desired pace and salary banding lend themselves to a wider initiative: eliminating disparity around unequal pay.

Improving internal processes

 Some might even argue that keeping staff starts with better onboarding. Consistency across interview processes doesn’t only ensure candidates receive equal treatment, but makes recruitment easier for employers, too. This is true for agency The Mx Group. Its president and chief executive officer, Anthony Riley, can vouch for its onboarding process as a ‘boomerang’ employee himself.

“Our onboarding process is something we’ve always been really stellar at,” says Riley. “I went from here to a larger agency and when I got to that larger agency, I remember […] looking around and thinking ‘what do I do next?’”

So, what does this process look like? For The Mx Group’s employees, it includes a 90-day expectations letter from their line manager outlining core aspects of processes and knowledge about the company, and one-to-one time with managers to develop training modules relevant to their function at the start of their journey. Equally important is the act of giving consistent feedback in a way that works best for the individual.

Nottingham describes the difference between ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ people: the former may be more receptive to feedback when a project is complete, whereas the latter may prefer a steady, open line of communication throughout. Asking employees what their feedback style is will play a part in how they feel valued and perceived, and ultimately their loyalty to the company.

This article was written by Laura Blackwell from The Drum and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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