Attracting and holding onto great staff

If you employ occupations in high-demand or work in a regional or remote community, then you will know just how hard it can be to find and then hold onto quality staff.

I recently heard a story from one regional community where each year they turnover 90% of their health staff! I know of other areas where it is hard to hold onto engineers and tradesmen due to the demands of the mining sector. Staff turnover is a huge cost when you take into account the time and money lost in recruiting, relocating, and then bringing new staff up-to-speed. It is typically calculated at $20 000 to $30 000 per position.

The good news is that the more we are aware of what motivates people to stay or leave, the more we can use these factors to attract and then hold onto quality staff.

So what motivates people to stay or change jobs?

  1. To Earn More Money: We shouldn't be surprised that many people want to earn more and are prepared to change jobs, and even where they live, to earn a good living. Certainly the high wages being paid in the mining sector in Australia is making it hard to hold onto good people in everyday jobs with lesser pay. I have been to communities that are finding it hard to fill ordinary jobs, including people who have given up long careers in teaching, due to the high salaries being paid by the mining sector. 

    So what if you can't pay more? Fortunately, not everyone is motivated primarily by money. If that was the case, we would all be moving to mining communities. There are also other things that people care about. Of course, you may be able to sweeten people's salary by offering other material incentives. For example, salary packaging, tax-free fringe benefits, bonuses for achieving KPIs, or a car, telephone or computer also for personal use. However, if you cannot pay more, you can at least alert staff to how their pay compares to others in the same industry - I recommend comparisons that reflect favourably on your workplace. 

  2. To Advance Their Career: Many people want to advance themselves, become great at what they do, and be recognised for this. Some people have a genuine desire to progress to management roles. If your workplace is in a position to do so, create a clear path for people to advance themselves. Others do not want to progress onto management roles, but are happy to remain in the technical role they have, but where their seniority is recognised - perhaps through the creation of a role called Senior Technician or through training or mentoring others.

  3. To Learn and Grow: People love to learn. But if you have been in a particular role for a while, it can start to feel routine. When I survey staff of the workplaces I visit by asking, 'Who would like more challenge, provided it was a challenge that appealed to your strengths or interests?', the response in the affirmative is typically 60-80%. Other people, of course, have sufficient challenge in their work or personal life. But here management needs to find out who would like more challenge and what sort of challenges would they like to take on. Some workplaces cater to this need to learn and grow by giving people new responsibilities which they are happy to take on, enabling temporary role swaps, and organising professional development consistent with the needs of that workplace.

  4. For a Sense of Purpose. People need to feel that what they do is important in some way. Some people are prepared to stay in work that may not pay the highest wages or live and work in a challenging environment because of the purpose they see in it. I can understand why many people leave their comfortable existence to go and work in indigenous communities that may be doing it tough. This is due to the importance of the work being done as well as the extent of the need. Every job has some purpose. Road Construction Workers I have spoken to tell me that their work is all about keeping families moving. Hospital cleaners I have worked with told me that their purpose is to give people a good experience in hospital. Your challenge is to find a purpose that is engaging both for you and the people you wish to attract or hold onto.

  5. To Do Work They Enjoy: Many of us have certainly been motivated to leave work that was not consistent with our strengths or interests. It is not rocket science that you are more likely to keep staff if you help them to be happier at work by doing more of the work they especially enjoy. But what is common sense is not always commonly practised. Here it is essential that, wherever possible, you align people's strengths and interests with the role they are in.

  6. For How They Are Treated: It is often said that people don't leave workplaces. They leave managers (or a difficult co-worker). If you have ever been in a workplace with very strained relationships, you will know how attractive a workplace is where you feel supported, appreciated and valued. If you have a great team of people around you already, then you can use this as an incentive when recruiting. If you don't, then energy needs to be directed towards encouraging more positive, respectful and supportive relationships to minimise staff turnover, not to mention increase morale and productivity.

  7. For Personal Reasons: Some people want to work part-time to have a better work-life balance. Or they leave to care for children or for health reasons. Certainly the more flexible your workplace can be for such personal reasons, the more likely you are to retain your staff. In regional or remote communities, often people leave to be closer to family or friends in other locations. You can combat this factor by helping people to settle and get involved in the local community. 

    One health agency I know in a mining community found that their female allied health workers were more likely to stay if they developed a love relationship with one of the men who worked at the local mine. So they fostered a compelling personal reason for their workers to stay -  a love relationship. They started a program where their allied health workers had a social event with some of the single miners every few weeks. They jokingly called it, 'The Miner Wants a Wife'. The more people create lives for themselves in a particular community, the more likely they are to stay.

If you are interested in better targeting people who are a great fit for your workplace, who will remain committed, then check out my program, Attracting and Retaining Quality Staff.

With some minor adjustments with the ways you recruit and take care of your staff, you can save yourself much time and your workplace a lot of money.


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