Retaining your top performing staff members is about more than just the bottom line. Losing a valuable member of the team can have a big impact on team culture and stakeholder relationships, sometimes resulting in a chain reaction of more resignations or relationship breakdowns that can be hard to repair.

What can you do as a people leader to keep your top performers engaged and motivated in their role? Our top tips are here to help:

Understand why good people leave:

When thinking about how to retain good staff, it’s important to consider the reasons why people leave their job. According to Seek’s latest data, the main reasons employees resigned in 2023 were:

  • More money
  • Career progression
  • Burnout or lack of work-life balance
  • Poor leadership or culture in their current workplace

Holding “stay interviews” with your team is a great way to understand what drives them to keep showing up and doing what they do. It’s also an invaluable tool for understanding their challenges too – ideally before they get to the point of no return and start considering a resignation.

While it’s no surprise that salary advancement is one of the top reasons for an employee jumping ship (particularly in this current economic climate), realistically employers don’t always have the option to increase remuneration. However, if you do have the budget flexibility, it pays to do some market mapping and get an understanding of what similar roles are paying. With greater salary transparency starting to happen in the market, paying people their worth is key to retaining their skills and experience.

Learning and Development opportunities:

Don’t wait for your top performers to ask for development opportunities (or start looking elsewhere to gain them); be proactive and find out whether there’re any areas your team would like to work on either individually or as a group. There’re many training providers available throughout New Zealand that offer all sorts of flexible learning options that can be tailored to your needs. In some cases there’s even government support for development and training opportunities. A little bit of research on your part can pay off in the long run.

Show your appreciation:

Rewarding good work can come in a number of ways, from salary increases, one-off performance bonuses, additional days off, cupcakes or vouchers – the possibilities are endless! While it can be easy to fall into the trap of putting all your time and focus on under-performing staff members, it’s important to remember to show your appreciation and give a little attention to the people you don’t normally worry about!

Trust your team:

One of the quickest ways to lose a good performer is by not trusting them and their abilities to get on with their work. Micro-managing or being inflexible with hours and requests can be a fast track to sending the good performers looking elsewhere. While trust is always earned, if you know someone does their role well with minimal oversight, give them the flexibility to manage their own workload and schedule.

Good communication is key:

Let’s face it, nobody likes being the last to know, especially when it impacts your work. Keeping your team in the dark about important decisions or upcoming changes can cause resentment to build and trust to deteriorate – not an ideal environment for people to thrive in!

Getting staff buy-in for your organisation’s missions and values is only achievable if people feel involved, consulted and listened to. Taking your team along on the journey is more than just a handy phrase to use in a job interview, it’s a crucial skill for retaining top talent.

Be flexible:

Ever since Covid came along and upended all our lives in 2020, there’s no denying that people’s working priorities are changing. Many got to experience flexible and hybrid working options for the first time during the pandemic, and as we all know once that proverbial cat is out of the bag, it’s not so easy to go back to the way things were.

After the salary question, the second most common query we get from job seekers and applicants is around options for flexible working. Can I work from home a few days a week? Can I have a flexible schedule that works around childcare arrangements or other commitments? Can I work remotely? While not all roles can realistically offer flexible working options, if you can, you should seriously consider it because that’s what many employees are looking for.

We’re seeing a rising trend of job listings that advertise with remote working options attracting a far wider pool of applicants. If you can’t offer your top performers flexibility with their hours, location or schedule but other organisations can, you may well be receiving that letter of resignation sooner than you’d hoped.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Seek estimates that an unhappy employee will only stay in their role for seven months before making a change, but with a lot of head-hunting happening in the job market at the moment, tempting offers can and do result in sudden resignations. If you don’t have a strategy in place for staff retention and workforce development, now is the time to form one. And don’t forget our team are here to provide market advice and pulse checks when you need them!

Good luck,

Kirsty and Nikki

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