Seven ways to keep your staff

Need to keep your employees fizzing with enthusiasm? Charles Orton-Jones has some tried-and-tested methods for keeping staff happy and loyal

1. Help them gauge their progress

Too often staff are left scratching their heads over whether they are doing the right thing to keep climbing the corporate ladder. Talent management consultancy Rethink Group advises clients to provide direct feedback. Managing director Michael Bennett says: “Our Brighter Futures scheme provides staff with clear metrics of what they should achieve within a certain time-frame and then offers management, support and development in order to achieve this. It isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but does allow for a more scientific and measureable approach that can help staff to reach their full potential whatever their level, and this demonstrably impacts on staff retention.”

2. Keep them fit

Exercise does more than keep your glutes toned. It releases oxytocin and endorphins, improving mood. Collective exercise can build teams. Thomsons Online Benefits has developed a Vitality scheme over the past three years, designed to improve its workers physical and psychological wellbeing. Employees are offered a group personal trainer on a Wednesday night, Monday massages, fresh fruit, and regularly have different speakers present on nutrition and how to eat well when busy at work. Recently the Thomsons Thames Challenge saw 180 of the firm’s employees travel from Oxford to London in a variety of ways, including Boris biking, kayaking and running, all in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

3. Award prizes and badges

Primary schools hand out gold stars. Can businesses do it too? IT services giant Virtusa does. With 85 per cent of the 8,000 staff being millennials, they certainly have the right demographic. The firm uses real-time feedback and recognition of good work via its own V+ social network. Praise from friends and superiors comes through instant Yammer chats, posts and updates. Colleagues can be awarded badges and move up the “leadership dashboard”. HR head Sundararajan Narayanan says: “We’ve seen remarkable results through our staff retention strategy, resulting in the consistent reduction in attrition rates from 4.58 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 to 3.76 per cent in Q1 2014.”

 4. Relaxed policies

Virgin hit the headlines last year when it abolished maximum holiday days for staff. According to boss Sir Richard Branson: “It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours a day, a week or a month off.” Can it work for you? It works for talent management agency 7stars. Co-founder Jenny Biggam says: “We have found that, if you give your staff trust and responsibility, it makes them more invested in the company and more responsible as a result. Eradicating the bureaucracy around holiday forms and seeking approval has been a hugely positive experience for our team, and the flexibility creates an inclusive, transparent and relaxed working atmosphere.”

 5. Open pay policy

Controversial one this. At London-based recruitment company Retail Human Resources, all pay is freely displayed on the intranet. It’s been that way for 25 years. Managing director Peter Burgess says: “People ask me why I do it. I say back to them ‘Why keep it secret?’ Jobs are clearly defined with a salary connected to each role and strict criteria on the qualities required for people to qualify for a higher salary. The commission structure is easy to understand and, when managers recruit someone from another agency, there are no private deals where someone negotiates a few thousand more on their base pay or an extra week’s holiday.”

6. Improve the environment

Can a beautiful office make a difference? A report commissioned by organisational psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper looked at 3,600 office workers in eight European countries, and found productivity and creativity was boosted 8 per cent and wellbeing increased by 13 per cent when the work environment had natural elements such as greenery and sunlight. His top five ingredients are natural light, quiet working spaces, a view of the sea, live indoor plants and bright colours. The full report is online at HumanSpaces.com.

 7. Deluge them with incentives

Maybe it’s not one thing you need, it’s lots and lots of brilliant schemes. London-based tech startup JustPark, developers of a popular parking app, need to keep staff from being poached by blue-chip rivals. So they offer stock options, gourmet chef-cooked daily lunches (the chef has stock options too), free massages, yoga classes, unlimited paid holidays, “tons of booze in the fridge”, and half the office space is a dedicated fun room for events, but where staff can also hold personal parties. In addition, employees are treated to quarterly retreat holidays at secret locations. Phew!