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Minimise churnover

By Kath Lockett

Kath Lockett looks at why staff leave and how to keep them keeping on.

It can cost from $15,000 to an entire annual salary to hire someone but it's not just money. Costs include time spent on advertising, recruiting, induction, training and lost productivity while the newbie gets up to speed.

Staff are increasingly mobile. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 18 per cent of Aussie workers have been with their current employer for less than 12 months and more than half of those also changed the number of hours worked.

In the US, employers are finding that as their economy slowly recovers, workers want more than a raise to stay. A writer for Forbes, Jenna Goudreau, says employees want more feedback, greater responsibilities and more flexible schedules. "These are cost-effective ways to say 'thank you' to staff and improve morale and productivity," she says.

The director of Hays Recruitment Australia, Nick Deligiannis, says false advertising plays a big part in resignations.

"When an organisation communicates a certain message about what it's like as a place to work but this doesn't match the reality, it's very disappointing and unsettling for the employee," he says. "It doesn't foster a good relationship and creates a huge turnover risk."

This finding has been borne out in a survey conducted by Hays of more than 900 job seekers. About a third said the experience of working for their employer was nothing like they thought it would be. Lack of career development also leads to employees scanning the job ads.

"If there's no clear path of progress or they don't see how they can achieve their career goals, they'll leave," Deligiannis says. "But career development doesn't necessarily mean promotion. Try offering additional responsibilities such as supervising other employees, training others, managing projects or chairing meetings."

Work-life balance is the other big issue. Spending more time with loved ones and less time commuting or at the office are increasingly sought by stressed workers. Statistics from Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace reveal that 83 per cent of female job seekers consider work-life balance to be very important, yet 45 per cent believe their organisation does not support this.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations holds the National Work-Life Balance Awards to recognise employers who are leaders in establishing flexible options and helping managers make them available to staff. One group recognised was the Transport Accident Commission, for introducing initiatives such as special leave for volunteering and charity work, a "family hub" for childcare and fitness programs.

The awards encourage employers to do more to attract and keep good staff. Why not apply this directly to workers?

Deligiannis agrees: "Rewards don't have to be about money. Studies show that the satisfaction gained from the job is a greater motivator. Positive feedback and praise ... go a long way."

Findings also indicate communication and culture are vital to keep employees feeling valued. Employers who provide regular communication and invite suggestions and feedback help create a culture of inclusion and stability. "People not only like to feel valued, they also like to feel they belong," Deligiannis says.

"This 'culture fit' enables an employee to fulfil their potential, comfortable in the knowledge that they fully understand what is expected of them."

Useful Websites

■DEEWR National Work-Life Balance Awards, Employer case studies on attracting and retaining staff.
■Business Victoria, Sections on motivating staff, plus induction and development plans.
■NSW government, Information on recruitment, training and work-life balance.
■Fairwork Ombudsman, Guides on work, family, consultation, co-operation and flexibility.

Published: 19 March 2011

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