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Michael Haddon is founder & CEO of business management software provider Kradle.  He is passionate about revolutionising business process (BPM) and data management, set to help UK businesses address challenges relating to accountability, consistency and productivity.  Michael is multi-lingual, well-travelled, highly educated and has extensive business management and digital industry experience.

I recently read two interesting articles on the struggles of holding onto top industry talent. The first described how, in his first year of Presidency, Donald Trump had recorded the highest level of turnover in senior staff in the history of the White House. The second commented on a new report which found that two thirds of UK SMEs experience recruitment and retention difficulties.

The small business story surprised me most. We have all known for some time now that the White House is passing through an incredibly turbulent phase, but the admission that such a high volume of SMEs are facing recruitment and turnover issues is a worrying sign. It suggests that when it comes to talent retention, basic process may not be being implemented.

The real cost of losing talent
For any business leader, losing talent is a natural cause for concern. It prevents consistency, impacts momentum and can ultimately prove costly – especially when you consider that lost employees cost SMEs close to £30,000 on average to replace. This estimate does not take into consideration the loss of knowledge. The loss of an experienced employee can increase to five times their annual salary if they are important to the organisation.

When it comes to employee retention, SMEs are at a natural disadvantage to larger organisations. They often do not have the resources or established infrastructure in place when it comes to HR. Today’s job-seekers’ market highlights the growing expectations from employees around engagement and job satisfaction, but what are the core elements that businesses with limited time and resources should focus on to satisfy these expectations?

The answer to this lies in going back to basics.

Remember: first impressions count for everything
It has never been more critical to make the right first impression and ensure every employee gets the best possible start when they join an organisation. A comprehensive onboarding process is an essential first step.

The onboarding process is all too often rushed, with recruits left to their own devices, expected to read manuals about the company rather than be educated on working culture or company nuances. Absence of introductions to key stakeholders or thorough briefing on expectations have become a common occurrence. Applying structure and rigour to the process means that new hires can feel more confident right from the get-go, have a clear sense of their purpose within the organisation and are able to be productive sooner.

Encourage growth and development
To encourage job satisfaction following the onboarding process, a detailed and mutually-acceptable development plan should be put in place for every staff member, to ensure they feel confident about reaching professional and personal goals they are striving for.

Regular review meetings are an important step. They allow for milestones to be set and development to be tracked and so that employees are held accountable, have a strong sense of stability through clear direction and feel valued by their managers. This is particularly important for millennials, who account for a significant percentage of the workforce and expect greater frequency of managerial check-ins than their predecessors.

Going back to basics
These are just a few essential steps that employers must consider if they wish to retain and get the most from top industry talent. The estimated two thirds of UK SMEs facing turnover issues may not be addressing the essentials.

Companies facing growth and scale-up challenges must take time to ensure that correct processes are in place to effectively onboard and nurture recruits. Processes remain muddled-through on paper or are spreadsheet-based (if there is a process at all), because HR systems are typically expensive and do not necessarily meet the diverse needs of individual businesses.

Applying new ways of thinking to solve an old issue

HR in the digital age sees the days of capturing important information ‘long hand’ or within an array of Word Documents numbered. A smarter approach places digital workflows behind all business operations. Whether creating a thorough onboarding programme or building a personal development plan, a set of clear, step-by-step processes should be mapped out and tracked digitally.

Set process should be woven into the heart of business operations to ensure structure, consistency and rigour. Businesses can then use data from and about staff, assess performance, improve workflows when problems are identified, and avoid bottlenecks. The good news is that relevant solutions are now affordable to SMEs.

Though this approach may not fix White House staff turnover (a far more complex matter), it enables SMEs to tackle staff retention in an organised manner and safeguard precious talent – an organisation’s most valuable resource.

Michael Haddon, CEO, Kradle Software