We find ourselves heading into winter with further fears of another Covid wave, a rising cost of living, and yet, our employment statistics are a silver lining to the black clouds. The number of people in Jersey who are actively seeking work, is almost back down to pre-pandemic levels, and lower than in 2017 and beyond. This is despite the 9% contraction in our economy during 2020.
High employment levels however, bring their own challenges. There are some sectors which are really struggling to find staff, and even those which have relatively good levels, are finding it difficult to retain great people. We are in a seller’s market and finding employees is proving a real challenge. This isn’t just as a result of Brexit and Covid and the issues around borders and movement. Many have realised that remote working opens up a whole new world of opportunities and intend to start pursuing them. You only need to look at the steep rise in prices of houses at the far end of the London commuter lines in the UK, to see what people are planning for their futures.
I’d argue that never before has the challenge of attracting and – most especially – retaining staff been higher on the list of priorities. It’s easy to recognise the issue, but how do you improve your employer brand, achieve low attrition, stability, plan for succession and compete with everyone else who is doing just that?
What should you be doing to attract and retain staff today?
The last few decades have seen the playing field level; salaries are competitive, career opportunities and support for training and development are a given, flexible working – how things have changed – now much more widely accepted and expected, well-being high up the agenda and green credentials covered.
If I told you that just one thing can transform your business and make you up to between 147% and 202% more profitable (depending on the research) you’d probably want to know more. The fact is that there are few things that really fill me with enthusiasm and one of them is the truth behind the statistics - employee engagement. So simple I feel I’m stating the obvious but here’s another statistic – whilst 85% of leaders say it’s a priority, less than a third actually make it one.
How to attract and retain good staff
Employee engagement comes from the top and if we’re being really honest, perhaps that’s the problem. Many become managers, directors and CEO’s because of technical ability and possibly longevity in a business and quite often, that whole journey upwards hasn’t given much focus to the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills that are what counts when it comes to real leadership. Employee engagement is built on letting people know they matter, that they’re valued and that takes meaningful, authentic, honest and open communication - not necessarily the skills that come naturally to all of us.
The key to success is - and always will be - looking after your people. You are only ever going to be as good as your team. I don’t just mean ticking all the boxes, I mean genuinely and authentically walking the talk. We are people, we are all about relationships, we gravitate towards what makes us feel good about ourselves and we invest in things that are worth our time and effort. We thrive on good leadership, and we know when behaviours are disingenuous. We also, allegedly, make 70% of our decisions with our hearts, not our heads.
Whatever promises companies make, it’s their people who keep those promises. They know that, they want their employer to know they know that, and they want to know that it’s appreciated. That is the difference between success and failure. Failing to understand the importance of company culture is the reason for so many failures, most notably in the world of mergers and acquisitions but just as significantly in the world of the employee proposition – and employee brand.
What the third of companies that get this right know is that the conversations in the St Helier taxi queues, in gym changing rooms and at dining tables across the Island are critical. If those conversations are about being proud and fulfilled working for your brand, then they’ll create the kind of career envy that you know will attract new talent, while also keeping your existing staff happy.
How do I encourage staff loyalty?
- Act with integrity and authenticity.
- Mutual trust is a must and established through consistent, transparent inclusive dialogue. Engage fully and give everyone a voice, safely and without judgement.
- Listen and learn from those around you at all levels. Don’t just hear what you want to hear. This can be painful. If it isn’t there is a chance people aren’t comfortable about speaking freely. The information you gain will give you a unique opportunity to make good decisions.
- Engage in ways that adapt to the audience and demographic. This could be remote and online or face-to-face. Equally remain open to adapting, where possible, the ways of working.
- Keep your promises; deliver them and never over promise. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Keep diversity and inclusion in mind, especially where they relate to opportunities and privileges.
All of the above will help you to understand the landscape and the communications environment you are in and what can be done to improve it. And do this with people, not to them. You are in this together and need their support. You are not a leader if no-one wants to follow you.
If you are still managing your staff manually, talk to us about HR software which can free up your time and improve your efficiency and informed decision making. For further information.