With nearly 1-million jobs lost over the course of 2009 as a result of the global economic recession, many people opted to stay with their current employers, rather than seek alternative employment with the risk of losing that job to the "last-in, first-out" principle. Consequently, managers have not made staff retention a priority – which could work to their disadvantage as the economy turns.

Specialist consultant to Quest Staffing Solutions, Roland Witham, says: "As the economy slowly starts to recover, top performing employees will once again be faced with choice and thus managers would be wise to start planning ahead now to review and revise elements of their retention strategies."
Quest recently surveyed 200 call centre agents to determine the factors that can help to reduce staff turnover. What emerged was the need for companies to incorporate a number of elements into their retention strategies in order to build a high-performing organisation with loyal, motivated employees.
These included: correct job design to allow for independent decision making; work-life balance; a participative and competent management team; learning and development programmes; and personalisation of retention activities (such as rewards and recognition) to individual employees.
Witham says: "Although a certain level of attrition is needed at times in an organisation, such as when under-performing employees volunteer to leave, unnecessary staff turnover needs to be produced. Companies, therefore, need to design jobs that help employees to feel empowered and that they are making a valuable contribution to the organisation. In addition, managers need to communicate frequently with them, assess levels of job satisfaction and provide regular performance feedback."
The study also showed that the majority of people who leave their jobs do so within the first three to six moths of employment. In order to address this issue, companies need to explain the organisation’s vision and mission during the induction period so that the employee’s experience of the organisation is in congruence with their expectations.
In addition, agents in the study cited interpersonal problems with managers and/or colleagues as a major factor when considering exiting a company.
Witham comments: "In our experience, we have seen that employees can work in the exact same environment and perform identical work functions yet, have vastly differing experiences due to interpersonal issues. To counteract this, we would recommend that a participatory management style, which encourages employees to discuss their opinions about their working environment, be implemented.
"The costs of attrition exceed merely replacing lost employees – it also involves the time and effort that goes into induction and training and the resulting loss of return on investment. In addition, South Africa’s skills shortage makes attrition even more undesirable. Therefore, a good retention strategy is vital."