Many companies make the mistake of employing a person and then sitting back, content that their work is done, leaving the employee to their own devices. But engaging with the employee significantly increases staff retention in addition to having positive effects on revenue growth and productivity.

This was one of the conclusions drawn by Softline VIP when it faced its own staff retention challenges.

Anja Hartman-Weitz, HR director for Softline VIP, explains: “Staff costs comprise 54% of the company’s total revenue expenditure, which is quite an eye opener when you consider that around 30% of the employees at Softline VIP had less than two years of service at the time.”

Softline VIP conducted an internal survey in 2004 and found that only one-third of employees were truly loyal and planning to stay with Softline VIP, while another employees felt trapped in their positions or were looking for other opportunities outside the company.

“The results were quite startling and we had to find a way of engaging with our employees to reverse their opinion of the company,” says Hartman-Weitz.

Softline VIP launched a long-term programme that aimed to give employees a sense of accomplishment by providing necessary resources and showing care and concern for employees.  “We started the process by launching a recognition programme that rewarded employees for excellent work done. We also took a closer look at what our employees value in order to identify what drives them and what satisfies them in the work environment,” explains Hartman-Weitz.

As a result, the company invested in electronic equipment that was designed to make the work environment more efficient.  Softline VIP also embarked on initiatives that were aimed at instilling Softline VIP’s values and corporate culture in employees.  “The process was done from a ‘caring’ perspective, taking an interest in health and general matters such as highlighting breast cancer awareness month, financial tips and advice and recycling, to name a few,” says Hartman-Weitz.

Communication is the key, says Hartman-Weitz. “We made sure that every employee was aware of the organisational structure and the role that they play in it.  We provided each employee with a concise job description that highlights what Softline VIP, as an employer, expects from them and how they can achieve success,” she says.

Management training and development was also a focal point for the company. “Having a strong management team at the core of the process that is capable of leading the company on its journey is crucial to the success of it.”  The process involved employees giving feedback to managers in terms of their management style.  She says it was quite an insightful process that highlighted a few aspects that managers could focus on.

The internal Softline VIP employee survey was repeated three years down the line in 2007 with a dramatic change in opinion.  “A little over half of our employees were truly loyal and planning to stay with Softline VIP, which was a staggering improvement of 14%.  The number of employees who were not planning to stay with Softline VIP had reduced and the number of employees that felt trapped in their position had reduced by 16%.  We also showed consistent growth in profit during the three year period,” says Hartman-Weitz.

“It is, however, an on-going process that requires dedication and a steadfast goal to work towards,” says Hartman-Weitz.

Softline VIP was recently placed second in the medium category of the 2010 Deloitte’s “Best Company to work for Survey”.