Firms pay a high price when they lose staff

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am

In a competitive hiring market, recruiting high-calibre staff is only half the battle; sustaining a working environment where they want to remain and progress is another.

According to Andrew Morris, Robert Half International's managing director of Greater China, it can take up to two years to replace an individual who has been with a company for just a few years. 'There is a high price to turnover, both in terms of losing skills and institutional knowledge, as well as the time, effort and resources required to replace employees,' he says.

With the latest Robert Half Workplace Survey revealing that nine in 10 Hong Kong employers in the accounting and finance sectors are concerned about losing top performers, Morris believes there are simple steps companies can take to boost retention.

'Offering competitive pay and setting realistic bonus expectations is one approach, but there is so much more that companies can do to boost company loyalty without creating a huge cost burden,' Morris says. 'Recognition - even a simple thank you from a peer or a card or an e-mail to say someone has done a good job - can go a long way in making a person feel appreciated.'

The recruitment specialist says it's critical for managers and heads of departments to regularly make time to discuss performance with their staff. 'People need positive feedback and feedback on areas where they can improve,' Morris says. 'The percentage of people who leave their employers because they feel unappreciated is enormous.'

Career development and training are other areas where Morris feels companies have an excellent opportunity to engage staff. 'Open transparency and clear communication concerning career development is vital,' he says. 'Showing individuals they are valued is good for both employee and employer.'

Morris, however, cautions that companies should ensure they have the right training schemes in place and structure career development in a way that allows the organisation to deliver on its promise.

With work-life balance becoming more of an issue, Morris suggests companies look to non-financial means of rewarding their staff - such as extra days of annual leave after serving a certain number of years. Constant performers who work long hours, meanwhile, could be rewarded with an early finish once a month.

'There is no one method guaranteed to ensure employee retention. It is up to companies and managers to find a combination that works for them,' he says. 'One thing we do know from our surveys is companies that retain a happy workforce also post better performance figures.'