At a time when staff retention is firmly under the spotlight in Ireland’s retail industry, our Director of Grocery Retail Recruitment, Nikki Murran, analyses candidate feedback to give her thoughts on how to cultivate long-term employee loyalty.
I recently marked 10 years with Excel Recruitment, and I was amazed by how many people were surprised by this. The recruitment industry can be notorious for high staff turnover, but I always thought we were lucky as we have great staff retention.
But is it luck? Or is there a roadmap, a set of instructions other companies can mirror, which leads to the holy grail of staff longevity?
A hot topic amongst retailers in recent months has been staff retention. One of the most frustrating parts of being an employer or indeed manager is when you invest months in onboarding and training new people, only for them to move on within their first year. It often feels like time entirely wasted – you are only starting to get a return on your investment on the hours of training and they are gone! But why are they going?
Looking at feedback from candidates who have declared themselves “ready to move on” there are some interesting observations that might answer this:
Whilst most retailers indicate the one thing they are doing to retain their people is to increase their salary, it’s very often the last motivation cited by candidates looking for a move. Now don’t get me wrong – if someone feels they are undervalued or underpaid – it’s a top priority! But for the most part, retailers are paying their teams fairly to attract them in the first place. So, whilst salary increases may keep them from leaving – it won’t actually get them to stay if the other factors aren’t right.
Work-life balance is the number one reason candidates go to the trouble of typing out a CV. Since the pandemic there has been a huge shift toward finding a better work-life balance. I don’t think that’s news to anyone. Most of the larger retailers have reduced their management’s contracted hours and many candidates are actively seeking out roles with these businesses. But it’s not all about the contracted hours. Something as simple as a fair distribution of evening and weekend shifts can be one of the best tools to retain staff.
Flexibility is probably the perk we hear most from candidates who decline a job move. In fact, I’m sure it’s part of what got me to the 10-year mark with Excel! With small kids, mornings can be hectic – actually, anytime is hectic – but a little flexibility in my working week means I can balance interviews, meetings, bedtime stories, and school drop-offs. In a store setting, it definitely takes a bit more rota planning and tweaking – but I’m sure many would opt for this rather than doing yet another interview or induction!
The little things go a long way also. While candidates don’t explicitly say it – it’s the small things that add up and ultimately form the culture of the company. They say things like – “I like it here”, “I’m happy where I am”, or “It would take a lot to make me move”. These things don’t cost retailers a lot – it’s showing kindness and gratitude for work done. Small tokens for staff on certain days and staff lunches or parties don’t often seem like a big deal but for such small gestures, these things come up more often than you might think when we ask candidates to tell us about their current jobs.
Another subject that comes up time and again is the annual leave quota. I was surprised initially by the strength of this one, but I have had ever-increasing numbers of candidates turning down job offers as they didn’t want to lose their extra annual leave days. Often these extra days come with length of service. So many retailers don’t offer any additional days past statutory but take my word, the ones that do – have a better grip on their staff. When you think about it, it’s the ideal benefit, as you are giving those days to your most experienced people, the ones you really don’t want to lose. The more experienced and valuable they are – the more days they accrue – the harder it is to walk away from them! (and you!)
I was probably only with Excel for six months when I knew that this was somewhere I could stay long-term. I had gone to my CEO with an idea about a flyer and his nearly immediate response, was “if you think it’s a good idea, do it!” That sort of empowerment may seem unimportant, but to me it was pivotal. I felt valued. As the years have gone on and I’ve brought plenty more ideas his way (some better than others and some truly awful) I’ve always felt heard, I’ve always felt valued, and I’ve always felt like my opinion mattered. It’s hard to walk away from that.
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