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Employee retention refers to a business’ ability to keep talented employees at the company, and subsequently reduce employee turnover.
With the cost of replacing an employee being so high (in terms of money, morale, time and the reputation of your organisation), it is crucial for business leaders to focus their efforts on employee retention, especially at graduate level.
It's often assumed that graduates don’t tend to stay in their first jobs for long, and yet many businesses will fail to address the reasons why a hire leaves so soon, or take the necessary measures to ensure that they stay.
Luckily, making employees fall in love with your business isn’t as difficult as you might think. By following a few simple steps, you can build strong and lasting relationships with your employees at the beginning of their careers - ensuring that they'll want to stick around for the long haul.
High employee turnover can not only be financially costly but can also have a negative impact on company morale, damage a business’ reputation, and prevent top graduate talent becoming an asset to the business.
A high retention rate is a major selling point for candidates, because it indicates that current employees are engaged, happy and passionate about what the business is doing.
That’s why taking steps to retain employees, or more specifically, graduates who are still in the early stages of their career, will be beneficial to your company in the long run.
Effective retention is an extension of the initial employee recruitment and onboarding processes - and much of it centres around giving your hires the structure and tools they need to succeed, both in the short-term and the long-term.
Starting in the months prior to probation, and continuing throughout their first 6 months, 9 months, 1 year and beyond, successful graduate and employee retention should be a priority for every employer.
If you have already onboarded employees effectively, the process of keeping them at your firm centres around giving them the structure and tools they need to succeed in their job, both in the short term and the long term. Here’s how to do it:
What your new hires really need from you right from the outset is structure, clear objectives for progression and a support network. Cast your mind back to when you started your current role and consider the little things that would have made a difference to your new job experience.
Have an open discussion about how their career is going so far and how they would like it to develop. During this conversation, outline the ways you think you see their role developing, putting clear strategies in place to facilitate their progression, and discuss the responsibilities they will be able to take on in due course.
This will not only demonstrate to new employees that you value them, but will also provide clear goals to work towards that will ensure their commitment to the role stays that wayand can only be beneficial to your business in the long-term.
In the probation period continue to organise regular catch ups (at least monthly). In these catch ups, encourage them to speak out about any problems or worries they may have, making it clear that this is the best time to address any concerns.
In their probation review, provide honest and open feedback, explore any concerns they have, and agree upon an action plan moving forward, that includes clear and attainable quarterly goals. When their probation period ends, and if they have passed - make them feel great about it! If it’s viable, offer a small pay rise, an induction into the company healthcare plan or work perks scheme.
Ask your hire about their experience at your company so far - and use their feedback to define and shape your wider employee retention strategy.
An easy (and yet often overlooked) way to sustain a great relationship is to always show support for your employees - and this is something that can be demonstrated in a few different ways.
You might already have set up an official mentoring scheme at your company, in which case you’ll have helped your hires to feel at ease in their new role by giving them someone to confide in, particularly for the first 6 months.
If you haven't set this up yet, make sure you organise ongoing support. Whether this be from a supervisor, a line manager or someone in the HR team, demonstrate your concern for their wellbeing, something that will go a long way towards ensuring that they are happy in their role.
You might also like to show your support by giving regular and constructive feedback to your employees, clarifying what is going well and what could be improved. Structured quarterly reviews are a great way to measure achievement and address any concerns, and will confirm that you are absolutely committed to their professional development.
When employees are ready and settled in their role, focus on giving them real autonomy in their work. Set them both short and long-term projects that will challenge and stimulate them for an extended period of time.
Gaining a sense of ownership over tasks, and having the trust of their employer, will make them feel valued in the company, and ultimately more likely to stay at your company for longer.
Fuel their growth and career development by arranging a catch up at the 9-month mark to discuss the next logical step in their role - and work out between you exactly what they need to do to get there.
Who doesn’t love a treat? It's important to remember that giving your employees the recognition they deserve, e.g. offering small but frequent perks in the workplace, will send a powerful message to your hires about how much they are valued and appreciated at your company.
Though you should never give praise for the sake of doing so, if an employee has done something particularly well make sure to recognise their great work - it will keep them feeling inspired and motivated to perform well.
These perks don’t have to be costly to be hugely significant, whether it be a passing comment in a meeting, an 'Employee of the Month' award, team socials, subsidised gym membership, breakfast once a week or something like a late start/ early finish one day, or 'dress-down Friday'. Find more ideas for small guestures and ways to be a good manager.
Treating your employees right will remind them just how great your company is - and a small surprise can go a long way to boosting team morale. In fact, perks that might seem insignificant now may well have a marked impact on your long-term retention rates.
Continue to provide training opportunities, make it clear you are supporting and investing in their learning and personal and professional development. Now that they are so familiar with the business and what the role involves, ask what tools they think they need to grow further.
Ensure that they are still being challenged and engaged, offer the chance to gain a qualification, attend a course or if budgets are an issue, why not give them the opportunity to learn a new skill alongside more senior employees.
In terms of graduate recruitment, contrary to popular belief, salary is not (and has not been for a while) the most important thing for graduates in the early stages of their careers. Professional development and growth opportunities both rank before salary on graduate's list of ‘what is most important in a job’ (2019 graduate employment statistics)
If you're hiring graduates, they will be ambitious and looking for professional development and a visible career path, so it's important to let them know you’re committed from the start by discussing and setting out a clear path to success from the get-go.
The process of graduate recruitment doesn’t end once your new hire has started - in fact, keeping them at your company, and enabling them to thrive and develop in their role, should be high priority for every employer.
If you’re looking to keep your graduate hires around for the long-haul, take a look at your employee retention strategy - checking that your renumeration package matches up to similar companies, ensuring that your employees are always growing.
You should work towards an open and friendly office, offering great work perks and benefits, creating a culture of honest communication, and finally, providing them with training and development opportunities.
More and more companies are improving the flexibility of working hours for their graduate hires. With more and more graduates quitting work to go off travelling, many companies are now becoming more flexible about offering unpaid leave or work sabbaticals if an employee wants to take a break in their career.
Although there are many industries and job roles that this would not be appropriate for, it is a good idea to consider whether having a more flexible approach will help with employee retention in the long term.
Understand the importance of taking time of from work, and encourage your employees to take their holiday, particularly if they are a workaholic!
As well as following their pre-planned path to success, it’s vital for graduates to be taken outside of their comfort zone and frequently challenged in their role. Keep them on their toes with chances to learn brand new skills, travel and network.
This might mean sending them on a training course, encouraging your new hire to travel to attend a conference or visit the team in another office, work on a new project, or speak to key stakeholders and prestigious clients.
Varied and exciting opportunities such as these will ensure that your employees remain engaged and feel empowered in their role - and will go a long way towards making sure that they stay committed to the job and your company.
Building strong and long-lasting relationships with your new graduate hires is essential to retaining top talent - so follow these crucial steps to make sure that graduates fall in love with your business.
Within any business, there are a number of actionable practices and principles that will help to ensure high levels of employee retention, at graduate level and beyond.
Give A Grad A Go are the leading London recruitment agency. Working across a range of sectors, we specialise in graduate recruitment – helping those with up to 3 years’ work experience land jobs at some of the UK's most exciting companies.
Want more insight into the graduate market? Click to download our 2018 Graduate Jobs Report.