How to Retain Good Team Members

Keeping Valued People Happy and Engaged

How to Retain Good Team Members - Keeping Valued People Happy and Engaged

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Don't let top talent slip through your fingers!

Do you manage a team of organized, reliable and hardworking people? And do you feel you can leave day-to-day tasks in their hands, while you focus on other things? What would happen if these valuable team members left your organization and found jobs elsewhere?

Your organization's success depends on retaining a skilled and talented team. However, it's all too easy to take people for granted, and it can often come as a surprise when someone decides to leave. Recruiting can be expensive, time consuming and stressful, so it's important to create an environment that people enjoy and where they can thrive.

In this article, we'll look at some of the reasons why people decide to leave their jobs. We'll explore the potential costs of losing team members, and some of the ways you can keep your people happy, motivated, engaged, and excited about coming to work.

Why People Leave Their Jobs

It's normal for people to change jobs during the course of their careers and, of course, to retire at the end of their working lives. Forty percent of the working people that participated in a survey by Randstad, an HR services provider, say that they're planning to look for a new job within the next six months. Technology has made it easier for people to do this – a survey carried out by recruiting agency Jobvite shows that 69 percent of the employees who took part are checking out new opportunities every day on social media.

So why do people want to leave their jobs? A study by business consultancy AchieveGlobal has identified that the top three reasons are:

  1. Lack of recognition for their achievements.
  2. Insufficient compensation and benefits.
  3. Infrequent growth and development opportunities.

The Cost of Employee Turnover

Losing a team member is more than just an inconvenience. Research by Acas, a U.K.-based employment advice bureau, reveals that the likely consequences of a high turnover of staff are:

  • The extra cost of advertising, recruitment and training.
  • Missed deadlines and interruptions to workflow.
  • Higher levels of stress-related absence.
  • Other team members becoming unsettled and leaving.
  • Damage to the organization's reputation.
  • Poor customer service.
  • Lower knowledge retention. (For more information on retaining knowledge within your organization, see our article, Succession Planning.)
  • Poor quality of production.
  • Damaged relationships.
  • Weaker financial performance by the organization.

From "Managing Attendance and Employee Turnover" Acas. ©2014. Reproduced with permission.

How to Increase Employee Retention

The key to retaining your employees is to increase their engagement. In their 2009 report, "Engaging For Success," David MacLeod and Nita Clarke reveal that engaged team members are 87 percent less likely to leave their organization.

To keep your people engaged in their work, David K. Williams and Mary Michelle Scott, of U.S. software developer Fishbowl, suggest that managers adopt the "5 Rs" of good workplace relationships. They are:

1. Responsibility. Individuals want opportunities to develop at work, so give them responsibilities that allow them to grow and gain new skills. Provide them with training and development courses and, when possible, hire from within and give promotions to those who've earned them.

2. Respect. People need to feel appreciated and respected so that they can fully engage in their work. This includes offering everyone equal opportunities and avoiding discrimination. Communicate and consult with your team members so that they feel that they have a voice. Managers who respect their people can develop strong, productive and loyal working relationships with them.

To learn more about working with different groups of people, see our articles, Mutual Respect, Managing Caregivers, and Managing an Aging Team.

3. Revenue-sharing. Sufficient compensation and benefits are an important contributor to how satisfied your team members feel. Williams and Scott recommend linking part of their salary with the organization's performance. This can motivate them to make a more personal investment in achieving the organization's goals.

4. Reward. Recognition for a job well done is important and can even mean the difference between someone staying or going. Where appropriate, recognize individuals in front of their colleagues, host office and departmental parties, run service awards, take people out for lunch, and write handwritten thank-you notes. If you can do things that let your team members know that you appreciate them, you can boost their morale and increase their desire to stay.

5. Relaxation Time. Everyone needs to relax and recharge, so provide appropriate time off for vacations and significant events like births and funerals. When possible, offer flexible working hours, reduced workweeks, working from home, part-time or temporary working, or job sharing. When people take sick leave, remind them not to return to work until they're well, and allow for phased returns after long absences to ensure people's long-term health and wellbeing. Creating a Healthy Workplace can help to increase your team members' happiness and productivity.

From "Five Ways to Retain Employees Forever" by David K.Williams and Mary Michelle Scott. © 2012. Reproduced with permission.


Be sure to focus on the specific factors that are causing high turnover in your team or organization. For example, if you work in a high-stress environment, you might need to find ways to make the workplace more fun.

Retain people by creating an open and honest culture where they're comfortable enough to share how they feel. Here are some additional ways you can promote this kind of environment:

  • Provide mentoring opportunities. Give your team members the opportunity to learn something new or to pass on their own expertise. This can help them to build relationships, grow in confidence, and learn more about your organization.
  • Offer work shadowing. Encourage your team members to take an interest in other parts of your organization by arranging work shadowing sessions. This provides them with a "taster" of what people in other departments do, and can even inspire them to think about different career paths within the organization.
  • Encourage people to give and receive honest feedback. Provide your team members with regular feedback sessions so that they can voice their opinions on issues that matter to them, as well as take on board those of other people.

Remember that everyone's different, and that what engages or retains one team member won't necessarily work for another. Get to know the members of your team and be flexible in your approach. Be aware that their wants and needs may change over time, so be open minded, and regularly review the ways that you engage and retain them.

Clues That People Want to Leave

Researchers Gardner and Hanks studied the results of three surveys that looked at the behaviors of people who wanted to leave their jobs. They found that team members who are likely to leave will often demonstrate the following behaviors:

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  • Declining productivity.
  • Reluctance to commit to long-term projects.
  • Becoming more reserved and quieter.
  • Losing interest in advancement.
  • Losing interest in pleasing their boss.
  • Avoiding social interaction with management.
  • Performing the minimum amount of work.
  • Reluctance to participate in training and development.


A common time for people to resign is within the first few weeks or months of a new role, if they've struggled to settle in or if it hasn't turned out to be what they were expecting.


To find out more about developing your team members so that they remain motivated to perform at their best, see our article on Talent Management.

What to Do When People Resign

It can be difficult to know exactly why people decide to leave. This is because they don't always provide their real reason, or perhaps they're not comfortable expressing criticisms of their manager, colleagues or the organization. There are several things you can do to learn more about why people want to leave, why they want to stay, and how they really feel about working with you. They are:

Retention interviews. Otherwise known as "stay interviews," these one-on-one meetings give you a chance to learn more about why individuals want to stay in your organization before they are tempted to leave. For more information on why people stay, see our article, Job Embeddedness.

Confidential attitude surveys or Employee Satisfaction Surveys. You can use these to find out how satisfied your team members are and whether they have any intention of leaving. They can also be sent to former employees shortly after their departure, or instead of or alongside an exit interview.

Exit interviews. These are often used to ask an individual about their reasons for leaving. HR organization CIPD suggests that the interview shouldn't be conducted by the person's manager, or by anyone who'll be involved in writing their references. Be sure to explain the purpose of the interview at the start and that confidentiality will be maintained.

Break down the exit interview into sections. Start by discussing the job advertisement and how well the person thought it matched thier role. Move on to the recruitment process, their induction, and their training. This can help you to identify the triggers for their disengagement.

You can use the information you've gathered during these activities to identify what makes people happy in your organization, what makes them want to leave, and what areas you can improve to encourage them to stay.

How to Keep People After They've Resigned

Unfortunately, this is difficult. Most HR experts agree that once you've discovered why your team member is leaving, there's not much you can do to change their mind. If they're unhappy, and you persuade them to stay with counter offers, they may disrupt the rest of the team and will likely resign again later. Mutual trust can be difficult to regain.

A better idea is to let them go gracefully and retain a good relationship. If you keep calm, thank them for their work, and wish them well, you may be able to recruit them again in the future.

Key Points

Members of your team may decide to leave their jobs for any number of reasons, including career advancement or retirement. For many people, however, it's a lack of recognition, opportunity or compensation that drives them to quit.

Losing team members can be costly. Advertising, recruitment and training can be expensive, and interruptions to workflow can be unsettling for their colleagues. This can affect your organization's financial performance and reputation.

Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to make sure that you retain the smart, resourceful and reliable people that you want to keep on your team. The "5 Rs" of workplace relationships – responsibility, respect, revenue sharing, reward, and relaxation time – can help you to maintain a happy, engaged, loyal, and productive workforce.

Recognizing the common behaviors of people that might want to leave can help you to pre-empt and perhaps prevent their departure. Having exit interviews and running surveys can help you to identify the root of their dissatisfaction and do something about it.

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