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Retaining and engaging a changing workforce...

With the economy on the rise and the working environment becoming more and more competitive it can be difficult to engage and hold onto a workforce. With this is mind, Simon Birchall, managing director of a leading workforce management developer, timeware® (UK), explains the importance of understanding and listening to your employee’s needs, as well as implementing successful workforce management systems in order to engage and retain staff members.  

Keeping hold of the top talent is extremely important for any business and requires constant attention to ensure that staff members feel like they are valued and their needs taken into account. Employees are likely to stay with a company that they can engage with and that offers them the best opportunities to grow and develop their skills. In a competitive working environment, if an employee does not feel fulfilled in their role, or if another company comes along and offers them a position with better incentives, they may look to leave.

When trying to figure out why staff members may want to leave a company or how to ensure that talent is retained, it’s important to try and get to the root cause of any problems that exist. This can be achieved by engaging with staff members and surveying them on areas that they believe could be improved, or the possible reasons that may lead them to take a job elsewhere. It could be that employees have demanding schedules outside of work, such as childcare arrangements, and their job restricts their ability to carry out these responsibilities. Perhaps they are required to endure a stressful commute to get to work which leaves them feeling frustrated as soon as they start their day, and would be interested in a job that was closer to home. It could also come down to the fact that they don’t feel comfortable in their office environment or they don’t feel valued in their role.

After identifying the possible issues, there are a number of things that employers can do to retain talent and promote a healthy working environment.

Encourage a work/life balance
Most employees are likely to have other priorities outside of work, such as family commitments, and many will appreciate fluid work schedules that allow them to vary their work around certain obligations. In these circumstances, employers can offer opportunities to work flexibly. This may include schemes such as ‘flexi time’ which allow staff members to vary their work schedule and choose the hours they work, with a few hours a day being core hours – such as between 11:00am and 3:00pm.

With cloud computing and video messaging services such as Skype, staff members may also be able to work remotely from home as they can be in constant contact with colleagues and will have remote access to all of the files needed to complete their jobs. In the current digital age, this is unlikely to affect the company’s productivity, but in actual fact is more likely to improve an employee’s efficiency as they can work at a time that best suits them. Remote working can also end the long and expensive commutes that some employees may have been enduring.

Create a relaxed and sociable environment
When an employee is unhappy or becomes uninterested in their job, they may feel demotivated to go into work and this can result in a rise of absenteeism and lower attendance rates. Ultimately this will have a negative effect on the rest of the team who have to pick up their workload. Disengagement and low morale in the workplace can catch on very quickly with other workers, which in turn can result in further absenteeism and lower productivity. The attitudes and thoughts of employees can greatly affect the overall efficiency and morale of the rest of the team, so it’s important to ensure that all staff members are happy and comfortable in their role.

A relaxed and sociable working environment is usually a more positive and productive one. Staff members spend a lot of time working together so it’s important that everyone gets along and feels comfortable. Employers could introduce informal office days such as ‘Dress Down Fridays’ or social activities that encourage works to interact and build stronger relationships. Office arrangements could also boost communication by positioning workstations so that employees can see and talk to each other.

Offer rewards to employees for hard work
Encouraging and rewarding good performance is an effective way to get staff members motivated. Sometimes, employees may become disengaged with their job if they feel undervalued at work and think that their hard work goes unnoticed. It’s important for employers to communicate with their staff members to show that they care about their welfare and that they appreciate their time and dedication to the business. This can also be done by celebrating the achievements of staff members, such as promotions, with the rest of the team so that everyone can share the positive occasion and support each other.

Give power back to employees
In today’s working environment more and more businesses are opting to hand control back to the employee as a way of retaining staff members by offering more flexibility. Employees generally feel happier knowing that they have a greater control over their working lives and appreciate the trust and freedom. Employers can give back some control by using workforce management systems which allow workers to access information such as hours worked and rotas as well as request holidays without directly involving HR departments.

The timeware® ESS terminal, for example, is one of these systems available which allows employees to check their holiday entitlements, request leave up to three years in advance, view their scheduled rota and check the hours they’ve worked – and staff members can even email this information to themselves from the device. These facilities can also be accessed via a phone, tablet or computer when the employer cannot gain access to the terminal.

Creating and sustaining a happy working environment is extremely important when it comes to retaining staff members. Employees want to know they are being treated fairly and that the company is interested in looking after them, otherwise they could be tempted to look for employment elsewhere. The workforce is one of the main driving forces of any business, and if the staff aren’t being productive then it’s unlikely that the company will be.