The importance of retaining productive staff and the business dangers of high turnover are well documented – but retaining your best brokers and your most effective administration staff may require different strategies
MOST PEOPLE like to think they’re easy to work with, and that other people enjoy working with them. Yet when discussing workplace movements and staff flow, it is common to hear the phrase: ‘great people join companies, but leave bad managers’.
In other words, a great company, brand or workplace proposition may not be enough to retain its strongest performers if they feel they’re being mismanaged or that they’re underappreciated.
According to Duncan Mathison, managing director of executive coaching for DBM, a human capital management firm, the most commonly cited reason for employees leaving companies is unhappiness with their manager.
“Good leadership makes a huge difference, not only in retention but in overall company performance,” he says.
Beyond making the day-to-day running of your business easier, good staff retention can also give you a significant point of difference.
“Your staff are your competitive advantage and they’re the only thing your competitor can’t replicate,” says HR Gurus’ Emily Jaksch, author of What is HR? The Answer Made Simple. “It is very important to retain your high performers because they’re the ones who give you that competitive advantage.”
Making sure staff know they’re appreciated and valued is more than just telling your staff; you also need to show them.
Fortunately, there are several strategies and tactics you can use to improve your staff retention, and according to Ms Jaksch, staff retention need not be an expensive exercise.
Having an effective and efficient administration staff member can greatly benefit your business – and the customer experience. Losing, and then having to replace them, however, can be a costly exercise.
Indeed, the process could cost you an amount equivalent to the former employee’s entire salary, according to Ms Jaksch.
“Research tells us that it costs, on average, the entire person’s salary,” she says. “So, if you’ve got a person who’s on $60,000 a year and you lose that person, it’s ultimately going to cost you $60,000 extra [to replace them].”
This expense builds up due to the cost of recruitment and the hours that you or other staff members are out of your business during the process.
There are then the costs of training a new staff member and the associated time required.
“The list goes on and on,” says Ms Jaksch. “In smaller SMEs, when people are really good, they are often the only ones who know how to do a particular job.
“You might also lose the relationships that they have with your clients, not to mention the impact it has on the staff who are left behind. They often have to pick up the slack of the person leaving. It can put really horrible pressure on everybody and, ultimately, lead to more turnover.”
REWARDS AND RETENTION
There is a prevailing misconception that staff retention is intrinsically linked to increasing salaries and increasing expenses, but Ms Jaksch says this is not the case.
Sam Ayliffe, director of FYI Group, says when it comes to retaining administration staff, flexibility is key.
“They work hard,” he says. “We have set hours at the office but we also understand that they have their own personal lives as well.
“If they’ve got appointments, or something to do with one of their children, it’s good to be in a nice environment where you know it won’t be problematic. You don’t want your workplace to feel militant and inflexible.”
Mr Ayliffe says flexibility can also have mutual benefits both for staff and employer.
If a staff member has to work from home, FYI Group will assist with internet costs, which reduces the burden on the employee. It also means staff can work in situations where they may otherwise have not made it into the office, which helps the company’s productivity.
Ms Jaksch adds that it’s important to keep administration staff challenged and engaged.
“Give them opportunities to learn new things,” she says. “Don’t pigeonhole them. Administration and assistant staff are often the ones who are the jack of all trades.
“So it’s about recognising and rewarding that and giving them development opportunities.”
Actions such as sending staff to seminars, offering them a mentor in the form of a more senior staff member and giving them opportunities in terms of promotions and progression within the company can make a big difference.
It’s important not to overlook your administration staff, Ms Jaksch emphasises.
There are several other strategies that can promote a positive environment in the workplace and reduce turnover. Examples include allowing people to go home early on Fridays if they have finished all their work; giving staff the day off on their birthday; having casual dress days; and periodically having a staff lunch or barbeque.
“There are some really small things which tell your staff that they’re valued and that they’re important,” Ms Jaksch says. “A lot of smaller businesses in particular forget to do those things and they think that they can’t afford these things, but they can.”
KEEPING YOUR BEST BROKERS
Mr Ayliffe says that keeping your best administration staff and your top brokers requires different approaches and strategies.
First and foremost, brokers need good commission splits.
“We believe that the talent always has to get the lion’s share,” Mr Ayliffe says, “so the broker who writes the loan gets the bulk of the commission.”
On top of this, brokers need good support. According to Mr Ayliffe, if you can retain your top performing administration staff, this will also help broker retention.
“It’s important to help your brokers with the right support. They need access to the directors, but also access to the administration staff to help them work their files through to settlement, so they can focus on meeting the clients and have the confidence that the back office is going to get it done.”
The ability to holistically service a client’s financial needs can also help with a company’s broker retention. This, Mr Ayliffe says, is not about forcing your brokers to learn new skills, but providing them with extra resources.
“The other important thing for brokers is that you provide them access to further look after their clients by giving them access to a financial planning department with specialised, experienced people,” he says. “It’s not about wearing them too thin and making them wear all the hats.”
Mr Ayliffe adds that a diversified business offering will enable brokers to earn more money through referral commissions.
“We also have a property division, so they can make some remuneration on referring sales leads and property management,” he says.
He echoes Ms Jaksch’s sentiments and says that with all staff, it’s important that they feel they’re a part of something. Brokers should not be forgotten in this equation.
“Brokers should feel like they’re a part of something – not just operating out of the boot of a car,” Mr Ayliffe says. “It’s important to give brokers an office to come to so they feel like they can come here and be part of the firm.”
This then translates into customer involvement and satisfaction, because they too feel as if they’re part of a cohesive company.
Most importantly, he says, people need to enjoy where they work.
“We’re retaining staff because we’re a fun office,” says Mr Ayliffe. “People enjoy coming to the office. We do things together every few months, whether it be a barbeque or something fun over Christmas.”
FYI Group, he says, has surrounded itself with like-minded people and has reduced conflict by ensuring everyone clearly understands their role within the company.
“It’s very important that everyone has very clear definitions of their roles, so they know what they are and they’re not stepping on the toes of others. It also ensures everyone knows where they complement each other and the whole process flows.”
Ms Jaksch says that people perform more effectively in a positive place: “Having a strong, positive culture is vital to your success”.
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