How to retain staff and avoid talent shortages

by Sally Martin, Director of Resourcing


In spite of economic and political uncertainty created by Brexit and the US election, many markets across the world experienced strong economic growth and increased hiring activity in 2016. In fact, our latest research shows that 83% of hiring managers were affected by talent shortages in 2016. 

With this continuing in 2017, we predict a number of markets will continue to be affected by talent shortages, putting more emphasis than ever on the retention of existing staff. Based on our research and findings from the 2017 Global Salary Survey, we’ve outlined our top tips to ensure you retain your best talent, in a highly competitive hiring landscape.

Offer clear career progression

In candidate short markets such as Japan, we’re seeing increasing demand from professionals for non-financial benefits such as structured career progression. Have regular meetings and review sessions with your staff, and ensure you are clear about KPIs and progression paths. Ambiguity can leave people frustrated and keen to move elsewhere in order to progress to the next level. Ensure you retain key staff by offering good career progression opportunities and through giving regular feedback on what staff need to do to move up the ladder. 

Don’t put off hiring

With over 80% of employers in Belgium and Ireland saying they were affected by talent shortages in 2016, this is a trend we expect to continue throughout 2017. For markets experiencing high attrition rates, our advice is to ensure extreme workloads don’t get pushed on to existing team members. There is a difference between upskilling, and overloading people with extra work to bridge skills gaps, and it’s important to identify which members of staff are happy to take on more responsibility. Forcing an increased workload onto those who don’t want it, can lead to further talent shortages, which could leave you struggling to fill client demands. 

If you need to fill a position, start looking as soon as possible - it can often take longer than anticipated to find the right fit for a role.

Focus on upskilling 

A good way of counteracting talent shortages is to focus on getting more out of your existing employees. Providing staff with opportunities for further training or the chance to take on new responsibilities, is a valuable retention strategy and can prevent the emergence of skills shortages if staff do leave. Many employees relish development opportunities so this can have the added effect of increasing loyalty amongst your staff.

Communication is key

It may sound simple, but something you can never do enough is to actually communicate with your staff. Ensure employees have regular catch-ups with management so you are up to speed with any concerns they may have. You could also ask staff to take part in employee surveys. This can be a great way for people to air issues privately and for you as an employer to get a feel for the general mood in the office. Discovering issues that may be causing frustration amongst your team could be an important preventative measure towards retaining those who are on the cusp of making a move. 

Counter with more than just cash

What steps can you take to prevent a staff member from leaving who has been offered a position elsewhere? 65% of employers tell us that they have given counter offers of cash in order to retain staff. While it can be tempting to throw money at the situation, our research shows that 40% of professionals who were offered a cash only counter offer, go on to restart their job search within a year. Remember, staff who are thinking of leaving your organisation may be doing so for reasons other than remuneration. Offering additional benefits like flexi-time, clear career progression or more autonomy in their role can ensure that people stay with the company for longer.

Work perks and additional benefits can make a huge difference

We’ve all heard of the types of perks staff receive at Silicon Valley’s large tech companies. Google has a dry cleaning service and an onsite gym. At Facebook you can enjoy free food all day and have your holiday snaps processed. While these perks may seem overly generous they are fast becoming the norm as companies compete for the best talent. If you’re not already doing so, consider introducing initiatives such as free breakfasts or subsidised gym memberships. In the long run, the return in terms of employee satisfaction and commitment will far outweigh the financial costs.

For more hiring advice phone your local Robert Walters office or download our whitepaper on Recruiting Professionals in a Candidate Short Market.