4 key retention strategies to ensure you don’t lose your best HR talent

Thanks to HR’s position on the frontline of so many of the seismic shifts that have hit the workplace in recent times – from hybrid working and the Great Resignation, to the cost of living crisis and now the challenge of ‘quiet quitting’ – life has never been more hectic for hard-pressed people teams everywhere.

Under such trying circumstances perhaps it’s not surprising that looking after the people who look after your people can sometimes take a back seat when it really shouldn’t. A recent survey of 200 UK HR managers showed that almost half (45%) had considered leaving their current roles due to the pressure of dealing with employee burnout and mental health concerns. Furthermore, 23% reported suffering compassion fatigue as a result of two years spent supporting struggling employees while not being adequately supported themselves.

Left unchecked, the consequences are not hard to predict – your top HR talent will start to leave, just at the point when you need them most. In fact, this may already be happening, data released by LinkedIn in June shows that the level of churn in HR roles globally was 15%, over one-third higher than the average and the highest turnover rate of any job function.

So what can you do to help keep them onboard? Here are some retention strategies to help you hang on to your HR team, and ensure that they are positive, engaged and ready to meet whatever fresh challenges the fast-changing world of work can throw at them:


  1. Prioritise the team’s wellbeing and mental health

HR people are programmed to look after other people, it’s the nature of the job. But that shouldn’t mean that they don’t get looked after themselves. Despite the progress made since the pandemic on sharing our personal lives with colleagues, admitting to mental health worries at work can still be taboo.

So, senior leaders need to be role models, who talk openly about the issues, use the company’s mental health support services (assuming there are some – if not, then that’s the first job on your to do list) and don’t expect their teams to work themselves to a frazzle at evenings and weekends. HR managers should also be briefed to engage with their teams and encourage them to prioritise their own wellbeing – because it’s hard to help someone else when you need help yourself.


  1. Create a joined up expression of your culture

The difference between the ‘external’ culture a company presents when it is looking to attract candidates and the ‘internal’ one that those candidates experience once they are hired can be stark. This is something that impacts HR people more than most, because they are immersed in both the external and internal view on a daily basis. If the contrast is too jarring, retention will always be an uphill struggle because disappointment will turn to demotivation and ultimately to departure.

So, try to present a joined up experience of your culture, one where attraction and retention are no longer seen as separate functions, but rather as conjoined parts of a single whole. As Personio’s Attraction Plus white paper reveals, talent attraction can benefit from internal input – such as feedback from hired candidates – just as talent retention can benefit from external input, like secondments to other organisations and peer feedback.


  1. Give your people the work they want to do

Job satisfaction is about feeling that you’ve done something worthwhile at the end of the day, but it’s hard to get that warm glow if you’ve spent eight hours filling in a spreadsheet or processing holiday applications. Personio’s HR Study 2022 white paper identified the burden of admin as a major brake on higher value HR activities (55% of HR managers said time spent on admin was getting in the way of more strategic work, and 19% said that too much admin and process was preventing HR from supporting business success).

Smart HR tech can help automate low-value admin and process tasks, digitising workflow and freeing up your team to apply their skills and experience where they can have the biggest impact. Berlin-based NGO Kiron cut the time spent on HR admin by 30% when it adopted Personio as the central hub for all its HR processes. More rewarding work leads to greater job satisfaction and higher retention rates. It’s a win-win!


  1. Keep on top of performance and development

A clear and well managed path for career development – and the performance support needed to follow it – has always been crucial when it comes to retaining talent. Never more so than in today’s tight market, where if you don’t manage performance and develop your people, they will vote with their feet and find an employer who will. The impact on retention is unarguable – research from LinkedIn shows that 94% of employees would stay longer at a company that invested in their development.

Nevertheless, Personio’s 2022 HR Study found that performance reviews are on the whole, neither fair nor frequent, with only 51% of employees saying their reviews were fair and a mere 39% saying they received regular performance feedback. A sobering 18% said they never received a review from their manager. Technology can help automate the review cycle, but it’s up to managers to have fair, transparent and regular performance conversations with their team, and to follow them up with tailored development plans for each individual.

With the cost of replacing a typical employee running at around £3,000 a head, improving retention makes sound commercial sense across every department. But keeping your HR team on board, engaged and productive is doubly vital – because they are the people who can help you hang on to all of your top talent, whatever department or function of the business they work in.


This article was culled from the September 2022 Edition of the People Management  Insight Magazine of  the CIPD, UK

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