While the terms of Brexit are still unknown, it’s already having an effect on retention in UK businesses. The solution? A great employee appreciation strategy.

A recent survey by Alexander Mann Solutions found that retention is the No. 1 concern of 23% of HR leaders in the UK. And while the same survey found that only 9% rated Brexit as their key concern, Jeremy Tipper, the Director of Consulting and Innovation for Alexander Mann made the following connection:

“There is an unquestionable link between Brexit and the acute focus on talent. Many UK employers are heavily reliant on talent from the European Union and further afield. If access to this talent becomes more difficult, if not impossible, keeping the talent you have will become even more vital to the success of UK employers.”

And while we don’t yet know what Brexit will mean for UK businesses, it’s clear that many employees aren’t sticking around to find out: the NHS has reported that 10,000 EU professionals have left since the vote last year. A Deloitte survey in June found that a third of non-British workers (both EU and non-EU) were considering leaving within the next five years, creating 1.2 million jobs vacancies, and that 48% of migrant workers see the country as less attractive as a result of Brexit.

So how can businesses – and HR leaders in particular – respond? Let’s go back to what Jeremy Tipper says:

“Keeping the talent you have will become even more vital to the success of UK employers.”

There are all kinds of reasons why it’s important to retain top staff: institutional knowledge is kept inside the organisation, operating processes aren’t disrupted, teams work better together and – perhaps the kicker – employee churn may cost as much as 1.5 – 2 x the annual salary of the full-time employee.

So here’s how to implement a retention strategy to help keep your best people inside your organisation, Brexit or not:

To improve retention, focus on appreciation

While words like ‘engagement’ and ‘workplace culture’ can seem buzzy, getting them right can have a real impact on a raft of success metrics, including profitability, productivity, retention, quality and customer ratings, absenteeism and even safety outcomes.

One major strand of workplace engagement is appreciation. A survey of over 12,000 employees found that those who felt appreciated stayed in their roles an average of 3.7 years longer than those who felt unappreciated – a dramatic impact for something as apparently simple as telling people they’ve done a good job.

Start with quick fixes

There are all kinds of simple ways to recognise employees for their contribution – here are just a few ideas:

  •   Verbal or written recognition of a job well done
  •   Team celebrations (lunches, shortened days, events)
  •   Involving team members in important decisions
  •   Encourage (and act on) feedback
  •   Investing in upskilling

A lot of the day-to-day appreciation tactics are in the hands of managers, but HR departments can support this by demonstrating to management the far-reaching value of making teams feel appreciated.

Re-structure your systems to show employees they matter

Where HR departments can really influence retention is in facilitating processes and building a positive workplace culture recognising the needs of employees beyond their working lives. For example:

  •   Flexible hours
  •   Working from home options
  •   The ability to purchase annual leave or take unpaid leave
  •   Wellness programmes
  •   Perks and discounts
  •   Awards and formal recognition schemes

Other structural ways to show appreciation include moving towards a more decentralised management structure that encourages employees to feel like they have a stake in business outcomes, communication around business goals, decisions and wins.

The key here is in recognising that different employees have different needs, goals and responsibilities – these may be influenced by gender, family, age, career path, and – in the case of EU workers – legal requirements.

Keep salary competitive, but don’t forget leave

Money talks, and a pay-raise will go a long way towards helping people feeling appreciated. A Glassdoor survey found that a 10% raise in base pay increases the likelihood of employees staying in the company for their next role by 1.5% – a statistically significant effect.

However, there’s research out there that suggests that more time off makes people happier than a bigger salary. Millennials – fast becoming the biggest generation in the workforce – are driving the agenda when it comes what they want from their work life: flexibility, purpose and self-determination.

Retention and appreciation: Quick-hit statistics

  •      1/3 of migrant workers in the UK are considering leaving in the next 5 years
  •      Losing an employee could cost businesses up to twice their annual salary
  •      That those who feel appreciated at work stay in their roles an average of 3.7 years longer than those who don’t
  •      A 10% pay-raise increases the probability that someone will stay within the company for their next role by 1.5%.

We don’t yet know whether EU employees will be required to leave the UK, but it’s clear that many are already leaving through choice – meaning that there is something that employers can do to encourage them to stay.

Brexit Churn Is Here: How to Convince Your Non-Uk Workforce to Stay - pic-1.jpg

From Danielle Mizrachi

Danielle is a Marketing Manager at Hibob. She studied Business and Psychology and believes in the power of utilising behavioral insights to form great companies. She enjoys discovering what the future of work might look like, listening to podcasts, traveling, and hiking.