Staff retention

Are you doing enough to hang on to your workers?

Image credit: Jakub Jirsák/Dreamstime

Engineering will be key to the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery, but competition for staff means businesses will have to work hard to retain their staff.

Staff retention is one of the biggest concerns for businesses across the UK in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as demand for workers continues to hit new records. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 1,172,000 vacant jobs in the UK between August and October 2021.

The competition for labour created by this increased demand means that employees are likely to switch jobs to pursue new opportunities that their current company doesn’t offer. According to a survey by recruitment firm Randstad UK, 24 per cent of workers are planning to change their employer in the next few months.

As the UK pursues its ambition to 'build back better’, construction and engineering will play a key part in economic recovery, with roles in the oil, gas and renewables sector being pivotal. In a competitive arena, however, businesses may struggle to retain even their most loyal staff.

What is the true impact of poor staff retention? And why are regular training and effective motivation key to navigating your engineering business through the worker shortfall?

A staff resignation is always disappointing. While we can be happy that individuals will find new opportunities, the impact of their departure can extend well beyond their last day. Financially, retaining staff for as long as possible is essential - according to research by Oxford Economics and Unum, workers earning £25,000 or more per year cost businesses an average of £30,614 to replace. Losing four employees in a year can cost over £120,000.

The majority of these costs are associated with onboarding, training and reduced productivity of new staff. It’s money that could have been invested in the training and development of existing staff to ensure that they remain a valuable part of the business.

Employees want to learn, and most want to do it for their company’s benefit. According to SurveyMonkey, 86 per cent of workers say that job training is important to them. The motivation to develop skills is the improvement of productivity and morale. Fifty-nine per cent of workers say that it would improve their job performance and 51 per cent believe it would give them more self-confidence too.

These statistics prove that staff value their work and want to continually improve in their occupation. For already skilled workers, additional training can help their development and lead to increased loyalty.

Engineering is one sector that particularly values education and training, with vocational qualifications meaning that staff can continually add skills and competencies to their long list of qualities. Boosting skills, whether it’s the operation of bolt tensioners in construction and engineering or team-building activities, can help retain staff. Even then, soft skills are essential for promoting collaboration and a positive working culture.

In a LinkedIn survey of 2,000 business leaders, 57 per cent said that soft skills were essential to staff development. Improving the employee experience should also be a priority, with growth opportunities being identified as the way to achieve this.

Together, training and skills development is helping to retain engineering staff. A LinkedIn learning report found that 94 per cent of employees would stay with a company longer if it invested in their career development. Giving engineers access to development means they won’t look elsewhere for the same opportunity.

When looking for jobs, 72 per cent of workers say that corporate culture affects their decision to work at a company. For those leaving a job, 32 per cent also cited company culture as the reason.

The key to boosting motivation for work is culture, and it can be an easy fix. For many engineers, working from home wasn’t achievable given the nature of work. But flexibility in other aspects should always be considered, and workers now expect businesses to offer it as standard. 88 per cent of workers want flexibility in working hours and location. Employees are now prioritising family and lifestyles over difficult working environments - and after the past year, who can blame them? Engineers may appreciate training sabbaticals or work hours that fit their individual needs.

However, motivation to work can also come from professional outcomes. Prioritising outcome over output is preferable for 86 per cent of workers, meaning that engineers may have more motivation to work when they recognise the impact of what they deliver for a business.

In essence, flexibility and how work is measured should be changed to maintain staff motivation. Prioritising how your staff feel will inevitably help retain their loyalty and effort.

Retaining employees in the engineering sector is becoming difficult in the working landscape. While the impact of resignation can be damaging for businesses, through training and rethinking how to motivate staff, a company in construction and engineering can succeed in maintaining the skills and loyalty of its very best workers.

Joanne O’Donnell is HR manager at HTL Group.

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