How to retain staff in tough business times

AUGUST 8, 2016

As the country’s economy continues to look bleak, South African businesses are under extreme financial distress, with both employers and employees feeling the pinch.  

This is according to Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions, who indicates that with the largest volume of protests seen in the South African history, including university protests, food prices skyrocketing, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) succumbing to its lowest, the petrol price at peak and now Brexit, the South African economy is likely to drag in its lowest in a long time.

Vittee noted that this context is becoming more challenging for businesses, as they are increasingly faced with the need to retain top staff, while competing with other organisations in the market.

“Retaining staff during tough economic times does not have to be a challenge for businesses. In fact, this should be a critical focal point of the business’ operations – although businesses always miss their footing during tough times in this regard,” says Vittee.

During trying economic times with high unemployment rates, business executives often assume that employees will remain loyal to their jobs and not look for greener pastures. This is a very dangerous assumption, because that is when most people feel trapped in their jobs, or like they have zero to little prospects for better opportunities outside their present situation. On the other hand, unhappy employees can choose to remain with the organisation and cost the business more due to general lack of interest and failure to perform. In addition to this, the organisation also risks losing their high flyers to competitors.

“The cost of recruiting new staff and the amount of resources invested in training them is equal to the efforts of staff retention, business should not overlook this,” concludes Vittee.

Vittee’s top tips on how to retain staff in tough business times:

  • Identify high performers, should you need to cut a number of jobs ensure to identify individuals who are as mission-critical as you. 
  • Keep your communication consistent and open, hold regular staff meetings and ensure that the staff is kept informed, motivated and involved.
  • Allow employees to be part of the organisational decision-making, staff needs to be involved and the more decision-making is left in their hands the better. This will give them greater sense of control about decisions affecting their lives.
  • Offer development opportunities, learning budgets should not be a constraint in order for you to encourage a culture of self-development in a shoe-string. You can lift the level of work for your medium level employees do and give them more senior-level projects to tackle.
  • Manage frustration and anxieties, this should be on a continual basis. Managers will need to respond to anxieties and frustrations, and support employees thereby also making them realise their potential within the company.
  • Foster a good working culture, provide benefits and programmes that reduce stress and encourage employees to focus on work.
  • Challenge staff with projects and assignments, keeps our top performers engaged by providing them with opportunities to work on new projects and allow them to shine in the workplace.
  • Share future prospects with staff, trying times are only temporary so always ensure that employees see beyond the organisation’s adversities – share hope and vision beyond the present.