7 Deadly Sins Of Employee Retention

by Sirius People

Estimated Reading Time: minutes

Talented employees are your organisation's most valuable asset. Each time a really great employee walks out the door, their knowledge and potential go with them. The cost of replacing can be between half and two-thirds of the employee’s annual salary. High turnover is one of the biggest hidden costs in an organisation. It impacts profitability, and the extra recruiting, hiring and training is a drain on time and productivity. Not to mention every employee that leaves your business will leave a hole that will require a high level of team morale to fill. When your team forms bonds with each other, they are directly strengthening the culture of your company and therefore your ability to retain staff.

Create a workplace culture that your people thrive in and everybody wins – the company, management, employees and your customers.

The reasons people leave an organisation are often addressable and are less frequently about compensation than you may think. So while some level of attrition is expected within a business, if your turnover is creeping up and you struggle to retain talented people, you may be committing one or more of the seven deadly sins of employee retention.  

Read on to see if you’re guilty of any of the sins and how to fix it.

1. Ignoring the future when recruiting

When considering candidates, look ahead. There’s no benefit to either party in recruiting for your needs and theirs next week or even next year. Does the applicant have what it takes to make a long-term career out of the position you are offering? Ask them about their career goals. Today’s workforce is looking for fulfilment and value beyond the paycheque, and if they don’t find it they won’t stay.

2. Neglecting to provide career development paths

It’s not just about the employee’s own outlook on their career, it’s about your attitude to their development as well. If you don’t have a clear plan for an employee’s progress within your organisation, it’s inevitable that they will seek advancement without it, by looking elsewhere. Clear career development, including ongoing training, increasing responsibility and defining goals, will help you retain talent. It will boost engagement and create positive employer branding while preserving knowledge and experience and providing a succession pipeline.

3. Forgetting to communicate expectations and give feedback

Employees left to sink or swim will quickly feel isolated and rudderless, and may seek a way out. Effective regular communication – both downwards and upwards – builds strong relationships and makes individuals feel valued as part of the team. A role’s goals and responsibilities need to be set out precisely at the recruitment stage, then regularly reviewed and updated. Constructive feedback, should not be confined to the annual review, and ideally, there should be a method by which staff can have their own views heard without fear of reprisal.

4. Micro-managing

No one enjoys having their manager breathing down their neck, supervising their every move. Individuals allowed to use their own initiative and make decisions within the limits of their responsibility will usually be not only more productive but also happier and more engaged. They were recruited to do a specific job, so give them goals and milestones, provide for regular progress reports, and then let them get on with it. They’ll thank you for it and stick around.

5. Overlooking the importance of positive corporate culture

positive organisational culture and work culture are crucial for workforce retention. Staff who are both challenged and supported, able to participate in personal development and work in teams will not go looking for greener pastures. A positive and respectful culture is the foundation for favourable employer branding, assisting both recruitment and retention.

6. Failing to pay employees what they are worth

However, in spite of this focus on careers, don’t overlook the importance of paying a competitive salary, plus other benefits. Checking out comparative employee compensation data can help you set a benchmark for corresponding roles within your organisation so that you avoid these traps:

  • Losing potential or existing employees because you are paying below the market rate
  • Losing potential or existing employees because your compensation policy is too rigid (e.g. too long a lag between onboarding and the first salary review, or a fixed percentage ceiling on annual increases)
  • Losing existing employees because you always pay a higher rate to new recruits

7. Allowing conflict or negativity to go unresolved

There will always be a certain amount of unavoidable stress when differing personalities share a daily work environment. Teamwork, meetings, deadlines and taxing situations can lead to clashes of temperament. It’s vital to have formal procedures in place for reporting and resolving this kind of problem. Without conflict resolution options, employees can feel helpless, with a resulting detrimental impact on their wellbeing and productivity. A Queensland Government study highlighted workplace conflict as a major cause of staff turnover and showed that over 65% of employee performance problems result from strained relationships rather than skill or motivation deficits.


Turning those deadly sins into cardinal virtues

You can turn these Seven Deadly Sins on their head, creating a positive To-Do list to boost employee retention:

  • Do focus on career aspirations when recruiting
  • Do continue an employee’s career development after onboarding
  • Do foster communication and feedback
  • Do discourage micro-management
  • Do cultivate a positive corporate culture
  • Do pay your talent in line with the market
  • Do provide conflict resolution processes and training


Retaining top talent starts with how you go about recruiting them. Take a look at our Ultimate Guide To Onboarding Staff. It covers what to consider when onboarding new staff, how to ensure their first few weeks set them up for long-term success and includes a downloadable checklist to make sure your new hire has a quick attachment set.


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