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We’ve asked our readers to send in their questions for our panel of experts to answer. In the most recent batch, staffing concerns have been high on the agenda. Here’s the best pick.

“I run a busy advertising agency and one of the biggest concerns I have in my business is with staffing. I don’t have trouble finding staff, but I do have trouble keeping them for long periods, and recruitment takes too much time away from my business. Do you have any tips help make my offering more appealing to staff, and to help keep them for longer than 12 months.”

Stephen Covey: co-founder and vice chairman, Franklin Covey 

Active ImageFinding and keeping talent is one of our biggest challenges in running an organisation. Those who are able to retain their associates over the long-term, undoubtedly, have a competitive advantage. Here are four steps to engaging and involving your people, so they feel passionate and purposeful in your organisation:

1. Focus on wildly important goals (WIGs): identify and clearly communicate your company’s two to three WIGs to everyone.
2. Act on lead measures: co-create plans with each person to identify what they need to do to achieve your WIGs.
3. Keep a compelling scoreboard: create a scoreboard to measure progress against your goals and track your wins.
4. Create a cadence of accountability: allow people to account for their performance with frequent rewards or plans to help them adjust where needed.

When these steps are taken your associates will feel more purposeful, more engaged, more nurtured. They will feel they are making a difference, which makes all the difference in keeping your best talent. Remember, your role as a leader is to help your people find their voice. Without voice, people lose passion, purpose and commitment; they will either leave your company or remain as dead weight, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, or physically ‘checked out’.

Geoff Greer: acting regional general manager, NABbusiness, National Australia Bank

Active ImageResearch shows that managers are the key to engagement and retention within any business.

Employees often join an organisation, but leave a manager. The cost to replace an employee is roughly equivalent to that employee's annual salary by the time you have factored in the costs of recruitment, training and time to competence. Staff leaving often has a negative impact on client relationships and team morale.

To improve engagement and retention, managers should focus on:

The work itself:
•    add interest, challenge, variety and new and exciting projects
•    provide opportunities for development
•    present opportunities to work with senior staff and key clients
•    provide real choices

The work environment:
•    make it pleasant, clean, safe
•    ensure that people treat others with respect for differences and preferences
•    provide real work-life balance
•    provide trust, openness and support for people in need
•    celebrate, laugh, lighten up sometimes, but not at the expense of others
•    treat employees like responsible adults

The organisation:
•    clarify the purpose and strategy of the organisation
•    communicate it to all employees regularly
•    explain how each person's job relates to the execution of the strategy

The manager's actions:
•    set and document clear performance standards
•    deliver real consequences for success and failure
•    meet weekly with each direct report
•    listen and provide feedback
•    provide encouragement and praise
•    hold all managers directly accountable for attracting quality people, their retention and engagement.

Siimon Reynolds: creative director and chairman, Love Communications

Active ImageExtensive research says that the number one reason staff leave is lack of appreciation. Not money.

We all need to be constantly looking for genuine chances to acknowledge and applaud our team.

Read How Full Is Your Bucket, by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, it’s full of amazing research about the incredible impact of authentic compliments to the people around us.

Sarina Russo: managing director and founder, Sarina Russo Group

Active ImageIt’s one thing to recruit good staff, and another to retain them.

It is critical that you have a strategy in place to meet with your people weekly and monthly. This is a window of opportunity to get to know them. We need to listen to them; we cannot ignore them.

Start with an orientation schedule. This is a management tool for new staff and current staff moving into new roles to become more productive in a shorter period of time. This will empower your people and give them a sense of belonging.

Induction builds on and formalises the information that has been provided during orientation.

Follow this up with regular meetings to create an environment of open and honest communication. This can also be done through a progress review meeting.

Remember there are different strokes for different folks, and working styles and expectations vary. If roles do not live up to their expectations they will be quick to move on if they are ambitious, career oriented and highly educated.

People today want to work in companies that provide well-rounded and evolving opportunities.

They want to make a difference beyond the financial bottom line, and will be more committed when their values and the companies’ values are in tune.

 Having the right management tools in place offering new challenges, recognition and rewards is a key factor. It is essential to have in place a coaching program, a professional growth and development plan with relevant training. All this will assist in retaining your people.

Remember feedback is our fertiliser. Through constructive and honest feedback your people will learn and grow professionally.

Sam Leader: editor, www.flyingsolo.com.au

Active ImageHave you thought about hiring independent contractors rather than employing in house staff? There are independents operating in all the fields you’d need expertise in, from creative to virtual assistants.

These ‘soloists’ run their own businesses and have a reputation to consider, so are often more motivated than employees. Because you are their client, not their boss, they are more results-focused. Retention would be less of an issue because most favour long term relationships with clients over one-off projects.

Typically, soloists charge an hourly rate, however they are responsible for their own holiday pay, sick pay and superannuation so you will save money there.

They will expect a greater degree of flexibility and not necessarily want to work in house 40 hours a week as a traditional staff member might. But do you need them to?

Our business, Flying Solo, is almost 100 percent virtual. The three directors have regular conferences over Skype and meet up bimonthly. We hire a virtual assistant, a web develop
er and other experts to support our business. As a result we are more efficient than if we were to set up shop in the CBD, but every bit as serious as those who have.

If you’re prepared to challenge the traditional boss/employee model it could work well for you, too.

What do you think?

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