5 Steps to Retain Staff During the Great Resignation

Posted by | February 8, 2022 | Employers, Market updates, Retention

Steps to Retain Staff During the Great Resignation blog header

Retaining current staff is your secret weapon in the war for talent – but it’s going to take work!

Anyone who started 2022 with ‘recruitment’ on their to-do list is most likely experiencing a ‘hiring headache’ right now. The candidate-short market has tightened further and the Great Resignation is turning our ideas about recruitment, attraction and retention on their head. 

One thing’s for certain, there’s a lot of extra money flowing into recruitment budgets right now, and often there is still no new hire to fill that office (or kitchen!) chair at the end of it. As RNZ declared in a recent labour market update ‘the shoe’s on the other foot’ and candidates are now the ones with the power to make demands, and walk away. Most people are now well aware of rapidly increasing salary inflation, ramping up in tandem with the runaway cost of living in what Stuff has called ‘a nasty cycle.’ Savvy job seekers are taking the opportunity to negotiate the highest possible salary for themselves in a market that shows no sign of loosening until the border opens;

“Job hunters are still very much in the driver’s seat. There has never been a better time for Kiwis to check out the market and explore their options, or ask for a pay rise”- Matt Tolich, Trade Me (from Stuff.co.nz)

What does this mean for employers? A HRD study found that the average recruiting cost for an entry-level role in New Zealand is $9,772, rising to $17,841 for a mid-level employee and going up to as much as $34,440 for an executive-level hire. There’s also the time pressure on HR and recruitment teams to consider when going out to market for a new hire. 

Conventional wisdom strongly indicates that the way to ‘win’ in the Great Resignation is to retain, retain, retain. Think about one of your super-star employees…and what makes them great at what they do. Odds are, a recruiter is already appearing in their LinkedIn messages. It’s time to act!

Ok, you want to keep your team! Not sure where to start? 


Try our easy 5 step plan:

Step one- Do a risk audit and get a handle on the market

Stop and ask yourself:

Think about what will happen if you need to hire. New staff members are scarce resources who are likely to get multiple offers and have leverage. If you have to hire a new team member in 2022 it’s going to cost you. Often companies are guilty of not using enough budget, time and effort to keep current staff happy or nurture existing talent. 

Knowledge of the market is the first step in taking proactive action.


Step two- Talk to your staff

Talk to your staff – and make it a frank conversation. To do this you are going to need to build a safe space where they can korero with you honestly, without fear of repercussion, first. Give them plenty of heads up and make it clear what the conversation will be about so they don’t stress about an out of the blue one-on-one. This conversation is really to ascertain whether your staff member is happy in their role and whether the compensation and development opportunities in the role are serving them well. 

You will have your own unique relationship and way of communicating with your staff, below are a few suggested questions to guide you:

  • How have you been feeling about your role in the past three months? Are there any frustrations?
  • Is your career here progressing at a rate you are happy with?
  • Is your salary enough to meet your living costs, commitments and saving goals?
  • Is there anything about your day to day work environment and schedule that is making life difficult for you?
  • Do you feel connected and supported at work?
  • Have you been looking at other opportunities or hearing about other roles from connections?
  • Is there one thing about working here that you would change if you had a magic wand?


Step three- Talk to your leadership…. what’s achievable?

Conversations like this can be hard, especially in the not-for-profit space where “there’s no budget” can often be used to shut down the conservation in two seconds flat. First, give your leadership a heads up that you’re chatting to staff, then make time for a sit down with them to debrief. Chat about the common themes that have come up in your conversations with staff and concerns from your risk audit. 

Maybe staff aren’t happy with their salary, and your research showed that your organisation is paying 10k under the market rate. Maybe staff feel the workplace isn’t flexible enough to align with their life commitments, and you can see that all your competitors are flexible by default. 

Whatever the case, articulate to your leadership what staff are feeling – and how that compares with the market. Outline the themes that have come up in your conversations with staff, and work with your leadership team to negotiate some ‘reasons to stay put’ for your team. The Great Resignation, labour shortage and salary inflation are all hot topics in the media and on LinkedIn, so informed leaders should be ready for these conversations. 

Be practical and work with the resources you have, but bear in mind the high cost of recruitment at the moment. In almost all cases, you’ll be paying more to hire a new staff member than give existing staff a pay rise or development opportunity.


Step four- Talk to your staff again

Time to meet with your staff member again and run through any outcomes you’ve been able to negotiate for them. If you can’t offer them what they asked for in your initial chat, be honest about that and explain why. Have an open conversation about what this means for their future with your organisation.


Step five – Don’t drop the ball 

Keep the conversation open. Sometimes something as simple as saying “my door is always open, so if you do get another offer I’d love you to talk to me before you accept” will make the difference between a staff member handing you a resignation letter, and giving you the opportunity to counter-offer. 

If you have achieved a good outcome for your staff member, don’t leave it there, checking in and 1:1s are still important! 


What if my leadership team can’t give me budget to increase salaries?

We’re not going to sugarcoat it, salary increases are the number one way to hold on to good staff in 2022. But budgets are tighter than ever in the For-Purpose sector, and sometimes there’s just no money available. You can still take action with some creative ideas. Below are the two main themes we’ve seen in HR advice;


Extra leave

Many companies now offer employees more leave than the minimum requirement of four weeks, via bonus annual leave or other types of leave. Covid-19 has added substantial stress, emotional labour and uncertainty to our working lives, and many of us simply need more time to recharge. Companies offering extra weeks of annual leave, study leave, MIQ and isolation leave, volunteering leave and more are giving employees a reason to stay on board.

Two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, many overseas-born Kiwis, or Kiwis with connections overseas are long overdue a trip to see family and friends. Generous and flexible leave policies are very attractive to this group, as is the potential to ‘work from your country of origin’ for a set period of time. Many international organisations juggle multiple time zones on the daily, and it’s a practice the rest of us can easily adopt with a little bit of flexibility and admin. 

Think about ways you can build extra leave into your strategic plan so that it doesn’t cost too much, perhaps with a longer annual shutdown or mini secondments to cover leave periods of a few months.


Super-charge your culture

With flexible and hybrid working arrangements well established as the new normal, the focus has now shifted to how to maintain a healthy and energising organisational culture in this environment. Lazy HR practices can lead to employee concerns of disengagement and the absence of a physical workspace. Good hybrid organisational culture is one where employees have access to collaborative work and social interactions with each other. Although flexible working arrangements have been a game-changer for many, and some of us deciding to adopt a work-from-home preference for life, there are also employees who thrive on being in the office. The challenge for organisations in the covid era is to be able to create and maintain a hybrid organisational culture that appeals to both groups. 

You have the power to create or build on workplace culture. Low-cost creative ideas at home and overseas have included: 

  • ‘Bring your pet to work’ policies 
  • ‘Life admin’days at work once a month 
  • Surprise home-office glow ups
  • Inter-organisation or intra-organisation ‘exchanges’ and work experience
  • Office veggie boxes
  •  Skill-sharing and peer mentoring schemes

Only you know what will work for your team or organisation, but if there’s no budget for salaries, it’s time to get creative…fast.

As The Guardian’s Emma Beddington recently commented, most employees would  “prefer work to provide them with enough money, and enough free time, to live” rather than flashy perks. That’s where the staff retention conversation needs to start in the For-Purpose sector. 

If these conversations aren’t already happening at your organisation, the rest of 2022 might be a bit of a shock. Often, we’re guilty of not applying some of the amazing values and missions that inform our work out in the community, to our own teams. Doing so will give us the best shot at keeping the people who achieve our missions and keep the wheels turning in the For-Purpose world.



About Rhiannon Robinson

Rhiannon Robinson is Do Good Jobs’ Business Development Manager and looks after our community of employers. She is a labour market and organisational culture nerd and is currently doing research on the use of personality traits in job ads. Read her 2022 labour market predictions here. Our team offers job ad reviews and other services, like candidate shortlisting. Feel free to get in with [email protected] for more info.

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