How to reduce employee turnover by 42% without big pay rises

Gary Bartley
Gary Bartley
September 16th 2019 - 8 Minute Read

Employee turnover is one of the biggest challenges facing employers today. There’s no longer such a thing as a job for life, nor do today’s workforce want one.

High staff churn is a serious headache for business owners and HR teams.


Why is high employee turnover such a big problem?

Not only does high employee turnover affect morale and productivity, but it’s also a serious drain on resources. Both money and time.

Recruiting and training are some of the biggest expenses, not to mention the valuable loss of experience to your business. Poor engagement and unhappy employees lead to a revolving door culture where your business is constantly paying to replace and train new candidates. In order for your business to grow, you need to stem the flow of leaving employees.


How can businesses improve employee retention?

Most people think the key to retaining your best employees is high salaries. But that’s wrong. It’s actually happiness.

Of course, fair pay plays a big role in how employees feel but it is those feelings about your business as a whole that will ultimately drive their actions. That could be choosing whether to go for a promotion, stay where they are, or leave the company altogether.

Happy employees don’t leave businesses who look after them, so show your employees how much you care. The best way to do this is by asking your employees how they feel, and acting on their feedback.

We developed The One Question as a feelings-led feedback and communications platform that helps businesses answer The One Question that matters most: ‘How happy are your customers and employees?’.

Rather than blindly throwing money at unhappy employees, The One Question helps you implement real positive change to improve morale and happiness across your business.


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Create a feedback culture

An open and honest company culture improves employee happiness for a number of reasons. When people know where they stand they feel secure, malicious gossip is discouraged and people feel able to voice their opinion without fear of retribution.

Encouraging your team to share their feelings not only empowers them but can prove hugely beneficial to your business. It’s all very well thinking you know how your staff feel, but to truly understand how you have to ask them directly.


Give your team a voice

The simple act of asking not only displays your vested interest in employees’ feelings but also helps you identify what you could do to increase happiness and reduce the risk of employee turnover.

Simple and effective surveys are the easiest way to glean how the majority of your workforce is feeling. The higher the fill-in rates, the more accurate the results. Unlike traditional feedback surveys that bore customers with endless questions or are too preoccupied with a referral, asking ‘How do you feel about (Business Name)’ collects first-hand emotional data. This insight will help you understand how your employees feel and what you can do to positively influence those feelings long term.

You ask a question, they pick a face and then provide more details if they want. It’s a simple and engaging system that doesn’t detract from the working day, but empowers employees to speak out about any and all issues affecting them. They can dictate what they like about their job, what they don’t and disclose any barriers to their success. This will help you identify the opportunity for positive change.

The One Question surveys are so effective because employees self-select their happiness levels. Everyone knows how they feel, which makes them the most qualified person to respond to the survey. There are no hypotheticals, no applying emotions to 11 point scales, just a simple question with a straight answer.

The results are not open to interpretation or affected by the bias of a person collecting the results. When employees self-select their happiness level it removes any ambiguity that could otherwise cloud your results.

These surveys are a direct line to the HR function. This means if employees feel uncomfortable personally discussing issues with their manager they can raise queries or topics in the staff survey.

Employee insight is also a vastly underutilised tool when it comes to customer happiness. When you operate at a high level with little contact with the front line it can be difficult to understand what will drive the best results commercially.

Your employees use your systems, sell your products and deal with customers on a daily basis. This makes their perspective invaluable in offering suggestions for improvements and optimisation. Not only does this benefit your business, but it also helps your employees embody your mission and values. It also instils purpose in their role by showing they can affect real change.

Happiness is like any other metric. If it can be measured, it can be managed. And now it can.


Measure the results

The Employee Happiness Score ® (EHS ®) is the only true measure of employee happiness. A simple number between 0-100 it indicates how engaged your workforce is. Generated directly from your employees’ feedback responses, it’s an accurate portrayal of how your team feel at any one time.

The results are captured in The One Question platform. The score and additional qualitative data is all accessible from the system’s dashboards. This allows business owners to track and discuss employee happiness even when they’re not there. The health of the organisation can be summed up by a single number.

The score can be broken down by individual, team, department or provide an overview of the whole business. This helps you identify what your organisation is doing right, what you’re doing wrong and where your attention is needed.

The optional ‘Tell Us More’ information reveals a lot about your employees’ happiness. It’s the ‘Why’ to the faces’ ‘how’. This insight supports you in any early intervention if you think they’re at risk of leaving, helping you spot training needs or even to identify future leaders.

Your survey results can help you plan how to improve employee happiness by defining your HR priorities going forward. This means you can create a problem tree, dealing with the biggest issues first to have the greatest effect on employee happiness.

You can use your Employee Happiness Score to test out employee happiness initiatives. Set a baseline of happiness in one area of the business, trial your new initiative and measure again afterwards. If there has been only a minimal change in happiness (or worse a negative change) you can assess the value of rolling it out business-wise.

Having the EHS prove the value of these initiatives means you avoid the hassle and expense of rolling it out company-wide before an idea is proven. Whether you’re testing gamification techniques, incentives or benefits packages you can be confident these will deliver because you’ve seen the results.

Knowledge is power, but the real value lies in the changes that happen when you act on the insight you’ve collected.


Act on the data

Happy employees give better customer service. They are more productive and they don’t leave businesses high and dry. This means that even small improvements in employee happiness can multiply your profitability potential.

Whether you discover that the cause of employee unhappiness is high-level problems with the business, or infighting within a small team, it’s best to tackle them at the source.

For example, after a month of slow productivity, your business might receive a low EHS. The feedback reveals a high number of employees worrying about job security. Their comments reveal the source of that worry. A number of team members don’t understand the decisions made by the executive and feel there is no effort to communicate those decisions down.

You choose to remedy this by creating a more open and honest company culture. Working with marketing you create an internal monthly newsletter with updates from each department. The CEO provides an opening statement of goals and business objectives for the month. Managers also implement weekly strategy meetings for their teams. With a better understanding of what decisions are being made and why, employees worry less about the security of their position, ceasing to look for jobs elsewhere and productivity goes up.

It’s not just problems you can stop in their tracks. You can also replicate the positive to spread happiness throughout your organisation.

Your EHS might reveal one area of the business is head and shoulders above the rest. This department consistently scores 90 whereas the others struggle to get above 70. On closer inspection, this department has an excellent team dynamic. Their manager affords employees flexible working and more autonomy to manage their own workload.  

You identify this manager undertook an ILM qualification as part of their professional development requests and as a result, has a better grasp of people management than other department heads. You decide to enrol all your senior management on the same training and roll out flexible working practices in other teams. After surveying again in the following months, happiness and productivity are on the rise across the business as a whole.


Money can’t buy happiness, but it can facilitate it

Money can’t buy happiness, but that doesn’t stop people chasing pay rises. The majority of people believe a higher salary will make them happier in their job. And maybe it will for a little while, but if nothing changes in the team culture the same problems will persist and you’ll lose them eventually.

What’s worse is these employees will mentally check out long before they leave, draining productivity and bringing other team members down. Poor morale is a real threat to productivity (and profitability!).

Throwing salary increases at disengaged employees is essentially bribing them to stay. If you don’t deal with the root causes of unhappiness you will continue to haemorrhage good employees regardless of the salary.

No amount of money can cure unhappiness at a personal level, so why not invest in your company culture to build from the bottom up? 90% of 18 to 34-year-olds say they would prefer benefits over a pay rise. Knowing what your employees want and need will help you facilitate a positive work environment that will help your staff serve your customers better.


How to reduce employee turnover by 42% without big pay rises

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We reduced employee turnover by 42% using The One Question

As the HR Director of luxury Norfolk holiday provider, Potters Resort, Thea McCormack is responsible for the 600 strong workforce. Recruitment and staff retention were two of her biggest challenges.

She worried a constant stream of new faces would damage the guest experience and then there were the problems associated with inexperienced staff. In an effort to keep Potters Resort’s best staff, Thea launched a staff questionnaire wanting a better understanding of what drove people to leave.

The questionnaire got a response rate of less than 15% and yet the data was still difficult to compile. The results were either extremely negative or extremely positive. These were the thoughts of the outliers and they revealed little about how the majority of employees actually felt.

Thea installed The One Question on resort, programming the system to send all her employees a feedback survey to one-twentieth of the workforce each day. On receipt of the email, staff were able to answer in just a few clicks. This low barrier to entry saw response rates of 80%.

The drip-feed nature of the surveys meant the HR team weren’t overwhelmed by hundreds of results at one. They spotted a number of patterns in their feedback and created a strategy to address employee happiness issues throughout the organisation.

“Previously issues were only ever elevated to managers after they had become a real problem. By this point, the damage has often already been done.”

“The One Question empowers our staff to raise their concerns. This allows us to deal with them before they develop into something more serious. This could be reducing friction in disagreements, identifying training needs or as simple as making sure everyone has the right materials to do their job. By nipping these issues in the bud we’re able to avoid more serious problems that previously drove staff away.”

After just 12 months of using The One Question, the organisation’s Employee Happiness Score has gone up month by month and now is consistently above 90. Employee turnover has reduced by 42% which correlates with an increase in revenue and the resort’s Customer Happiness Score ®.


Want to reduce your employee turnover?

Happiness is contagious. Spread it with The One Question! After all, happy employees create happy customers, and happy customers make a successful business. 

By answering The One Question “How happy are your customers and employees” you will unlock the key to your business growth. Try The One Question platform for yourself today.


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Gary Bartley

Gary is on a mission to help businesses understand the role that customer and employee happiness plays in their success.

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