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How to overcome your staff retention woes


Why do good employees quit? Turnover can be costly and with the supply and demand ratio tipping in favour of skilled professionals, retention makes sense as a strategy to fortify against skill shortages.

Yet it seems that more managers will soon be questioning why their top talent is leaving, with the latest research showing that 32% of New Zealanders plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

According to the more than 250 skilled professionals we spoke to for our annual Hays Salary Guide, another 26% may look but were ‘unsure’ at the time of enquiry.

Over the past year, employers have become increasingly aware of the impact of skill shortages and the resulting attraction challenges. 81% of the close to 900 employers in New Zealand we also spoke to for our Guide told us that skill shortages will impact the effective operation of their business or department, up from 78% last year. It’s no wonder then that there’s been a renewed focus on attraction over the past year – but has this been to the detriment of retention?

With a significant percentage of skilled professionals already looking – or planning to look – for a new job in the next 12 months, retention clearly needs more focus. This becomes even more essential when we consider that only 50% of the professionals we spoke to are ‘very satisfied’ or ‘extremely satisfied’ in their current job.

What’s your retention game plan?

When we examine the reasons why people plan to look for a new job, the foundations of a successful retention strategy become clear. Topping the list is a lack of promotional opportunities, cited by 50% of people who plan to look elsewhere.

This is followed by a lack of new challenges (47%) an uncompetitive salary (40%), poor work-life balance (28%) and poor training and development (23%).

For managers with tight budgets, the good news is that salary ranks third in the list of factors driving people out the door. With a lack of promotional opportunities and new challenges impacting turnover the most, employers can revisit the development and progression opportunities they offer to help stem the loss of experienced staff.

However, our research also found that the number of employers offering ongoing learning and development and career progression opportunities has fallen slightly year-on-year, from 73% and 66% respectively last year to 70% and 62% this year. This downward movement is concerning when the offering of career progression pathways and new challenges helps you retain highly motivated candidates who are driven and committed to succeed.

The advice therefore is to make development, progression and the associated provision of new challenges a priority once more. Start by having one-on-one conversations with your staff about their career goals. This will help you understand what drives your employees and where they see their career heading.

Then consider how you can support the continuous development of their skills and career. For example, can you provide stretch opportunities outside their usual remit? Can you put a promotional plan with suitable KPIs in place? Can you offer coaching, get your employee involved in a relevant project or even offer training opportunities?

Provided you have appropriate talent within your organisation, mentoring can also support employee development and can be specifically tailored around certain competencies required for promotion.

Act now

At any one time, managers have several balls in the air and retention might therefore seem like one too many problems to solve. But addressing retention sooner rather than later is essential. At this time of year, we traditionally see fresh activity in the jobs market as new budgets allow employers to add to their headcount. This prompts anyone who isn’t completely satisfied in their job to consider their options.

Without addressing retention now, this could lead to people thinking the grass is greener elsewhere.

Already one-third (31%) of employers have told us they’ve seen their staff turnover rate rise in the last 12 months. With many people clearly not content in their current position, this figure will only rise further if people think their only option to improve their career prospects is to look elsewhere.


Adam Shapley

Managing Director, Hays New Zealand and Hays IT Australia & New Zealand

Adam began working at Hays in 2001 and during this time has held significant leadership roles across the business including responsibility for multiple specialisms in various locations across Australia & New Zealand. In 2018, he was appointed to Hays ANZ Management Board and made Managing Director for Hays New Zealand. Adam is also responsible for the strategic direction of the Hays Information Technology business across Australia & New Zealand including driving growth across Digital Technology, Projects & Business Change and IT Operations & Support. .

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