It really is all about retaining people: 5 tips

My great friend and mentor, Robert Saville, once said to me: “We’re not in the advertising business, we’re in the recruitment business”.

What he meant is that the key to any great business is the ability to hire amazing people. I also believe that the key to individual development is to make yourself redundant as quickly as possible. This is because if I can get somebody to do my job, then I can go and find a better one. Awesome!

So, we are all in the recruitment business, and if we can get this right, we can quickly move into being in the retention business – which is all about building the right environment to foster and keep a brilliant team.

Here’s my top five tips for retaining great staff:

1. Hello

It’s that simple: say ‘hello’.

Hello is the best word in the English dictionary, and frankly first thing on a Monday morning in the middle of Winter, saying ‘hello’ is the complete opposite of ‘no words, don’t look at me, I’m a miserable b**tard!’. Which one would you rather start the day sitting next to?

Hello is a great democratiser, and if you can add a name after it then it’s even better.

I remember in my first job, I was three months in and getting into the lift one day with the company chairman and he said “Hello Andy”. How good did I feel? A million bucks! …which is also what I worked out the chairman had earned whilst travelling in the lift with me for three floors!

2. Brown underpants

Please forgive the heading – I promise it will make sense.

I once worked with an amazing advertising planner who was super bright but lacked confidence. In her employee review we talked about what we could do to move her forwards, and I suggested that after one week, she should come back to me with an idea of what she could do that would make her really, really scared (i.e. brown underpants).

She came back and said she wanted to go to her old college to lecture to the year group on how to get a job in advertising – and she did it! She was nervous as hell, but she was amazing.

I went to hear her give the lecture, sat at the front like a proud Dad, and then took her for fish & chips and glass of champagne to celebrate. She felt like she could conquer the world!

So yes, brown underpants. When was the last time you really pushed your staff out of their comfort zone. Employees will only stay with you if you help them to grow – and maybe one day, they’ll leave because you helped them to grow so well (but that’s a really nice problem to have).

3. The disproportionate impact of small acts of kindness

When people know you are on their side, they generally want to stay by your side. There are many ways you can let employees know that you’re on their side, and it’s here that actions really speak louder than words.

For example, there is no greater kindness than walking past somebody on your way home late, saying goodbye to them, and then turning around, taking your coat off, rolling up your sleeves, and saying “Ok, I’m here to help. What do we need to do to get you home at a decent hour?”. People really appreciate it.

4. Nobody works alone

A few years ago, friend of mine (who I had previously worked with) called me up and asked to go to lunch. She was in a very senior role, and her boss had berated her for being unable to solve a specific problem.

He said to her: “Somebody like you, at your level, and earning your salary should be able to crack this!!!”. He made her feel so bad that she was in tears. He took all her confidence away in one go, and instead of motivating her, she ended up thinking that if this was the culture of the company, she simply didn’t want to work in it – and so she left.

How different would that situation have been if instead, her boss had asked her: “Where are you getting blocked? Let’s try and crack this together”.

We should never feel alone in our workplace. We are better together: we solve things better, more quickly, and it’s generally more fun too!

5. Foster a sense of belonging

Do people join you, your company, a specific department, or a particular location? In your business, what do people join? You may never have actually asked yourself that question.

In the same way that people don’t leave a company, they leave a manager, they also don’t just join a company, they join a culture that they can see themselves belonging in.

The greatest objective of a company is to make their staff feel a greater sense of belonging.

Belonging = Happiness = Retention

At hibob, we massively believe in employee culture and community. We believe in this so much we created bob CLUBS. This is a way for businesses to shine a light on, and nurture, the natural cultures that exist in their teams.

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Your business is not just a set of departments – it’s a microcosm of intersecting communities or CLUBS: The Bike Club, The Dad Club, The Yoga Club, The Book Club, or The We-Love-Game-Of-Thrones-Club.

If you can understand and engage with the clubs in your company, you’re firmly in the staff retention business!

OK, I’m off to help somebody.


About Andy:

Andy Bellass is the Chief Marketing Officer & Strategist at hibob. He has more than 25 years of experience in strategic brand building, and has helped define, shape and launch some of the world’s biggest and most innovative brands, including the likes of Coca-Cola and Spotify. He’s a former Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Splendid Communications, Strategy Director at creative hotshop Mother and prior to setting up hibob Andy had spent several years advising VC and startups in Silicon Valley and Israel. He lives in London with his wife, two children and eight bikes.

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