Training and flexible working are the keys to staff retention

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Firms are more likely to improve levels of staff retention if they increase their investment in training, and introduce more flexible working practices, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and recruitment company Indeed. The survey, of over 1,000 businesspeople across all sizes or organisation and sectors, shows that just under half (42 percent) of businesses would invest in training and developing their staff in order to increase staff retention, while 38 percent would look to introduce flexible working practices, from flexible hours and remote working to job-sharing.

Skills shortages are at near record levels, and this survey reveals that the most likely approach that firms will take to address gaps they have are to use self-employed workers, or contractors (30 percent), followed by investment in recruitment and training (both 25 percent). Developing a relationship with the local school comes next, at 22 percent. B2C firms are more likely to build that relationship, while B2B businesses are more likely to use contractors and retain older workers.

At the interview stage, the businesses surveyed are overwhelmingly likely to decide between two equally qualified candidates based on their performance in interview (70 percent), followed by quality of job application (50 percent). Skills gained in extra-curricular activities are important for a quarter of employers surveyed (24 percent).

Amid a chronic skills shortage, these findings suggest that civic-minded businesses are doing everything they can to ensure that staff morale remains high. However, businesses can also do more in terms of providing a flexible working environment.

Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Access to people and skills is a top priority for employers and firms are doing everything they can to recruit, retain and upskill their workforce. Increasingly, employers are embracing flexible working practices as a sensible way to retain staff who need to balance work with family and other commitments. Amid rising upfront costs for businesses, it is crucial that innovative ways are found to motivate staff.”

Tara Sinclair, senior fellow and economist at job site Indeed, added: “Attitudes to work are changing and salary is no longer the only way employers compete to attract and retain workers. Workers today seek work-life balance – searches for ‘flexible’ jobs on Indeed are at a three-year high, suggesting a growing number of jobseekers start their application with job satisfaction in mind. A tight labour market – where employer demand for staff is outstripping the supply of workers – places greater emphasis on staff retention, but investing in training should not be viewed as a short-term fix to keep hold of the best talent. Rather, it should be seen as an opportunity for employers of all sizes to unlock the long-term potential in their staff.”