Donald Campbell, Marketing Manager of Team London Bridge

As part of the build up to October’s Employee Wellbeing Forum 2010, Donald Campbell , Marketing Manager for Team London Bridge, a Business Improvement District, explains the importance of employee retention

It is increasingly prevalent in today’s society that managers find employee retention an ongoing struggle. In the past, employees used to stay in the same job for life, being perfectly content and devoting their life to their company. However, now-a-days the norm, it seems is to switch jobs and careers like it is going out of fashion.

Staff retention is an ongoing battle. As managers we put in time, effort and money into training staff making them the ‘perfect fit’ and moulding them to what we need. But once they’ve received the training it seems more employees are having a ‘cut and run’ approach, not caring about the company who has helped them, but instead ‘skills stealing’ from a number of firms.

Many solutions have been put forward to solve this high staff turnover but none can truly prevent it. At Team London Bridge, an organisation set up to run the Business Improvement District (BID) in this area we have found that a more external approach can in fact be beneficial.

With the recent CIPD survey showing the highest level of staff turnover is 16.8% most commonly found in private sector organisations, as employers, one asks the reason behind this. Although it may be a number of aspects, we will never truly know the real reason as it varies for everyone.

The more important question is, ‘is there a remedy?’ – To prevent wasting money training workers who then leave, training new recruits who leave and so the cycle continues. As we are all aware motivation, a manageable workload and maintaining a good work/life balance are all major factors in determining how long people stay with a company. If the balance is incorrect or suddenly changes this will have an affect on the staff retention rate.

We think that businesses should concentrate more on their external environment in order to retain staff. The term ‘think outside the box’ couldn’t be more fitting – making the external environment the key. Although not owned by a firm these externalities such as the safety, cleanliness and greenery of an area can affect the day-to-day working lives of our staff. Staff know the route to work back to front and these first steps all have a part to play in the working day ahead. It is therefore essential these areas do not discourage people from coming to the office.

The physical environment has a direct effect on the way organisations and businesses perform, so it’s natural for decision makers to examine their surroundings from a strategic perspective, ensuring alignment with their culture, image and goals. Green open spaces in areas are proven to improve the quality of life. An attractive and welcoming environment is conducive to success, while harmonious interaction between an area’s key constituencies helps to create an appealing sense of place.

Managers concentrate on employees’ well-being in the workplace but once they leave the site, it is sometimes thought they are no longer their problem. This is where people can be misled. Working makes up approximately 70% of our lives meaning if it is not an enjoyable experience staff will leave. It is proven that happier employees bring results as increased motivation means productivity is likely to rise.

Workers will be more willing to work late, to finish that last project if there isn’t the looming thought of a ‘long, insecure, dark walk.’ Little things such as street patrols can help with this. Certainly having a good journey to and from work is important – lobbying developers to ensure worker’s commuting needs are catered for is essential, as after all without workers companies would be at a lost end. When workers go to and from the office they want to feel safe and happy, while still being in a vibrant, busy area rather than a sterile business district.

If an organisation is keen for it’s employees to socialise together or take clients out for lunch locally, the careful management of the surrounding area is key as you wouldn’t take a business contact out of your office if they felt unsafe or even if there was litter and graffiti everywhere. You should have pride in the business district as you do with your employees and this in turn can attract new business.

The growing concern for personal safety at work presents a huge challenge for those tasked with increasing the job satisfaction of employees. Research among employees by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has shown a significant increase in the improvement of ‘feeing safe at work.’ It was ranked as a ‘very important’ factor by 62% of employees surveyed which has almost doubled since 2002.

In fact, the UK has a much lower level of crime than similar western countries, yet anxiety levels are disproportionately high. Bridging this ‘reassurance gap’ is something that successful business communities must do to help retain and engage a happy working population while encouraging investment into their area. This is exactly what we are striving to sustain.

About the author:

Donald Campbell is the Marketing Manager for Team London Bridge, a Business Improvement District (BID). One of 103 in the UK and Ireland, the organisation has around 270 member businesses including PwC and Ernst & Young, to whom they provide a wide range of services – from extra Policing and street cleaning to area promotion and CSR projects.