Beating the staff turnover blues: How health and wellbeing improve retention.

So, your promising, and oh-so-recently appointed employee has decided to move on. You genuinely wish them well. You admire their restless spirit. And because you’re only human, you can’t help thinking about all the downsides for your company.

There are quite a few downsides to consider. Firstly, you or your team are back to the time-and-energy-devouring business of writing job adverts, screening CVs, shortlisting, and interviewing. If you can’t find a replacement before they leave, you’ll face a big drop in productivity. But even if you can, there will still be a drop, because onboarding your new employee and getting them up to speed takes time.

The precise costs of all this are hard to calculate, but it’s safe to say they’re formidable. One estimate is that staff turnover will set you back between 90% and 200% of an employee’s salary. In an era where human capital costs have rocketed, the most successful businesses not only recruit great people, but hang onto them for longer than their rivals.

What many business leaders don’t realise is how a proactive approach to health and wellbeing can increase retention and beat the turnover blues.

What do employees want?

Cracking the turnover conundrum used to be straightforward. If you wanted your staff to stay longer, you paid them more than other companies.

And then that stopped working. Not completely, of course: a good salary is still a powerful incentive for sticking with you. Yet overall, there’s no doubt that money has become less of a motivator in choosing and staying in a particular role. The reasons are a complex mix of rising affluence, a rejection of 80s-style materialism, and changing expectations about our careers.

What it boils down to is that today’s employees are looking for something more than a regular pay cheque — even if it’s a good one. They want to do work which they consider meaningful. Just as importantly, they also want a job that contributes positively to their health and happiness, rather than making it worse.

How badly do they want it?

It’s hard to overestimate just how important health and wellbeing has become to workers over recent years. A 2014 survey found that 30% of UK employees considered poor workplace wellbeing as a reason for moving employers. A recent report from Benenden Health found that 55% of those surveyed would be prepared to leave their job if their mental wellbeing was not supported by their employer. The same research found that 42% of UK businesses have lost employees because of shortcomings in emotional support. A quarter of businesses reported losing a really valuable member of staff for the same reason.

These point to a very significant influence of health and wellbeing on turnover, and we think the trend is set to rise

Changing demographics and turnover

There are a couple of good reasons to suppose that health and wellbeing will become even more important factors in retention.

The first is, a bit obviously, Covid-19. Lockdowns, work-from-home, furloughing and more have brought the issue of workplace health and wellbeing into laser-like focus. Those effects are unlikely to wane any time soon.

There’s also the question of demographics. Each year, Millennials and Generation Z make up more and more of the workforce, and these two generations have higher expectations regarding health and wellbeing at work.

For example, in the Benenden Health study we cited above, 78% of 18–24-year-old workers were prepared to leave their jobs if they didn’t receive mental health support. We should also bear in mind that Millennials and Generation Z are far more likely to switch jobs than their older colleagues.

For these reasons, any retention strategy that doesn’t consider health and wellbeing is fatally short-sighted.

The role of wellbeing programmes in retention

Wellbeing programmes have been recognised for some time as a way of improving staff retention. That doesn’t just apply to big corporations either: one study found that 45% of employees of small to medium-size businesses would be encouraged to stay longer by an employer-sponsored wellness programme (the research was carried out in the US, there’s no reason to suppose that the UK is any different).

However, when it comes to wellness programmes, the Devil’s in the details. As we’ve argued before, your employees are unlikely to be served well by programmes which don’t treat health and wellbeing holistically, or which don’t use employee data to make recommendations.

For better or worse, the last few years have seen a seismic upheaval in how people think about their jobs. The brutal fact is that if you don’t provide what employees are looking for, they will find someone who does. And increasingly, they will do it sooner rather than later. In our view, a first-rate wellbeing programme is one of your best tools for staying competitive, increasing retention and beating the turnover blues.

ART Health Solutions is a wellbeing consultancy, providing effective, science-based wellbeing recommendations. Our bespoke solutions are generated by gathering data directly from the organisation and its employees. Having proven our methods working with large, multinational corporations, we’re excited to bring our expertise to small and medium-size UK businesses.

To learn how we can benefit your company, please contact our friendly team.

Dr Paul Smith

Chief Strategy Officer, ART Health Solutions

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