• Mark Pearce

Worried about an upturn? Here's how you retain your best staff

Updated: Jul 26, 2018

"The war for talent."

"20,000 new WA mining jobs to be created in the 2018/2019 FY."

"Surge in permanent roles signals mining recovery."

We love a bit of good news. When it's genuine. You've probably seen the WA media getting giddy about a potential boom recently.

There's no doubt there's more confidence across Western Australia's mining, infrastructure and energy sectors. There are more projects coming online. More tenders are being released. There are more skills in demand than there have been in the last 3 years.

The biggest concern for employers right now isn't where they're going to find good people for their projects (although that's a biggie). It's how they're going to retain their best employees when the market turns. Whether we like it or not, employee retention will play a big part over the next year.

This blog offers you some handy advice and tips on how you can retain your best employees.

How do you retain your best employees?

Employee retention allows your business to remain healthy, profitable and successful. Your best employees help improve customer satisfaction, drive sales and contribute to your growth through learning and shared knowledge.

If you're not retaining your best employees, your business can face challenges like demotivated employees, lack of industry/business insights, lack of leadership and lost business/clients.

A quick tip: If you've experienced some attrition in your business recently, have you performed exit interviews to analyse why your employees are leaving? Exit interviews give you helpful insights. This is information you can use for your employee retention strategy.

One strategy doesn’t fit all. A mixture of the following 9 can help you retain people when the forecasted upturn arrives. They may also come in handy when attracting good people to your business.

1. Clearly map out what is expected of every employee and what is expected of your business to help that employee succeed.

Employment is a 2-way street, right? Sure, people come to work to deliver results and help your business grow. It works in reverse. You're there to ensure they can produce the results you want and help them grow.

Give your employees clarity. For example, tell them what's expected of them. Show them what they can earn, based on their results. Highlight their potential career path with you. Clearly outline what you expect from each other. Then make them accountable for delivering their work to a high standard.

Most employers still aren't doing this.

2. Build a culture for open and honest feedback.

People leave companies because their boss either doesn't acknowledge their work or they feel their boss doesn't take an interest in them. Acknowledgement and praise are two powerful tools.

A simple thank you to an employee is powerful. People like to feel appreciated.

Ensure your managers have regular feedback sessions with your employees so you can outline what they've achieved on a regular basis. A sense of achievement is a powerful intrinsic motivator.

You could also arrange half-yearly 'stay' sessions. These style of meetings are tailored to finding out why your employees are staying and what's keeping them engaged. It's a great way to obtain information and incorporate it into your retention strategy.

3. Take an interest in people's skills and see where else they can contribute

Motivated staff want to contribute to work and colleagues outside of their own jobs. Understand your employees' interests, talents, skills and experience. Bring them in closer.

Encourage them to learn from others and share their expertise. Their work will become more enjoyable and satisfying. Your business grows when you don't pigeon-hole staff.

4. Encourage your staff to respectfully challenge each other

"We've always done it this way" has no place in 2018. If your employees and managers aren't respectfully challenging each other, it's likely your business has fallen asleep.

Employees grow when they know they have an open forum to express opinions or try new ideas. Encourage them to speak up.

5. Give your staff the tools to do their jobs well

If someone isn't performing well, you should ask what's preventing them from doing their job. Do they have the right tools to perform? Do they require further training? Do they require encouragement from their manager? Could someone mentor them to bring them through this challenging time?

Don't leave them to struggle in their jobs, then expect them to miraculously perform. If you can't give your staff the necessary support, they'll find another employer who can.

6. Give your staff the freedom to grow

Most employees want to continually learn and grow. Give them opportunities to take on more challenging tasks. Take them to industry events and relevant seminars. Ask them what courses / further education will help them reach their career potential. Give them paid professional development, i.e. one study day a fortnight paid.

Forget the micromanagement. Give your staff the freedom to perform well at their job. If you can't, they'll plateaux and move on.

7. Get your leaders involved

One of the biggest gripes employees have is a lack of interaction with senior management and leaderships teams. It's almost as if leaders and staff can't mix in some companies.

Interaction with leaders through mentorship, advisory and general support channels will help your staff grow. They'll also feel more engaged with your company.

8. Offer more flexibility

Flexible working hours and working from home arrangements appear to be more common with employers. However, could you be a little more creative with flexible working arrangements?

How about summer / winter working arrangements, like finishing earlier in summer and starting later in winter? How about extra annual leave for high-performers? On top of monetary awards, could you offer extra paid holidays?

What about refresher rewards? Your staff who put in additional hours to complete a project on time could receive an extra day's holiday to recover after periods of high intensity work.

Do you give your staff their Birthdays off? It's a small token but it's effective. Everyone feels special on their Birthday. Make them feel extra special.

Do you have a 9-day fortnight? This flexible approach to work appeals more to female employees. There's a plus for your gender diversity policy.

9. Incorporate a CSR policy

Most of us want to work for a company that has a good reputation and is widely recognised as 'giving.' Do you support community causes where you can volunteer?

Organising a quarterly event where your staff can volunteer for public sector organisations such as Manna (Feeding Perth's homeless) or Shenton Park Dog's Home helps bring people together and lift a positive team spirit / loyalty among your staff.

Did you spot what was missing?


Salaries are important. The thing with salary is it's an extrinsic motivator. Salary alone won't motivate people to move jobs. The trick is to make sure your staff are paid fairly (with benefits such as health / life insurance, competitive super (where you can) and performance related bonuses) and they're engaged with their work, their peers, management/leadership and your company.

The challenge moving forward is there will be companies that will throw silly amounts of money to lure people over. It's a fact some will move.

If you can look after your staff by making them feel engaged and part of a bigger picture, you'll retain most of them.

What's next?

  1. Hit a glass ceiling at work or you no longer feel part of something? Maybe it’s time to look for a better job?

  2. Finding it tough to attract high-performing people (those not applying to job ads) to your business?

  3. Neither, however, I’m happy to sign up with 600+ people and be kept posted with meaningful employment insights.

Inverse Energy is a recruitment / search consultancy based in Perth, Western Australia with a focus on mid to senior management and leadership jobs across the energy, mining, infrastructure and defence sectors - worked on a retained or exclusive basis.