Every business is concerned at some level around turnover of staff. But how can you actively work against churn using rewards? We spoke to Iain Thomson, Director of Incentives and Rewards, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services about his experiences with which rewards work, and how to go about implementing a reward strategy.

“For some businesses, battling with high staff turnover may be familiar territory; for others, this could be a new trend that has suddenly struck their workforce. But why? For a start, unemployment rates are low, demand for talent is high and the skills shortage is real. Couple this environment with a generation of workers that are changing jobs with alarming regularity and the result, for employers, is tough.  However, could there be a way to minimise staff turnover in the short term and find a solution for the longer term?

A new generation

The concept of organising one’s personal life around work commitments will seem alien to a new generation of employees who often expect their employment to accommodate their lifestyle – something that previous generations may not understand. In years past, employees also tended to stay with the same company for their entire working lives, but many are now more than happy to change jobs, or even careers, if it means a better quality of life, regardless of the salary.

This shift is most apparent among the millennial demographic, who are one of the key contributors to current high staff turnover rates. With fewer barriers to travelling and working abroad and a wealth of university degrees and training courses under their belts, this generation is not afraid to hop from one employer to another.

Businesses need to take the impulsive nature of these ‘Generation Y’ workers seriously, as this group is expected to make up 50 per cent of the entire workforce by 2020. As a result, employers need to think of new and effective ways to keep these employees loyal and engaged.

Employee rewards can play an important role in achieving this goal, but only if employers adapt their reward scheme to reflect the different preferences of their team. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of millennials, for example, prefer to spend their money on experiences rather than material items, according to recent studies[1]. As inflation rises and wages remain stagnant, it will therefore be important to reward these workers accordingly – or risk losing them to more savvy competitors.

Company or department wide social events also represent the type of experiential rewards that millennial workers enjoy, with the additional benefit of promoting a healthy unity within a team. Tickets for a wide variety of attractions can be used to motivate these employees, and can even be personalised to reflect the recipient’s personal interests, such as sports, arts, film or outdoor activities. This personal approach can be used to create a meaningful, long-lasting bond between the employer and the employee.

A cultural calamity


Of course, it’s not enough for employers to focus on millennials alone. High staff turnover can be a symptom of a serious flaw in a business’ corporate culture, which can be hard to identify and even harder to fix.

Improving a corporate culture takes immense resource and a clear strategy, but there are tools which can be used to help the process. Giving managers the discretion to reward exceptional results or positive behaviours will reinforce the traits that a business wants to see amongst its workforce. Similarly, ensuring a healthy social scene across the company with events and off-site sessions will help the wider team to bond and the leaders to shine.

Employers who want to retain the best talent must therefore adapt their company’s rewards strategy to reflect the changing needs of their staff. What may have been appropriate for someone at the start of their career will undoubtedly change as they have children or buy a home. A more valuable reward for these employees might be a gift card for a popular high street store, for example, or multi-choice vouchers that can be used with a variety of retailers to purchase anything from baby clothes to furniture. Implementing a more relaxed working culture, if appropriate, could help too.

Pre-paid cards that can be used to purchase goods or services can also be very popular, and also give employers the option of topping them up if desired. Employees may also appreciate additional holiday or reduced office hours to alleviate the strain of childcare or other extra-curricular responsibilities. Options like flexible working or having the opportunity to work from home can also show an understanding of employees’ lives outside of work.

Rewards like these are likely to appeal to a wide range of employees. Ultimately, employers will need to create a company culture that treats its workforce as a family, but which also recognises the individuals within it. A rewards scheme that is both highly personalised and truly valued by employees is the key to achieving this goal. By implementing such a strategy, employers can appeal to the full spectrum of employees that make up the modern workforce and thereby attract and retain the most talented staff.”


[1] http://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/05/millennials-are-prioritizing-experiences-over-stuff.html

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