How to stop your best staff from leaving

15 December 2014

 Professor Peter Boxall, Chair of Human Resource Management, at the University of Auckland Business School
Professor Peter Boxall, Chair of Human Resource Management, at the University of Auckland Business School.

With the new year comes resolutions to exercise more, drink less, spend more time with family and friends and, for some, to find a new job.

For businesses, losing staff means more than the cost of recruitment and training - it is the lost value of those people, their industry and company knowledge and what they add to teamwork and collegiality in the workplace.

Those who leave an organisation often report feeling they have outgrown their role, which speaks to an individual's core motivations.

So what should employers do if they want to keep their stars?

Research recently published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management suggests that, to enhance retention, employers should think about how to give employees greater say in how to do their jobs. That provides them with greater opportunity to use their skills which in turn leads to greater satisfaction.

"We found that the more empowered employees felt, the higher their motivation, and subsequently the higher their commitment to the organisation," says Professor Peter Boxall, Chair of Human Resource Management, at the University of Auckland Business School.

"People were also more committed if they felt the rewards they received were fair in relation to the contributions they made."
Professor Boxall, along with lecturer Ann Hutchison and masters graduate Brigitta Wassenaar, surveyed 285 employees at a large New Zealand organisation. Their findings are consistent with other studies in this area and have lessons for those wanting to reduce employee turnover.

While there are no absolute rules about what to do, or what not to do, Professor Boxall points to the value of creating a climate of individual growth.


Where employees have the skills and confidence, they should be encouraged to take greater control and should be offered progressively more challenging assignments. It helps if managers have at least one discussion with every employee every year about personal development and how they can support it.

"If we hold salary and wage levels constant, people will commit more to an organisation where they feel they are empowered, that their core skills are being used, and they are growing. Money is an important variable, and rewards need to be fairly distributed but money is not the only factor driving employee motivation and retention.

"What our research shows is that people are happier, and more likely to stay, when the organisation they work for enables them to reach more of their potential."