Why treating your employees like customers might be the best retention strategy

Published: 01/02/2022
Author: Vidatec

For businesses that like to plan ahead, high staff turnover is highly undesirable. Not only can it hamper productivity and stall growth, it’s also an expensive way to run a workforce. According to some estimates, the average employee exit can cost a company almost a third of that staff member’s annual salary, so not only have you lost valuable talent and resource, you’ve also lost capital that could have been directed toward furthering your business goals. 

Of course, there are things that employers can do to reduce staff turnover. In a 2022 Gallup poll, it was revealed that 87% of millennials think “opportunities for growth and development” is the most important factor when it comes to career satisfaction. For others, it might be their sense of well-being, the flexibility of their work, the kind of support they receive from management, or perhaps it can be as simple as their level of compensation. But increasingly, more than anything else, employers are beginning to realise that their staff need to be heard. In this regard, today’s staff ought to be engaged more like customers rather than employees.

An employee exit can cost a company almost a third of their salary in lost productivity and training costs.

Your staff have more in common with your customers than you might think

If you consider what makes customers loyal to a particular brand, is it purely down to the quality of the product or the service the brand offers? It could be both, but what’s more likely is that customers feel heard, engaged and that their time is being respected. The most successful businesses in the world go out of their way to engage customers on their own terms, opening convenient channels that work in the customer’s favour. They’ll also do their best to gather feedback from customers and use that feedback to hone their services, perhaps even tailoring it from customer to customer. More than 90% of customers are more likely to shop with a brand that recognises, remembers and engages with them in a way that’s personally relevant. It goes without saying that these are all things that an employee might also find valuable when interacting with their employer.

There are also some interesting parallels to be drawn between customers and employees from a company’s perspective. Retaining both presents similar challenges. For instance, did you know that acquiring new customers, on average, costs a business five times as much as retaining existing ones? So-called ‘customer turnover’ is a real challenge too, with 50% of customers likely to direct their loyalty to another business within five years. The fact is, businesses expend a lot of energy trying to keep customers loyal and reduce customer turnover. What if they applied the same level of focus, engagement and interactivity they offer their customers to their staff? This is where things have the potential to get really interesting. 

90% of customers are more likely to shop with a brand that recognises, remembers and engages with them in a way that’s personally relevant. If you think about it, the same applies to your staff.

Nurturing a culture of engagement

There’s something that salaries, bonuses, perks, training, culture and general productivity all have in common, and that’s engagement. Businesses need to be able to really hear their staff in order to understand their motivations and long-term goals. For the vast majority of workers, that’s going to involve more than a quarterly appraisal with their line manager to tick off a few KPIs. Employees need to feel connected, heard and respected in the same way customers do. They need to feel invested in a company, having their individuality recognised while still feeling like a part of a wider community – again, just like customers do. A customer is more likely to talk up your business, rate it highly and shop again with you if they feel like they’ve been seen and heard as an individual. Similarly, employees who feel their voice is heard are five times more likely to feel empowered and deliver their best work for you. What’s more, according to McKinsey, workers that feel a sense of connection and community within their organisation tend to work with 25% higher productivity than those who don’t. 

Distributed working

Businesses that were able to retain customers throughout the pandemic did so through innovation. During lockdown, companies adapted their services to keep up with the changing needs and behaviours of their customers. As well as moving their products and services almost exclusively online, they also moved their customer engagement online too. Regular check-ins with customers, delivery notifications, product updates, reminders, social media engagement – the list goes on. At the peak of the pandemic, 72% of desk-based workers were working remotely, and let’s not forget the deskless teams that already make up more than 80% of the world’s workforce. Businesses that apply the same level of ingenuity and dedication to engaging with their distributed teams as they do their customers will find it easier to nurture a culture of engagement.

Using technology to treat your staff like customers

To increase employee retention, you need to be able to ensure that their journey with your business is as smooth and seamless as possible, with plenty of touchpoints along the way. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what’s needed when it comes to customer retention too. Businesses should welcome new staff the same way they welcome new customers, with a smooth onboarding process that’s respectful of their time and provides everything they need without getting bogged down in admin and paperwork. They need to know what channels are open to them and how to use them, and know that when they speak they will be heard and their feedback taken on board. 

Through platforms like Engage4, businesses can create more meaningful digital workplace experiences that allow them to achieve all of this and more. Engage4 is a fully customisable, mobile-first app that offers a way to connect, onboard, unite and retain your employees as part of a modern, connected, cloud-based solution. Sign up for a free no-obligation trial here to get started.