|Employee retention is a critical issue
many sectors of the economy including
retail, hospitality, technology, professional
services and community services.
Long serving employees are able to build deeper relationships with customers, become more productive in carrying out their jobs and understand how to get things done within the unique cultural and procedural context of their organisation. The resulting impact on organisational revenues and efficiency can make the difference between an organisation barely surviving on one hand or thriving on the other.
This article looks at how fulfilling work relates to employee retention in the community services sector. It is likely that lessons from the community services sector could also apply to other sectors where many employees are in customer-facing roles and where the knowledge and attitudes of employees impact the customer experience.
Numerous studies have shown that job fulfilment and growth is a critical driver of employee retention1. For this article, we examined the employee engagement results from 10 community services organisations in some depth. Two organisations clearly stood out from the rest in terms of their ability to engage and retain their employees. We compared and contrasted their results with the other organisations to derive lessons that would be of interest to others in this and related sectors.
Employees at the top two organisations have very high levels of job fulfilment and this has a direct impact on retention.
|Survey statements||Top 2||Other 8|
|I enjoy working here||81%||68%|
|Overall, I am satisfied with my job||74%||61%|
|I can envisage a future for myself at this organisation||73%||55%|
* Percentage of respondents who agreed (6) or strongly agreed (7) with the statement on a 7 point scale where 1 = strongly disagree, 4 = neither agree nor disagree and 7 = strongly agree
In the top two organisations roughly three quarters of employees enjoy their work, are satisfied with their jobs and can envisage a future for themselves in the organisation. The balance of employees were mostly neutral and not negative about these items. With such a big majority of employees feeling positively about their jobs and the organisation, the overall climate is highly constructive and "contagious" when new people join the organisation. This constructive climate assists in delivering better results for clients which in turn reinforces job satisfaction and commitment to the organisation.* Percentage of respondents who agreed (6) or strongly agreed (7) with the statement on a 7 point scale where 1 = strongly disagree, 4 = neither agree nor disagree and 7 = strongly agree
In this short article it is not possible to discuss the drivers of success for the top 2 organisations in great detail. There is however an overriding message that comes out very clearly from their employee feedback - these organisations genuinely care for their clients and their employees. This creates a very constructive environment and leads to high levels of job fulfilment.
Employee responses to the question "what do we do well in our organisation?" provide a powerful summary of what organisations should focus on (comments are verbatim with minor edits to protect confidentiality):
In this study, top two organisation employees take great pride in the contribution that the organisation is making to the community and this makes their jobs very satisfying. This is a natural strength that community services organisations should be able to leverage for retaining valued employees.
In the top two organisations, job fulfilment is inextricably linked to being empowered and supported to genuinely help disadvantaged clients. The strength of this situation is echoed in our recent Profitable Growth Cycle™, paving the way for organisations across the board to achieve high growth.
While many employees in the community services sector experience job fulfilment by making a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged and by working with like-minded people, there are three areas that present challenges for most organisations in the sector - recognition/reward, stress management and IT.
Employees in the community services sector who feel that they are not fairly compensated for their efforts are more likely to leave the organisation. In the top two organisations, only 17% of employees were dissatisfied with their pay, versus more than 50% elsewhere. It is remarkable that only a small minority of employees in the top 2 organisations are dissatisfied with their remuneration. In spite of very real financial constraints, these organisations have been able to find the right balance between base pay, salary packaging and recognition via numerous mechanisms such as Christmas hampers, employee of the month awards, client feedback and recognising staff milestones.
A second potential stressor in the community services sector is related to resource limitations, work load and work stress. The top 2 organisations have been very successful at implementing systems to ensure the fair distribution of workloads, and providing employee assistance programs and offering flexible working arrangements to manage these stressors as well as possible.
The third common bugbear relates to IT systems. In the words of one community services employee: "having the computers crash all the time and losing your work is incredibly counterproductive both to morale and to getting the job done". The top 2 organisations have found a way to invest adequately in their IT systems so that employees can get the job done with reasonable efficiency. While employees can't necessarily expect state of the art IT systems, sensible policies like retiring PCs after 5 years can make a big difference to staff.
Our deep dive into our 10 most recent employee surveys in the community services sector revealed some interesting findings. None of the 10 were in the bottom quartile of the overall database for employee engagement. Two of the 10 were among the top performing organisations across all sectors. They have achieved very high levels of job fulfilment and employee retention. This is driven by creating unusually positive working environments where the needs of clients are paramount and employees receive the training and support they need to meet their clients' needs. These organisations have also been remarkably successful at neutralising potential negatives in the community services sector relating to pay, work stress and inadequate IT systems.
1. See for example "Why people stay: how to keep your best employees", published by Insync Surveys.