An introduction to the contributors

To put this eBook together, we chatted to two HR leaders to explore their expertise in the talentsphere, uncovering practical tips on how to develop and retain top talent.


Andy Partridge Co-Founder, Enviable Workplace

Andy has over 20 years’ experience in the recruitment industry. In 2010 he launched the company culture blog Enviable Workplace to help companies attract, retain and engage their culture ambassadors. Andy’s recruitment service specialises in matching great people with great cultures, and runs regular events for the cause. Andy also works with graduates and sixth formers to help them to make a successful transition to the world of work.


Julia Murrell Director of People and Development, Firmdale Hotels

Julia Murrell has spent the lion’s share of her career working for some of the UK’s best-loved hotel brands. She currently heads up the people and development department at Firmdale Hotels, the owners of The Soho Hotel and Charlotte Street Hotel in London, among others. Julia was awarded HR Manager of the Year at the 2013 Hotel Cateys.

An introduction to the handbook

Recruitment and retraining costs this country an arm and a leg – something every HR and recruitment manager is only too aware of.

The pressure on talent and retention managers is twofold. First, to assist overall business performance in an uncertain landscape; second, to save on recruitment and retraining costs.

Over a third of employees are likely to leave their jobs within one year. This figure increases down the generations, with 49% of millennials identifying as likely to move company – or quit outright – within a year.

This handbook explores the changing ‘talentscape’, highlighting the need for a mindset shift when it comes to retaining talent. It sheds light on how to increase employee retention, and how HR and recruitment professionals can lead the change. The following pages will reveal:

  • The common causes of churn among employees, and how HR can address them.
  • The importance of organisational alignment in retaining employees.
  • The industries most at risk of high employee turnovers, and prevention strategies for each.


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High-risk industries

Some industries have higher churn rates than others. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average employee tenure is 4.6 years, which might sound like a lifetime to those in the low retention category. This section explores the industries with the highest attrition rates and what HR and recruitment leaders can do about it.


Despite some of its biggest players such as Google and Facebook often being voted among the best places to work, the tech industry has a notoriously high churn rate. The reason is its ferocious competitivity – due to the high-skill requirements of employees, companies in the tech space will climb over each other to onboard genuine talent.

This industry is also renowned for its innovative use of benefits and rewards. While free massages and beanbags make the HR headlines, tech companies must do more to communicate career paths to ensure the longevity of their top talent.


While baby boomers typically stay in retail roles for two years, the average tenure is brought down dramatically by Generation Z, who are likely to stay put for just nine months. Many employees struggle to see career paves in the sector, others are failed early on by the recruitment process.

To combat high churn rates in retail, managers must lay out clear career development opportunities, strengthen their recruitment processes, and nurture existing talent to plug skills gaps and increase productivity.


Typically low barriers to entry are compounded by demanding tasks and long working hours. While these factors take their toll in its low retention rates, experts say that human capital management is most at fault for the hospitality sector’s churn.

Poor management techniques encourage employees to look elsewhere. The key areas for retail recruiters to emphasise are career paths, learning and development opportunities and specific benefits. On the management side, frequent dialogue and feedback surveys should be used to uncover latent frustrations to reverse the damage.


Employee turnover in healthcare is considerably higher than the national average. Employees in fields such as nursing are expected to work long hours for relatively low pay. As a result, the talent pool is diminishing. Healthcare organisations also has a problem with outdated management techniques and minimal benefit beyond salary.

Healthcare is in need of proactive HR. When its workers are drastically outnumbered by patients, the employee’s work-life balance bears the brunt. Managers need to prepare for this and regularly communicate solutions.


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5 reasons why you lose top talent

Recruiters and HR leaders are up against it. Staying on the right side of economic and technological advancements while meeting employee expectations is a feat that requires proactivity and foresight. To prevent attrition, you must first understand why it happens.

We recently ran a survey of 2000 UK-based employees to explore the state of employee engagement. The questions explored the pain points most likely to influence employees to fire up their The Guardian job alerts and look elsewhere – and what HR managers can do to stop this from happening. Here are the five most prominent causes of churn that it uncovered.

1. Lack of career development opportunities

Strong salaries and benefits packages will only go so far in your bid for retention. Talented employees tend to be the most ambitious, and will want to see opportunities for development and career progression within their role.

32% of employees resent the lack of career development opportunities on offer.


A clear and defined career path is a vital component in your EVP, and something that needs to be communicated and nurtured consistently. Where possible, each employee should have an individual journey mapped out based on conversations with their line managers.

2. Poor leadership

Over half of the people who keep our businesses ticking over have fundamental issues with those in charge. The employee-manager relationship will always be prone to stresses and strains, but the way we address these problems needs adapting. As a starting point, leadership should be present and consistent at every level of the organisation.

Just 48% of employees believe their management teams contribute towards a positive environment.


If your company hasn’t undergone some form of management training, our study suggests it might be time to make the first move. In addition, frequent dialogue through feedback surveys or informal conversations is a good way to uncover what’s causing latent frustrations.

3. Lack of company vision

By and large, people want to work for organisations with purpose and value. Increasingly, employees want to be part of a culture that’s driving towards something incremental. Goal alignment of this kind strengthens leadership and creates flexibility; with a mobilised team working towards shared objectives, businesses can execute strategy faster and with more agility.

59% of UK employees don’t feel aligned with their organisations’ goals.


Achieving this means encouraging your workforce to think beyond their personal and team objectives, towards a wider company movement. Use internal channels to promote the brand’s progress towards achieving its goals to give direction and focus.

4. Lack of recognition

Indiscriminate pay increases are rarely economically viable – and would do little to increase long term retention. Almost two-thirds of employees agreed that regular personalised benefits – such as cost-saving perks, free meals, and gym memberships – would be appreciated as recognition for their loyalty and personal investment.

66% of employees believe rewards would increase loyalty.


The key is to align any reward programmes with your organisation’s goals, that could mean improving skills or increasing retention. The most successful programmes contain a blend of instant recognition, leadership buy-in, and personalisation.

5. Lack of communication

A lack of organisational communication frustrates employees even more than poor leadership. If an organisation fails to articulate its requirements on both an individual and a collective level, employees will lack direction and drive. 

35% of employees identify a lack of communication as their biggest frustration at work.


The most practical solution to work-related frustrations is open dialogue; to candidly discuss issues as they arise. Regardless of the industry you’re in, employers need to engage with their people. Great company cultures are the product of leaders with emotional intelligence, stakeholder experience, employee engagement, and benefits. Employers need to make stronger emotional connection with their stakeholders, and bring purpose and value to work.

The changing talentscape

1. The evolving world of work

Technology has transformed the workplace forever. Its widespread adoption has opened up more opportunities for accelerated growth and productivity. However, the advent of automation and mobile technologies demands new skills and ways of working from our workforces at large. In tandem with technological revolution, we’ve also seen great changes in economic climate. Our manufacturing base has almost completely been replaced by the service industry – a space that prioritises people.

With economic prosperity now in the hands of people, it’s perhaps never been so important to increase employee tenure – the tricky thing is employees have never been so hard to keep. Recruitment veteran and co-founder of Enviable Workplace Andy Partridge believes the job for life model is a thing of the past, and perceptions of work are rapidly changing.

“When I started in the recruitment industry in 1986, it was acceptable to be in a job for five years. Anything less you were considered to be a job hopper. Then it went to three years, and today I see in a lot of markets 18 months as an acceptable time to be in a permanent job.”

“Today I see in a lot of markets 18 months as an acceptable time to be in a permanent job”


According to a recent Economist Research Unit report, graduates entering the workforce will have on average 13 jobs by the time they’re 38 years old. Clearly, organisations are having to rethink the way they attract, engage and retain people. Where top talent is concerned, it’s now less about candidates convincing organisations to hire them, and more about organisations convincing candidates to join them. Employers need to meet employees’ expectations.

2. Great employee expectations

Employees today expect more of their employer than ever before. Being treated with equality and respect is a prerequisite, the onus is now on companies to provide fulfilling and flexible work. This shift in expectations can also be seen in how employees wish to be remunerated – the measure of meaningful work goes far beyond salary for many of today’s employees.

“Being treated with equality and respect is a prerequisite, the onus is now on companies to provide fulfilling and flexible work”


Andy, who regularly works young people preparing to enter the workplace, explains how the expectations of Generations Y and Z are transforming organisational culture. “The main priority for young people is to work for an organisation with purpose and values. They complain about values merely being present on walls and websites, rather than lived within the people. Therefore, the challenge for employers is demonstrating these values in recruitment campaigns to show how they will be part of their employee’s journey.”

One of the creative ways organisations are doing this is by using the voices of employee brand advocates. Brands are commissioning groups of internal culture ambassadors to create outward-facing documents that capture the company culture. These collections of images, anecdotes, and collective likes and dislikes lifts up the curtain for potential talent, communicating with authenticity. 

3. Growing competition and the impact of Brexit

While the media often reports the knockon effect competitive job markets have on jobseekers – particularly for those entering the workforce – it’s perhaps less emphasised that recruiters and HR managers are also bearing the brunt of skills shortages. The CIPD and Hays recently surveyed 1000 HR professionals to explore competitivity in recruitment. It examined the impact of the external climate, recruitment budgets and costs, resourcing and talent management practices, and employee turnover and retention.

It turns out that competition for well-qualified talent is increasing by the year. As much as 75% of organisations experienced recruitment difficulties in the last year, and one in 10 had trouble recruiting for more than 50% of their roles. This is, in part, because the skills needed for certain roles are becoming increasingly specialised, but the challenges are compounded by the uncertainty that followed the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Some 60% of HR and recruitment professionals anticipate that in the next three years they will experience increased difficulty in recruiting senior and skilled employees as a direct result of Brexit. This is a call to arms for companies to strengthen and update their recruitment channels, particularly in high-churn industries.

“Some 60% of HR and recruitment professionals anticipate that in the next three years they will experience increased difficulty in recruiting senior and skilled employees as a direct result of Brexit”


Hospitality is one of the industries hit hardest by Brexit. We asked Firmdale Hotels’ director of people and development, Julia Murrell, what it has meant for her organisation. “Brexit has impacted our people. In the last couple of months we’ve experienced, for the first time, a slight drop in applications. We’ve also noticed among our current employees who’re from the EU a feeling of uncertainty about whether they would be able to stay and work with us. These are the two areas we’re working on fixing.”

“Retention certainly is a top challenge. All our hotels are in London and the quantity of hospitality jobs in London is high at the moment, and has been for a while. We focus on making sure there’s something for everyone, and that people know what’s available to them. Last year we conducted an employee engagement week, in which we explore different things our people value about Firmdale. We focused on our culture and our values, learning and development, rewards and recognition.”


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