Organisations need to adopt a more flexible staff retention strategy that takes account of the demographic differences of employees in their values, commitment and job satisfaction, claims Ron Eldridge of great{with}talent.

Staff Retention Strategies and Demographic Groups

In the current credit-crunched economy, employee engagement is no longer a luxury for organisations. It’s a necessity. To survive and thrive, you have to retain your best people and increase their operational effectiveness.

Unfortunately, though, many organisations adopt a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to staff retention strategies. They assume that employees are similar, rather than different, and that a blanket approach will yield the most benefit for the least cost.

However according to a new research study, One Size Does Not Fit All *, different demographic groups of employees have different needs and priorities. In other words, if you want to maintain the employee commitment, you need to adopt a much more flexible approach to employee retention. You need to take into account the gender, age, ethnic, educational and occupational differences that exist in work values and employee engagement.

In the research study, 16,000 employees in UK organisations were asked to rank the relative importance of 12 key factors that have been shown to underpin employee commitment. These are: salary and rewards; career progression; personal growth; well-being; their relationships with their colleagues; their relationship with their manager; job satisfaction; their confidence in their organisation; working conditions; their degree of loyalty and trust; their ethical standards and their level of autonomy at work.

Studies have shown that these are the factors that influence whether or not your employees will stay with your organisation. The key point is that the importance of these factors varies from individual to individual (and from group to group).

Learn about great{with}talent’s Exit Process Cost Calculator.

Demographic Differences

So what differences exist? The gender differences, according to the research, are that women express higher organisational commitment and lower intention to leave than men. Women value the quality of their working relationships (with their line manager and their peers) more than men. Men value salary and career progression more than women.

The age differences show that older employees have higher levels of job satisfaction and organisational commitment. With age, the importance of work-life balance and concern for corporate and social responsibility increases. Career progression and personal growth decrease in importance with age.

Younger workers, consistent with Generation Y claims, are the most change-orientated and career-driven. Young men in manual occupations are the least engaged with their jobs and organisations.

While there were no significant differences in organisational commitment or intention to leave between ethnic groups, the report reveals that Indian, Chinese, Pakistani and black African employees place higher importance on career progression than white British people. Pakistani and Chinese groups report the lowest levels of job satisfaction.

The educational differences show that employees with a degree-level education place higher importance on work values linked to challenge and advancement. These include career progression, job satisfaction, personal growth and autonomy.

In contrast, non-graduate employees place more importance on more tangible, immediate factors such as salary, line manager relationships, loyalty and working conditions. Whilst graduates have higher levels of organisational commitment than non-graduates, they are also more likely to leave an organisation. Graduates working in customer service or administrative roles report the highest intention to leave.

The occupational differences show that managers, professionals and sales groups have the highest level of job satisfaction. In terms of employee engagement, the least satisfied with their jobs are machine operatives and those in customer service roles. Strong leadership and clear communication are considered more important by the managerial, professional and sales groups.


Gender, age, ethnic, educational and occupational differences, outlined above, serves to highlight that a blanket approach to staff retention won’t work.

A better approach is to have an open and honest debate with each employee. In order to satisfy the range of needs and priorities which will be expressed by different groups, you also need to have flexibility within your organisational structures, processes and opportunities.

For example, career progression may be very important to a particular individual. But if the structure of your organisation offers only limited hierarchical progression, you need the flexibility to offer possible alternatives such as secondments or internal mobility.

Essentially, implementing this level of flexibility involves a change of mindset. Instead of thinking of employees as a homogenous connected population, that broadly speaking you can treat as one, you have to see your people as a very different set of individuals, with different needs, priorities and motivations.

Competitive Advantage

By identifying any differences in the work values held by employees, and the extent to which these have been met by the organisation, you’ll be able to pinpoint where improvements or interventions are needed. The differences may well occur in different parts of the organisation or they may vary by job role or hierarchical level.

Regardless of the size of your organisation, if you understand the individual and group differences (and commonalities) within your employee population, you will have the potential to achieve higher levels of employee satisfaction and commitment.

Making these changes will help you to better meet the needs of your employees. In turn, that will help you to cut staff turnover levels, promote diversity and optimise individual performance and development.

* One Size Does Not Fit All: Demographic Differences in Work Values and Employee Engagement in the UK.

Contact great{with}talent and find out more about their TalentEngage employee engagement surveys.

(First published HR Grapevine. Main image from Training Zone.)