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How research can improve your staff retention rates

January is often a bumper month for job ads and new starts; you will without question see many a recruiter quoting ‘New year, new job!’ in their ads this month. And that’s not without reason, with more than half of us considering the new year as an opportunity for a new start. While this trend did slightly shift with the pandemic, as most things did (a higher percentage of workers remaining in secure jobs during the uncertain time), the stats remain consistent overall; January will see an increase in staff attrition. 

With the average cost of a new hire reaching £30k – yep, that’s thirty thousand pounds, and rising for more senior roles – losing staff is an expensive business. While many organisations now use pulse-style tools to monitor employee engagement, in this article we’ll explore why utilising bespoke research can really make a difference to retaining your team.  

Trends and assumptions 

There is always a plethora of generic data available online regarding employment and engagement trends. Organisations such as CIPD and XpertHR are valuable sources of insight into the world of HR and employment and you will find useful generalised data to support the way in which you make internal business decisions.  

For example, the CIPD Resource and Talent Planning Report (2022, as 2023 not released at this time) is packed full of information from over 1000 UK-based HR/people professionals. Great, free data you might think. But actually, when you break down the profile of the respondents, only 3% were from our own North East region and just four sectors accounted for over 50% of the breakdown; it is clear that this cannot be used as a rule of thumb for all organisations. 

Online tools 

Over the past ten years, the popularity of using automated engagement monitoring tools has exploded, with many businesses of all shapes and sizes sending out periodic pulse surveys to their employees. These tools can track changes in employee perception, allowing employers to quickly act on problematic areas and identify what they’re doing well. The anonymity of these surveys reassures employees so that they speak freely if they choose to do so.  

But how can a bank of generic employee questions fit to your unique business? How do you know which to choose, when, how often and how to interpret that data into actionable business goals and decisions? What do you do when you want to delve into a specific area highlighted in our pulse results? How do you know that a short-term external event has impacted on their answer? What about those employees who don’t buy into it and you’re never able to tap into their thoughts and ideas? 

Ironically, there are so many unanswered questions to justify why this isn’t enough on its own. And, unless you have an inhouse dedicated Research Strategist, it’s likely you’re going to be left with a bunch of statements and numbers you don’t know what to do with, which will ultimately have a negative effect on your engagement and retention as employees see it as a waste of time.   

Market Research 

While market research is typically understood as customer or even stakeholder focused, the same techniques are just as easily applied internally to provide organisations precise insight into their employee perceptions.  

Market research begins with understanding the needs and preferences of the target audience, and the same principle applies when considering your employees. Conducting surveys, interviews, and focus groups within the organisation can help management gain insights into the expectations, motivations, and concerns of their workforce, all of which contribute to a positive workplace culture. 

Just like customer personas, research helps identify different segments of employees, each with their unique preferences and expectations. This allows businesses to tailor engagement strategies to effectively keep their workforce motivated and committed. Understanding what employees value in their work environment enables organisations to implement changes that enhance morale, overall job satisfaction and ultimately increase productivity. 

Research can also assist in predicting shifts in employee expectations. The pandemic showed us that we can’t assume that longstanding insights won’t change. By staying ahead of evolving workplace trends, organisations can proactively adjust their policies, benefits, and work culture to align with emerging employee needs. This forward-thinking approach enhances employee satisfaction and contributes to long-term retention. 

One area of employment that rarely changes in priority is pay; both fair compensation and competitive benefits. Market research allows businesses to not only understand their employees perceptions of their compensation but also benchmark against industry standards, enabling them to remain competitive. By doing so, companies can not only attract top talent but also retain existing employees who might be enticed by better offers elsewhere. 

Another thing that is regularly a priority for employees is the need for opportunities for professional growth and skill development. Market research can help identify industry trends, technological advancements, and emerging skills that are in demand. By aligning training and development programs with these insights, businesses can provide their employees with the skills necessary to stay relevant and progress in their careers. This, in turn, fosters a sense of loyalty as employees recognise the company’s commitment to their individual growth. 

Where research really stands out is the interpretation of this new data. As a research partner for our clients, MMC not only unearths these insights, but we interpret them into easily digested presentations, along with a string of recommendations on how to get the most from your investment.  

Even if you have a dedicated HR team to gather the information you need, it is unlikely that they’re experienced strategists capable of translating your findings into actions going forward, risking the integrity and adoption of any changes you decision to make.  

In contrast, by MMC conducting and engaging your employees with your research, your employer branding receives a healthy organic boost as your workforce values your efforts at both understanding them and acting on the data you receive from them. Incorporating a Net Promoter Score as an added extra will also allow you to share with the wider world just how recommended you are as an employer. Again, this is only something that can be achieved through market research, and not a one-size-fits-all online purchase.  

Overall, market research provides precise and up to date insights into your own organisation and marketplace that can’t be found online. To discuss how a custom package from MMC can provide your organisation with valuable employee insights, contact

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