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[Case Study] Improving employee retention in professional services

Case study from a major professional services firm

Our research indicates that meaningfully supporting employees’ career development makes it more likely that they will stay. The majority of individuals on a GroHappy pilot at a major professional services firm were more likely to stay at the firm after using GroHappy.

In this case study we share the outcomes from a pilot where a major professional services firm were using GroHappy to better support, engage and retain junior employees.

Context

Improving retention is a top priority for many businesses. High employee turnover costs $160 billion each year in the US alone. A sum that comes as no surprise once you factor in the price of finding a replacement (usually via a recruitment agency), training them, and the productivity losses when someone leaves, which can account for over 80% of these costs according to Oxford Economics.

While some attrition is healthy, for many organisations the pressure is on to retain more of their talented employees. A recent report by Frazer Jones shows that ‘engaging and retaining talent is the single biggest priority for 2018 - surpassing talent acquisition’.

One major professional services firm is innovating around its employee experience. It worked with GroHappy to understand how helping employees build fulfilling careers in the organisation might also help retain and engage them.

The challenges faced by the firm

The firm was seeking innovative, scalable ways to tackle a high attrition rate (compared to the UK benchmark of 15%) among employees with 3-5 years tenure at the firm. When the average cost of losing an employee is over £30,000 this was presenting an expensive challenge.

Their internal employee engagement research indicated that this was driven by employees feeling less fulfilled at work due to less interesting work linked to increased regulation, high pressure projects and uncertainty around the impact of automation on careers.

As an organisation they were looking to understand more about what a ‘fulfilling career’ meant to people so that they could better support people to make it a reality.

Uncovering a fulfilling career with GroHappy

The group of individuals in the pilot had access to the GroHappy career development platform, where they completed bitesize self-reflection activities and discovered personalised resources to help them take steps forward. They got clearer on their strengths, their core values and what a fulfilling career means for them.

The pilot took place over a couple of months and helped people take stock of their career to date, take accountability and ownership for their career, and take proactive steps forwards.

Each employee had access to the GroHappy platform that offered them tailored content. Someone with a core value of ‘leadership’ for instance, might be recommended a series of articles on challenges they could do to become a great leader or an online course on leadership foundations.

“GroHappy has been about making time to actually think about what I want to do, rather than worrying about it. It’s forced me to sit and think about and actually do something and prepare myself for what’s coming up in the next few months.”

- Pilot participant

Someone who expressed a fear of ‘being left behind by their peers’ might be provided with courses on self-development and ideas of helpful conversations to have. On average, people engaged with the platform, the activities and their tailored content twice a week, which is significantly higher than traditional learning and development solutions.

“The learning content was really enjoyable.”

- Pilot participant

Key takeaways and results

Enabling career reflection can increase retention:

Over 50% of employees who took part in the project stated that they will be more likely to be at the organisation one year from now as a result of using GroHappy. 31% said they were no more or less likely to stay at the firm after the GroHappy pilot.

A main lesson learnt by the organisation is that, by giving employees the time and space to consider their career priorities they are more likely to stay. Qualitative research suggests that this may be due to employees more proactively identifying internal opportunities or feeling that the business supports their ambitions and development.

This is consistent with the work of Kaye and Giulioni who authored the book “Help Them Grow, or Watch Them Go”. Indeed, employee engagement experts, Culture Amp, reinforce this learning in their research that shows that learning and development, including career development, is one of the biggest drivers of engagement.

Technology can make personalised career support scalable:

Some of the outcomes delivered through the pilot mirror outcomes delivered by career coaches. However, providing personal career coaches to employees would be expensive and while many organisations are invested in training internal coaches, there can often still be a reluctance to be fully open and honest with colleagues in case it hampers progression prospects.

Through GroHappy, this organisation was able to cost-effectively support more junior employees who were at a higher risk of attrition. Due to the flexibility of using technology, it was also an efficient way to support employees rather than taking days out of the business.

Results from the project show greater career clarity:

Prior to implementation, 60% of employees stated that they understood what skills and behaviours that they needed to develop. This rose to 90% after the project.

A third of employees said that they felt in control of their career before the project. This increased to 80% after it completed. Before the project, 30% said they had a clear sense of their career route over the next two to three years. Afterwards this number went up to over 80%.

Some of the feedback from participants have included:

“GroHappy is almost like having a career conversation with yourself, making you think about things, giving prompts in order to make you reflect on what you want to do.”

- Pilot participant

“It’s made me think further about what I want and what changes I can make both in the company and outside of the company in order to fulfil those needs. I would have struggled to identify these without the helpful prompts from GroHappy.”

- Pilot participant

“Grohappy is a platform to know yourself better, to know your values, what strengths and weaknesses you have, and the development points you need to focus on. GroHappy helps you know yourself better.”

- Pilot participant

We learnt about one of the key ingredients for success: Leadership permission.

Leadership needs to give permission: 

Letting employees know that it’s okay to take time out from a work day to focus on development is critical to an initiative’s success. Having the time, and making development a priority, are often the two biggest hurdles to a learning and development programme that GroHappy encounter.

Moving forward

Following the pilot, GroHappy's solution will be offered to other groups of employees who the organisation want to better support, with a view to increasing retention and engagement.

Individuals on the original pilot will continue to implement their learnings through 1:1 career conversations and by pursuing the career goals and actions they set through the pilot.

Together, GroHappy and this organisation are exploring how the solution might be offered at scale to better engage and retain employees at key career moments.

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