The Workplace Doctor: employee loyalty is a two-way street

Staff are more likely to stay on with the company more than two years if they feel they are appreciated.

We have a high staff turnover rate in the company with staff generally staying for two years. While two years is a good stretch, constantly rehiring new staff – mainly from overseas – makes for a costly recruitment budget. While I understand the UAE has a transient workforce, are there some policies or initiatives we could put in place that would help us increase the tenure of each employee? ST, Dubai

Hello ST, great to see you seeking efficiencies, yet are you doing this with common sense in mind?

I see you considering this situation as a reactionary activity. That can lead to short-term, and often short-lived, solutions. I also see it is accompanied with a mindset of power, whereby a policy or practice will ensure someone has no choice. I personally don’t agree with the concept of separation, and would like to suggest you might achieve results of a sustaining and win-win nature if you were to reverse the power into the hands of the employee. By that I mean allow the team members to be internally driven and excited to stay because it is worth their time. Rather than react with disconnected, misaligned, cost-driven or short-term policies, start building your dream or vision where the people will be wanting to stay because of a value-adding, beneficial culture and experience.

So what can people find value in? Consider the demographics of your workforce, and the reasons why those people would not be working in their own land. In most cases, the word “opportunity” will appear and this may be where you can influence and add value much more than policies can. Opportunity can mean different things to different people. Some may seek additional skills, others money, others again lifestyle or adventure.

I once set up a computer lab and loaded many self-help programs on to the computers. For example, the internationally accredited yet self-driven ICDL, where people receive a licence to drive a suite of computer applications not only provides an individual with additional skill but also transfers responsibility to that person to invest with his or her own time. The win-win I see in this is simple – eventually they will return home with a greater skill level and better chance of employment, while you find the people to be more grateful and may even wish to offer these skills when you get stuck.

What are the opportunities for money over and above the basic wage? Are you making paid overtime opportunities available? What additional activities are they requesting that may be of interest? Look at how they live at home and compare. What is the trade-off they are making to be here? Would you trade off until your employment takes you into the emotional or financial “red”?

After opportunity comes your mindset. It never ceases to amaze me when I mention a solution that will create energy within the people or serve their needs, how I receive responses from a business owner that, “I can’t do that because then someone else will recruit them”. My first and foremost response is to ask what is it that you aren’t offering that the prospective employer is and secondly, if your intention has been in their best interest, they may eventually look to return one day.

One of my favourite phrases is that adults are babies in big bodies and if we show we care for their needs, not what we feel or believe they need, they will feel nurtured and unlikely to fly away from the nest. What lining is missing in the nest you provide?

Doctor’s Prescription

Reverse your outlook and let go of control; allow others to decide if you deserve their time and valued years.

Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at for the Workplace Doctor’s advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague.

Published: October 1, 2013 04:00 AM


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