Salary increases have failed to stem the rising tide of managers leaving the food industry. Christine Hayhurst examines what a workplace must offer to hang on to valued employees

According to the latest annual figures published by the salary specialists Remuneration Economics, managers in the food industry are more inclined to quit their jobs than they were 12 months ago. This startling statement comes despite a clear indication from the research that the salaries for these managers have increased.
It revealed that as resignations rose by half to 6% in the last year, managers in the sector saw their combined earnings grow 12%, from an average of £47,513 to £53,304.
It may not be quite as much as the leaders of the ‘earnings league table’ (the chemical industry tops the list on an average of £55,359). However, 12% is significant at the best of times, and not least when the national average is less than 5%.
Staff retention has long been an issue in what is a competitive marketplace. Yet the increase in resignations is a major concern because, unchecked, it can impact on the strategic development of the UK’s food retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and distributors.
So it is clear there is a growing need for organisations to develop ways to keep their best staff. But can anything be done to reverse the current trend?
In basic terms, yes - but don’t look at staff turnover as an entirely bad situation. Some is inevitable and occasionally desirable. New faces can, after all, inject fresh impetus into an organisation, bringing with them new ideas, enthusiasm and knowledge. It’s only when turnover is unnecessary that it becomes expensive in terms of recruitment costs, production inefficiencies and lower staff morale.
The best way of managing staff turnover and retention is to begin by establishing the extent of the problem in your own team and then your organisation. Determine how many people are leaving in a given year and how many join, or want to join. How many have been with you for more than 12 months? This is important because a high rapid turnover (less than 12 months) is a clear indication that staff are not getting what they want from the job and you could need to reassess the job description.
You may be asking for too much in too short a time, so explore this in conjunction with the objectives that have been set. All too often a role is created and maintained, even though the position changes hands several times. Targets should never remain static because the incumbent’s expectations change and market forces impact on priorities too.
You should also take steps to ensure pay rates are competitive, though money is not the only motivator.
People are concerned with how their working lives can fit around leisure time, so it might be worth exploring the feasibility of a flexible benefits
programme. Could you, for example, offer childcare arrangements or a scheme where staff receive ‘flexible credits’ to be redeemed against a benefit of their choice.
Some may want to ‘buy’ additional holiday time, others may prefer gym membership or private healthcare. Whatever the offering, the key is that your organisation will be seen as accommodating individual needs - something employees value.
And if you are finding it difficult to retain staff, look at your recruitment literature. Does the organisation really reflect the glossy images on the page or is reality far removed from the brochure? It could be that the information is outdated or that the organisation’s culture has changed.
It could, of course, be a far deeper problem. Are induction and training programmes relevant to the jobs being done? Most managers want to develop their career prospects, so consider whether you provide opportunities for continuous professional development. As people progress they assume management responsibilities but their skills needs in this arena are rarely recognised. Ensure this is not the case in your team.
Most managers are also hired, initially, because of technical expertise, but if you want to keep them - and the knowledge they have built up - develop their management capabilities and then recognise them. And when someone leaves, why not conduct an exit interview? You might find out crucial information that the same individual would be unwilling to share if they were staying.
People don’t change jobs without good reason.
n Christine Hayhurst is director of professional affairs, Chartered Management Institute