How Building a Recruitment & Retention Plan Can Reduce Staff Turnover

March 16, 2022 | Read: 13 minutes

Building a recruitment and retention plan is one of the best actions to manage your business.

However, it’s also worth saying that no recruitment plan will always keep your staff from quitting…

That said, building a recruitment and retention plan will help keep staff around for longer.

Not only that, but a good retention plan will ensure that you can continue to benefit from the knowledge and experience of your qualified engineers, even when they do eventually move on.

Let’s look at the four critical steps of building a recruitment and retention plan and how it can help you reduce staff turnover.

key steps to hiring engineers, look at the infographic

Why do I need a recruitment and retention plan?

Some of you may wonder why a recruitment and retention plan is necessary, but I suspect more of you are wondering what you can do to make a difference. 

First, it helps to understand better what you’re up against before you can help your business. The main issues are turnover costs (which can be much higher than you thought!) and employers’ refusal to accept that even happy employees might want to move on. 

Let’s break it down: 

Fix Radio recently reported that:

“Recruitment costs for trade businesses have risen by at least 30% and of the businesses surveyed, 40% said they’ve had problems with recruitment and fulfilling roles”.

Financially, it’s also difficult:

“Losing an employee in the first year of their tenure can cost your company up to three times the person’s annual salary,” and that’s without the physical and mental effort that finding a new hire takes!


Throw in the mix the challenge of an ageing workforce and the struggle to entice younger generations to join the field—not to mention the effects of a pandemic—and it’s easy to see how there are more than a few challenges affecting the industry.

“For the sixth year in a row, skilled trade positions (electricians, carpenters, welders, etc.) were the hardest roles to fill, followed by drivers and healthcare professionals.”


From HVAC, electrical, plumbing, construction, and more, many field service businesses have continued to experience staff shortages. Hiring qualified engineers continues to be a highly competitive challenge. 

When retaining staff, it can be easy to get complacent.

“Our employees are like family!”

“They’ll never leave. We’ve been through so much! together”.

In the best-case scenario, the above statements are true, but even when things are going great, turnover is inevitable. Sooner or later, employees will decide to move on to new experiences. 

While it’s a shame when they do leave, their absence doesn’t have to hurt your business, and there’s plenty you can do to ensure you’re well-prepared to cope when they do!

Four steps in building your recruitment and retention plan:

Now that you know more about the challenges, let’s look at the steps you can take to help your business.

1. Succession planning

Every gas, electrical, heating, or plumbing company, whether large or small, needs to consider succession planning. Unfortunately, very few do.

After all, no matter how good an employer you are, there will always be competitors who will want to poach your top managerial and sales talent, as well as your most profitable engineers. 

The prospect of increased pay, joining a giant firm, or getting more responsibility is tempting. It could even work the other way around, with staff leaving more prominent companies to join more minor, less stressful independent businesses that find it easier to provide flexible hours and offer an improved work/life balance. 

“Multiple studies reflect the fact that providing flexibility to employees results in fewer sick hours, greater employee happiness, higher productivity and less stress.”


But when that happens, how does your business react?

A succession plan can help mitigate those risks, no matter which way it goes. 

So, what is an employee succession plan?

Succession planning is all about having a process in place where you can identify and train individuals to build up their skills and better prepare them to take over from senior leaders when they move on or retire. 

If you make collecting knowledge from older staff easy, you can pass this on to younger hires and train more competent successors quickly.

This process will also be helpful if you prepare good questions to ask in interviews to find the best person for the job. 

This will also make it easy for staff to transition into new roles, and when that’s the case, you’ll find that staff experience less stress, especially when expectations are more clearly outlined and they’re prepared in advance. 

Without a policy, you’ll not only waste a lot of your own time and that of your employees–but it could seriously impact the customer relationships you’ve worked so hard to build. You can hope for the best, but you should always plan for the worst.

2. Handover of responsibilities

Working with your engineers:

Engineer icon

An engineer who leaves will likely have outstanding jobs scheduled for completion after their leaving date. Like the above, you need to establish a process that makes it easy for ongoing work to be appropriately managed and ensures that their jobs are completed.

This might also involve introducing the new engineer to the customer, primarily if a solid professional relationship exists. It could be that John, your senior electrician, is retiring, and he’s known the Fitzpatrick family for donkey’s years after doing a lot of great work for them!

Allowing them to say “farewell” and introduce John’s replacement is an excellent opportunity to build on an existing customer relationship and show respect for the work done. 

Not only will your customers appreciate this on a personal level, but with a handover process in place, the work your team does will more likely carry on smoothly, with as little interruption and as few wasted resources as possible.

After all, if you’re understaffed, you may struggle to meet deadlines. Making customers aware of this sooner rather than later will prevent many headaches. While it won’t fix every problem (the customer will still expect the work done), by having these processes in place, you’ll make life easier for everyone.

This doesn’t just apply to your engineers, either.

Working with your administration staff:


Many trade businesses have an admin who’s been doing the same job for years and has developed their own workflows and methods — for better or worse. When they need to retire or move on to another job, training a new person is challenging if all the information is handwritten in a notebook or spread across many spreadsheets. 

Fortunately, nowadays, using software has removed the need for someone to remember or record every appointment and service reminder, making it much easier to onboard new employees, especially if they offer additional training packages. 

At the same time, it can be easier to weather periods where you’re understaffed by using tools that help everyone work more efficiently, whether it’s through intelligent scheduling for booking jobs, automated invoicing for chasing payments, and plenty more. This way, you’re not losing customers because of admin inefficiencies or wasting time chasing down debts. 

3. Review your salary and bonus structures

Money is a motivator, it has to be said. If you’re finding that young engineers are leaving after just one or two years because of lucrative offers elsewhere, you may need to consider what other incentives you can provide to help keep them around.

After all, 41% of employees say that they would leave their present companies if they found a position that offered better career advancement”


In these cases, your competitors are offering a pay hike that will be the main beneficiaries of all that time and money you invested. You’ll have only ended up helping bring their business to peak performance, so where does that leave you?

Out of pocket and with yet more work to do… It’s safe to say that reviewing your salary and bonus structures could play a part in encouraging your staff to stay long after you’ve trained them up. 

Of course, throwing money at the problem isn’t always a viable or ideal solution,  but ensuring your wages are both sustainable and fair will help. It will also save you money & headaches on hiring and training. 

As we said, money isn’t the only motivator. Simple as it sounds, it will also help if you demonstrate appreciation to your staff for the work that’s being done.

If your staff themselves feel valued, not just their bank accounts, then you’re more likely to be rewarded, too.

4. Is it time to reorganise your team?

Looking internally at how your business is run can be difficult and uncomfortable, but this sort of self-reflection is incredibly important. Doing so can help you identify if there’s a problem in your business that’s worth exploring. After all:

“One manager with poor people skills can do damage to the culture and effectiveness of a company in a short period of time,” points out Maricopa County CIO, David Stevens

This can lead to a multitude of issues. For instance, if an employee feels like their manager is not supporting them, they may leave, or if they feel that their team isn’t being led practically, it can be demotivating.

Alternatively, someone might feel as though they’re being micromanaged, leading where they work to feel stressed. In these cases, it’s important to ensure that even your literal office space promotes Mental Wellness. These issues, and others, can be frustrating for staff and will need to be tackled. However, you won’t learn about them if you’re not taking the opportunity to talk to staff and collect feedback.

The same applies to collecting reviews from customers, of course. Only by using feedback and listening to what’s being said will you be able to adapt your business for the better.

How can we make the necessary improvements?

As mentioned, succession planning could help you identify ambitious engineers who could step up and support the management team. Not only do you reward an employee, but you can relieve pressure on other staff, too.

In addition, you could consider other strategies to help you learn from your colleagues. For instance, you could conduct 1-1 meetings or have exit interviews when an employee leaves.

When an employee does quit (but ideally before then), it’s well worth getting some feedback. They may indicate that specific pressures were causing them stress or even putting them (and perhaps others) off from staying.

Pressures and concerns could be straightforward, like their pay, hours, or the tools they don’t have to do their jobs. Alternatively, it might be something more complex. These could include issues with management or rapport with another employee. It’s not always money, but people cite reasons like these when they leave a job. 

You’ll also want to know about these issues sooner rather than later so you can open a dialogue and take steps to implement changes as appropriate. 

Make sure you include regular employee one-to-one discussions. However, be ready to hear some hard truths. It doesn’t get more honest than in an exit interview, where an employee may seize the opportunity to give sincere but direct feedback.

Managers and business owners can often be unaware of their staff’s feelings. What a manager feels to be true versus what their workers think is often different!

60% of managers reported that they provide their employees with a clear path for advancing their careers, while only 36% of workers felt that this was true


For more on exit interviews, check out this excellent article from Gallup. Otherwise, take a look below for important steps to take when collecting feedback from employees.

Essential steps to build a plan:

You could consider taking some of the following actions, highlighted by WeekDone:

  1. Give more praise and recognition: Many people quit because of a lack of appreciation.
  2. Set clear objectives and goals: Results are only as strong as your objectives.
  3. Be future-driven: Using a management technique like PPP— Progress, Plans, Problems—be aware [and guide] your teams’ plans.
  4. Seek input and ideas: Your team has brilliant ideas; learn to ask.
  5. Give continual feedback: There is a correlation between employee engagement and periodic feedback.
  6. Measure satisfaction: you can manage only what you measure. By speaking with lots of staff, you can more accurately measure satisfaction.
  7. Ask about emotions and attitudes: You may be surprised by what you learn.
  8. Save time in meetings: One of the biggest employee motivation killers is wasting time.
  9. Don’t be too pessimistic: To keep your people happy and motivated, be positive and lead by example.
  10. Communicate openly:  Share your weekly plans and thoughts, encouraging an open atmosphere.
  11. Get to know each other: Team building activities are an often-overlooked perk that engages employees and boosts their morale.

Get started building a recruitment and retention plan

The advice above is flexible for big and small organisations alike. Of course, it relies on you to listen to your employees. Only by listening can you create a plan that fosters open communication and helps you attract new employees.

At the same time, you should encourage staff to give feedback. When they’re included, they’ll feel more content to stay and help you build a better workplace for everyone.

The emotional, financial, and human impact of building a recruitment and retention plan will lead you to value new employees. With a plan, you can help them develop their careers and grow within your business:

  • Spend a year collecting the voluntary turnover figures for your organisation. Get a sense of how turnover fluctuates throughout the year.
  • Calculate voluntary turnover for high performers, as this has the most significant negative impact on your business.
  • See if there are any trends, such as seniority and experience, age group, gender, and role (e.g. engineers and office staff).
  • Look through your exit interviews for trends on why people leave.
  • Determine where the voluntary turnover rate spikes and if the turnover is acceptable or unacceptable.

Ultimately, each organisation needs to decide what voluntary turnover targets are acceptable. You can then take the necessary actions to redress the situation that’s specific to you.

We don’t doubt you’ll find what works best for you.

key steps to hiring engineers, look at the infographic

I'm eager to tell compelling stories and share great advice that helps field service businesses to build on their success.

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