Staff retention | What can HR learn from the Tory MP resignations?

What can HR learn from the Tory MP resignations?

Earlier this month, reported that altogether 25 cabinet ministers, government ministers, MPs and MSPs have either quit the Conservative Party or been given the boot by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Phillip Lee, Bracknell MP and former Justice Minister, was one of the latest MPs to resign after expressing concerns relating to “the approach and direction of the Conservative Party since the EU referendum took place in 2016” in his resignation letter. With a considerable number of MPs fleeing the party soon after one another, the Conservative Party will likely feel a bit thin on the ground.

Is there a HR lesson in this?

For HR, there are some key lessons on staff attrition and what the people function can do if several senior people leave at once which. Personal political aside, this should leave the dedicated people function with much to mull over in terms of managing employee attrition levels and succession planning to minimise the damage of several senior employees leaving in one go.

‘High attrition levels insinuate deep cultural issues’

Overworking, lack of recognition, poor of growth and progression opportunities, bad managers and role dissatisfaction are oft-cited reasons for high turnover. “High levels of attrition are indicative of ingrained cultural issues,” Phil Rose, Co-Founder at Ignium Consulting told HR Grapevine that it’s not “an HR issue per se”. Instead, he explained that it is an issue for the leadership team and the CEO to work on in tandem.

He explained: “It’s for the leadership team, and specifically the CEO to work across any business to set and guide the culture of the organisation. Culture is the way we do things. When there’s a complete difference of opinion two things will be out of balance – the culture will be divided and the values of the organisation and its people will be misaligned – culture actually shows up in behaviours – what people do and values are also displayed openly through behaviours.

“The other issue is: Purpose. Where there is lack of purpose there will be divisions. Businesses need to develop a common purpose; agreeing a set of core values and then identifying the behaviours expected in the organisation. This isn’t wholly an ‘HR’ job – it’s bigger than that – it stems from the CEO/Prime Minister down.”

Preventing high attrition rates

With so many MPs leaving at once, it strongly indicates that the people were no longer happy in their role, had questions over the future direction of the party, or organisation if this was a case HR had to deal with, and perhaps queried their involvement in the party going forwards. To prevent attrition rates from reaching unmanageable levels, Ed Griffin, Director of HR Consultancy and Research at the Institute for Employment Studies, told HR Grapevine that there are a number of preventatives that employers can put in practice to prevent high levels of turnover in the first place.

He explained that continually gathering exit interview data is good practice. “[Employers can gain an] understanding of why people leave, what they liked about the organisation, what they disliked and where they are going,” he added. From this data, employers can spot any patterns; it may point towards departments in particular that are experiencing high attrition rates and isolate poor managers.

Notice periods

Helen Jamieson, Founder of Jaluch HR & Training said that strategic and proactive HR functions will be able to pre-empt vulnerability for business and formalise plans that try to mitigate risk. She explained that employers who don’t demand strategic approaches to be executed by HR departments are leaving themselves vulnerable to risk going forwards.

With so many MPs fleeing the Tory party at once, Jamieson turned her attention towards the notice periods served, particularly by senior employees, in traditional organisations.

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“With regards to senior people leaving, if you have notice periods of three or six months as many do for senior people then there should be time to recruit and replace. But this should be about strategy and planning (including succession planning) and not about closing the door after the horse has bolted.

“Any HR function that prides itself on being brilliant at mopping up a mess is totally missing the point about it’s more valuable role in avoiding a mess in the first place. In this example, if lots of senior people leave in one go then spending time looking at root cause (often culture) and making adjustments could result in good coming out of a tough situation,” Jamieson added.

Consider how employees perceive you as an employer

A final point Griffin raised was that, particularly for larger organisations, cultural red flags can be singled out by looking at Glassdoor reviews. He added: “It’s useful for bigger organisations to look at things like Glassdoor to see what people confidentially report about organisations as employers; what’s the story being told out there?” If there is a problem, employers can get to the root cause before it is too late and staff leave.

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