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Bosses feel ‘powerless’ over employee exodus

By Emma Musgrave | |5 minute read

Despite 70 per cent of employers worried about staff leaving their business this year, almost half feel as though they can’t do anything to prevent it.

A new survey from specialised recruiter Robert Half has shed light on the ongoing struggle business leaders have when it comes to the retention of employees in 2023.

According to the findings, 70 per cent of employers (regardless of business size) are more concerned about employees leaving their organisation this year than they were in 2022.


Employers at medium-sized organisations are the most concerned (77 per cent), followed by large organisations (75 per cent) and small businesses (57 per cent).

Breaking it down by state, NSW employers are most concerned about their employees leaving this year (79 per cent), followed by Victoria (73 per cent), Western Australia (64 per cent) and Queensland (63 per cent).

The disconnect in what staff want v what they’re getting

The research provided insight into the top reasons employees are leaving and how employers are able — or unable — to respond.

Almost half (43 per cent) of employers surveyed said that employees have expressed concern about their workload and burnout; however, their business has no plans to hire more staff to cope with these issues.

A further 31 per cent of employers said their employees have expressed concern about their colleagues and managers; however, they flagged they are unable to change the team’s setup.

Thirty per cent of employers said they can’t compete with other companies’ salaries, benefits and perks, 25 per cent of employers said they don’t have the desired career progression and/or professional development programs in place, and 25 per cent of employers said they can’t compete with more attractive brands/brand names.

In addition, 21 per cent of employers said they aren’t able to offer flexible work arrangements and/or remote work, and 20 per cent of employers said they don’t have elaborate recognition programs.

The strategies employers are keen to adopt

While feeling a general sense of “powerlessness” to retain staff, the research noted there are some strategies employers are adopting to make a concentrated effort.

Sixty-two per cent of employers said they have or are willing to increase compensation, either through higher salaries or offering financial incentives such as bonuses.

Meanwhile, 56 per cent of employers are accelerating promotions for high-performing staff.

Non-financial strategies are also being adopted by employers, with 71 per cent continuing to allow employees to work remotely or semi-remotely.

Seventy per cent of employers are providing greater professional development opportunities, and the same amount said they’re ensuring the work environment is inclusive and fun.

“Mass hiring was a trend in 2022, resulting in many companies having focused primarily on attracting new talent to their business. With today’s market showing signs of a potential slowdown, companies are again looking inwards with retention of top performers, who are still being headhunted by competing organisations, returning to the business agenda as a top priority,” said Nicole Gorton, director at Robert Half.

“As the candidate-driven jobs market of 2022 has started easing, combined with companies’ focus on cost management, business leaders are gradually becoming less likely to attribute substantial pay rises or other benefits that might be important to employees in 2023.

“That said, the cost of refilling a role generally outweighs the cost of ensuring an employee is paid at market rate for their role and has harmony between work and personal life. It’s a balancing exercise for employers, where open communication between employee and employer is key to ensure retention concerns are proactively addressed.”