Employee Retention: Asking the Right Questions

Employee Retention: Asking the Right Questions

In the absence of any in-person events for the past year, Ukie have been offering their usual annual Hub Crawl virtually. Each week under a different theme, industry experts come together to share their expertise and experiences at these free talks. You can find out more about the Hub Crawl, watch previous talks and sign up to future ones here.

With one of the themes being Talent & Recruitment, our very own Catrin Jones had the opportunity to give insight on how to keep your employees happy, ask the right questions and, ultimately, retain staff. If you missed it, catch up with her talk, and read the full transcript, below!



Slide 1:

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“Hi everyone as Leon said my name is Catrin Jones and I’m the Operations Manager at Skillsearch a video games recruitment company and the talk title is relevant more than just being a niche quote from Brooklyn 99 as we’re going to look at how we can use industry statistics to make sure your company is keeping all of those wonderful people that you have and will be hiring happy at your company.” 


Slide 2: 

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First is to explain where I’m getting these numbers from. Each year at Skillsearch we do a Salary and satisfaction survey for the games industry that asks a range of questions about people’s jobs, salaries and around people’s job satisfaction too. We collect responses every December/January, so these numbers are all completely up to date and we haven’t actually published the full report yet so it’s a bit of a sneak preview. Also, so you’re aware - we do have this open for people across the globe but the responses I’m using will be focused on people based in the UK. 


Slide 3:

Slide 3

Here it is! How to retain staff. One simple slide and a very short talk maybe?! It would be nice if it was this easy! But as a starting point, these are the areas that every year people identify as the main things they need to be happy in their working lives. I don’t think any part of this will be a shock to you, and of course in an ideal world we would be paying everyone huge salaries, showering them with benefits and having a 4-day work week. But if that’s not possible so in the real world we are going to have a look at each area and see what we’re working with. 


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Salary is probably one of the first things to be aware of because surprise! You do need to pay people to keep them working for you. So, the question then becomes, how much do you pay? Well say you’re hiring a mid-level employee.

You do your research on how much that band earns on average in the UK at the moment. So here we go, that’s easy enough - you’ll offer them £34,000, maybe 35,000 to be competitive. But what job are you hiring them to do? Because if they’re a programmer, now you’re needing to offer them £37,000. But what if your company is in London? Now they’ll need to be paid maybe £44,000 just to hit industry levels and if they’ve got 2-4 years of experience that goes up to £47,000. That’s quite a jump from where we started and if your budget is only £35k it can seem a bit daunting but don’t get scared off yet because my main point here is… 


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Slide 5

There is no such thing as an average person. Average salaries are helpful to get an idea of ballpark figures and to compare disciplines or areas, but we need to think about them critically. An average salary means that half of the people in that group get paid less than this amount, and yes half of them get paid more. But if you treat everyone as an ‘average person’ then you’ll end up with a big bunch of unhappy people. 


Slide 6:

Slide 6

Think about it this way. Pyxel here who is the Skillsearch mascot will represent your employee. This employee is talking to a friend that works in a very similar position in the games industry and they find out their friend is being paid £5,000 more than them. Yes, they know they’re getting an average salary, but they’re still bound to start questioning - should I be asking for a pay rise? Could I get paid more elsewhere? It’s just human nature and if your company can’t match those higher salaries, you need to have other options up your sleeve. 


Slide 7:

Slide 7

Like benefits! These are the results when we asked people about their top 3 most important company benefits. What we’ve got here is a list of things that can make your employee go ‘ok yes, I get paid a bit less, but I’ve been learning so much with that extra training, or I really appreciated those extra holiday days that mean I can go on that weekend away. Each of these things could be the deciding factor as to why someone decides not to start job hunting or be tempted away by a higher salary.

Now going into which benefits to offer could be a whole talk on its own, and actually was a whole talk on the hub crawl last week so if you missed that it’s well worth going back to have a watch of David’s talk on benefits especially in relation to how they can shape your company culture – which of course is another of the 5 main things I identified earlier as key to people’s job satisfaction. 


Slide 8:

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Right so we’ve been through salary and benefits but what about the rest? Projects are something that we don’t collect any information on in the survey as it’s completely anonymous and we wouldn’t want to cross any professional boundaries. But company culture? Work/life balance? How do you bring those into the equation?  

Rather than telling you all the very good and factual statistics about not over working people, being kind and having a good culture I want to make sure that at the end of this talk you’ll have some tools to help you make these determinations for your own company and staff. To do this you need to make sure that you are… 


Slide 9:

Slide 9

…asking the right questions. For this let's go to another statistic from this year’s survey. People were asked which of these aspects of work satisfaction were most important to them. Looking at these results that seems like I’ve answered my own question, right? People don’t care about salary, so you’ll still be able to go lower there and keep people happy with the other areas? But the point here is have I asked the right question? By changing that question to be more open, you end up with a very different result.

What these two things together show us is that only a few people would choose salary as their most important part of the job, but almost everyone would put it in second place. By just opening up the question there you get a whole new perspective on what is essentially the same topic instead of the skewed response. 


Slide 10:

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Before we carry on with what exactly are the right questions for you to be asking, I want to show how important it is to not lump everyone in together. Looking at this same question but broken down by seniority, you can quite plainly see the difference in priorities. The point here is that each person is an individual and whatever questions you plan to ask, should ideally be asked to every member of your team. 


Slide 11:

Slide 11

Which takes us back to the language of questions and how to get to the answer you’re looking for. A leading question is one that is framed in a way that provides an obvious answer for the responder, which unfortunately isn’t always the truth. The example here would be this. Would you be happier here is I started buying drinks for the office on a Friday afternoon? Would you be happier here is I gave you an extra day holiday? Really any employee would be silly to say no to that. Of course, those would be nice! 


Slide 12:

Slide 12

Going back to our employee who was worrying about their pay level, you’ve just brought in Friday drinks and feel like you’ve made a positive change. Because they said it would make them happy! But instead, they’re sitting here thinking ‘those Friday drinks are nice, but I still think it’s time to look for a new job’. That’s not a great outcome is it? 


Slide 13:

Slide 13

We need to pause for a minute here. All the best questions in the world won’t do you any good if you’re not really genuinely willing to take onboard the feedback that you’re going to get. Asking people questions and then ignoring the answers is often worse than not asking in the first place! 


Slide 14:

Slide 14

As long as you ARE willing to listen and take onboard feedback, we can move onto how you get the answers that will really help you retain staff. These are open questions where there’s no simple answer. Like this example here. Now we’re talking! Maybe they’d like to leave earlier on a Wednesday to pick their children up from school once a week? Maybe they need reassurance of what your plans are for remote work after lockdown finishes.

Also make sure that you let your employee go away and think before answering, as the first thing that pops into their head isn’t necessarily what would really make a difference. 


Slide 15:

Slide 15

Going back to our theoretical employee again – they’re having the same conversation about salary with their friend but this time, you discussed their needs their week before and you’ve agreed to implement one of their requests. 

Now they’re thinking ‘Ok yes, I get paid a little less than my friend, but I get two days of remote work each week now and they have to commute every day - I’m fine with that!’. This has turned what was a potential loss of an employee into a happy and fulfilled worker. 

Right – so you’re ready to ask the right questions and find out what your employees really need to be happy working for you. But there’s one last thing to consider. 


Slide 16:

Slide 16

Are you the right person to be asking these questions? What if the issue an employee has - is to do with their manager? Maybe they think that internal deadlines are always set too optimistically, and it causes a lot of stress for them. A manager asking all the best questions in the world, still probably wouldn’t get what they’re looking for with that person.  

This means if at all possible, you need to try and have someone slightly detached from people’s day to day work life so that these can be a relaxed and honest conversations. I do get that in a small company finding that person can be tricky if you don’t have HR or an Office Manager. So, it may sound like a shameless plug here – but I genuinely believe that as a small company, recruiters can fill that void for you when you’re hiring! Being a detached third party really allows for honesty without worry of any repercussions, and a recruiter will be dealing with these types of conversations daily so will be able to support you throughout the process. 

Whoever you choose, make sure you encourage honesty throughout and always follow up with feedback. 


Slide 17:

Slide 17

That’s it for this talk! Here ‘s a little summary page for they key points I’ve made. 

I am also sneaking in one last point. As humans we are cyclical creatures and frequently feel the need to have progressed in our lives each year. So, make sure you use these tools and have conversations with your staff at least once a year, if not more to make sure you’ve got a happy team, and that you’re doing everything you can to avoid the avoidable loss of staff. 


Slide 18:

Slide 18

Here are my contact details and make sure you follow the Skillsearch page on LinkedIn to see the full survey results next month! The report goes into a lot more detail across Europe as well as the UK// as well as data for different disciplines. Drop me an email if there’s anything specific you’d like to see. I can’t guarantee it’ll be a quick turnaround as it’s just me doing the data for the survey report, so I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead! But after that I’ll be back to normal services and will be more than happy to help out. 

Rainbow Line

Be sure to keep an eye out on our LinkedIn and Twitter to see the full report of our 2021 Salary & Satisfaction Survey results, and get even more of an insight into what keeps your staff happy.

Also, don't forget to check out the other great talks on Ukie's Hub Crawl, and sign up for all the great stuff that's to come from them!

Catrin Jones

Operations Manager

Catrin is a jack of all trades at Skillsearch, but she's master of them all too! The unflappable, enthusiastic face that will be your go-to for any questions - that's for contractors, clients and us in the office as well. She's always ready and willing to help and we haven't yet found a problem that she can't solve. She does have an Achilles heel though as she hasn’t yet worked out how to whistle, which would really come in handy when it comes to her new fur baby – Evie the Cockapoo! 

Europe: +44 (0)1273 287 007

North America: +1 (437) 887 2477


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