How to retain employees: a case study

Portrait of Sophie Vellam
Campaign Executive
Business planning and strategy
Rachel and Ross, Directors of Ouma

Ouma received finance from us in 2019 to fund a management buy-out. One of Swansea’s most recognised digital marketing agencies, they won the Employer of the Year award at the Swansea Bay Business Awards 2021.

We spoke to Rachel Lyndon-Jones, Director at Ouma, about the staff retention measures they’ve implemented, why retention is important to them, and the tips they would give to other businesses.

If you need financing for your business, whether to expand your team or for another purpose, then get in touch with us to find out more, or apply now.

How many employees do you have? How has this grown over time?

When Ross and I launched Ouma the business consisted of just the two of us. The business’ growth was relatively slow and steady in the first few years. Now, in our fifth year of business, Ouma is doing better than ever. Though Covid-19 presented its challenges throughout the last two years, by the start of 2022 we had doubled our headcount from 2021, and we now have a team of 11. The individuals within our team have grown in their roles, with three of our 11 team members provided promotions in the past year.

Why do you think it is important to focus on staff recruitment and retention?

Time is an entirely un-renewable resource; it is the one thing we don’t get more of. Ross and I strive to empower our team to make the most of their one, incredible shot at life. Whatever the future holds for our team members, we want to see them succeed at what they love, whatever that might look like – within Ouma, or elsewhere.

We understand that in this day and age, people aren’t necessarily looking for a ‘job for life’. This seems particularly prevalent with the younger generations of people that our business tends to attract. I see it as our responsibility to provide a place of work where our team can flourish. We strive to make Ouma a place where people can wake up in the morning and look forward to the day ahead rather than waking up to the ‘Monday Dread’. It is not our place to try and hold on to individuals within our team if they wish to move on and gain life experiences elsewhere.

This might seem impractical, as of course this might mean that we end up having to put more effort into recruitment. However, giving our team the freedom to be able to truly live and enjoy their life, and encouraging them to stretch themselves to grow and learn new things often seems to result in them enjoying their experiences at work and wanting to stay. Aligned to this, we have built an impressive infrastructure for on-boarding and workload management, meaning less time and energy is required for the recruitment and on-boarding process.

Our focus and efforts on supporting the wellbeing and health of our team have mattered to us long before the pandemic, but Covid-19 certainly made us think more about what more we could be doing. Although we are now working within our swanky office with flexible hours and options to ‘Work From Anywhere’, throughout our period of solely remote working we initiated new processes to ensure our team could feel as connected as possible, many of which are still used today. Things such as a ‘word of the day’ touchpoint check in to understand how the team are feeling, with follow up 1:1 conversations with any team member who presented a word that seemed like they needed further support. 

How did you go about developing your benefits package?

When we began the creation of our benefits package, Ross and I originally pulled on our own experiences of working for other people and considered what we would want to have been provided with ourselves, however over the past two years we have involved the team in the adaption and expansion of the benefits on offer. We’ve created internal surveys for our team that are completely anonymous where they can share their honest thoughts on our benefits and put forward their own suggestions. We also discuss our benefits package openly as a collective during our ‘Ouma Sessions’.

When adding to the benefits package, we take into consideration Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This helps us to be mindful of the wider variety of basic, psychological and self-fulfilment needs of our team. 

For us, the benefits package will never be ‘finished’. It will be something we continually work on and enhance year after year. 

What are the main benefits you offer?

Our benefits package is rather expansive. From flexible working options and Wellbeing sessions led by a Leadership Coach, to Pawternity leave for the adoption of a new furry family member, and an extended offering for pregnant people and their partners, and those looking to grow their families.

We provide financial benefits in the form of bonuses and frequent pay rises, and we’ve recently introduced Hey Taco, our kindness currency. Our team gift each other taco emojis on Slack every day, then the employee with the most tacos at the end of the month receives their choice of a £100 voucher or an annual leave day.

We also have regular team events and socials, plus two ‘Ouma Fun Days’ every year, where the team are provided a day off work to enjoy some team bonding activities.

Recently we’ve set up a STOPP (Swansea Takes On Period Poverty) donation station within our office, and we provide free eco-friendly, plastic free sanitary products from Hey Girls for our team to use.

In addition to the above, we put a substantial amount of time and money into progression opportunities for our team; this includes leadership training with the Institute of Leadership and Management, monthly coffee and catch-ups with the directors, and quarterly personal development reviews. We’ve also introduced Ouma Sessions; weekly 30-minute team meetings where we discuss a variety of topics that cover wellbeing, mental health, business growth or training.

If you’d like to see the full list of benefits we offer (Last updated January 2022), you can view our benefits brochure.

How has Ouma benefited from implementing staff retention and recruitment measures?

By providing such a substantial offering for our team, and by talking about this openly on social media we have certainly been able to attract some top talent within our industry. When we recruit for new roles within the business our candidate pool increases every time.

What advice would you give to other businesses who are looking to improve staff recruitment and retention?

My advice would be to ask your team openly what improvements they would like to see and be willing to continually make small adjustments to your benefit package, rather than viewing it as a finished article.

Involving my team in these conversations was the best decision I made. It might very well feel uncomfortable at first, but the only way to improve is to provide a safe space for your employees to talk openly about what is and isn’t working for them. Clarify your expectations, clarify your boundaries, be clear about what is or isn’t achievable. You can’t please everyone; the team, and the business, will need to be open to compromise.

Following the conversations at Ouma, I discovered that financial reward isn’t of as much value to my team as feeling fulfilled, being provided with gratitude, and having flexibility.