As an expert in the recruitment industry and a qualified chartered accountant, I have often found myself at the intersection of human resources and business finance. This unique position has granted me an insight into the nuances of employee motivation and retention within the recruitment sector.

The recruitment industry faces a range of challenges when it comes to employee retention. Often, the fast-paced nature of the work, intense competition, and high pressure to meet targets can contribute to high employee turnover rates. A large part of a recruiter’s role involves building and maintaining relationships, an aspect that can be significantly disrupted by frequent staff changes. It’s thus pivotal for recruitment firms to devise strategic measures that enhance job satisfaction, promote loyalty and encourage long-term commitment among employees.

Drawing from my personal experiences, extensive research and working with ambitious SME recruitment business owners, here are some strategies that can be instrumental in incentivising and retaining key employees.

Understanding Employee Motivation

As highlighted in a McKinsey study, employees are motivated by a sense of fairness, camaraderie, and achievement. Building an inclusive work environment that caters to these factors is key to staff retention. A commission and bonus structure that recognises everyone’s contributions, including those of the back-office staff, fosters a sense of fairness. Simultaneously, nurturing a positive workplace culture that encourages friendships and social interactions bolsters camaraderie. Lastly, facilitating opportunities for professional growth can satisfy employees’ need for achievement.

The Power of Training

During my short stint in recruitment, I was given the Yellow Pages (some of you may not know what that is and I’m showing my age here) and told to build a desk – with no formal training. It was an overwhelming and unsuccessful experience. A comprehensive and continuous training is crucial to help employees understand their roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations. Investment in training not only equips employees with necessary skills, but also demonstrates a company’s commitment to their growth and success.

Providing a Voice

Employees want to be heard. An environment where ideas, suggestions and concerns are acknowledged not only boosts morale but also encourages a sense of ownership among employees. This sense of having a voice contributes significantly to retention. Some firms have even gone as far as rewarding or incentivising those key individuals with a seat at the Board room table.

Comprehensive Benefit Packages

While monetary incentives such as a fair commission and bonus scheme are important, offering additional benefits like medical insurance, employee assistance programme, pension schemes, company cars etc. can add significant value to the overall employment package. These benefits demonstrate an employer’s care for their staff’s well-being, strengthening loyalty and retention.

Employee Management Incentive (EMI) Schemes

EMI schemes present an excellent strategy to retain and incentivise top performers, not to mention the tax advantages! Providing employees with a future equity interest aligns their personal goals with the company’s long-term vision, which is especially important in the competitive world of recruitment. When employees have a vested interest in the company’s success, they are more likely to stay committed and engaged for longer. You can find out more about EMI schemes here.

Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

In an era where work norms are rapidly changing, the traditional 9-to-5 model is becoming less appealing, particularly for working parents, carers, and individuals balancing other life commitments. Employees’ circumstances and needs change over time, and the ability of a company to offer flexibility around these evolving situations can significantly impact employee retention.

Adopting flexible working hours and providing the option for remote work have now become essential features of a progressive workplace. In response to these evolving needs, some firms are pioneering the adoption of four-day work weeks or even offering unlimited holiday allowances. While these approaches may not be the ideal fit for every recruitment firm, their intention underlines the value of challenging traditional norms.

Becoming an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT)

Transitioning into an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) can usher in a new era of business operation that carries significant benefits for both employees and the company. EOTs provide employees with a genuine stake in the business, fostering a sense of shared responsibility and commitment. This option is becoming more and more popular across a number of different industries.

Employees, as stakeholders, are more likely to take a keen interest in the business’s performance, driving them to strive for excellence and contribute more proactively to the company’s success. The shared successes and the shared risks of an EOT foster a robust sense of camaraderie, and this, in turn, can help attract and retain talent.

Moreover, an EOT model can be an effective succession plan for business owners, ensuring that the company remains in good hands when you decide to step down. It’s a thoughtful exit strategy that not only takes care of the business’s future but also makes employees feel more valued and integral to the company’s journey. Take a look at our EOT guide if you would like to find out more.


In conclusion, it’s essential to understand that there’s no magic formula or universal solution that guarantees the retention of top talent in a recruitment business. Addressing the complex issue of employee retention demands a dynamic and holistic approach that marries a deep understanding of what drives employee motivation with a steadfast commitment to investing in their development.

The challenge of employee retention is not a problem to be solved, but rather an ongoing journey of understanding, adapting, and evolving alongside your employees. The strategies presented are not merely boxes to be checked off but an integrated approach towards creating an environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and committed to the shared vision of long-term success. If you have any questions, please do get in touch.