High Employee Turnover? Retain Staff Using the Henry VIII Approach

In 1527, a series of handwritten notes changed the course of history, religion, and set the pace for an unprecedented number of wars. The notes described in great (and often garish) detail the affection that a man had for a woman who would eventually become his wife. Except for the small problem that he was still married to his wife, Catherine of Aragon. He was none other than Henry VIII. 

Source: Vatican Library

Handwritten notes have long had a significant impact on the actions of their recipients. From wooing potential partners to alerting countries of danger, handwritten notes have always portrayed a powerful sense of intention and permanence that isn’t as easy to portray through other means of communication. 

In recent years, businesses have increasingly tapped into this sense of intention and permanence that handwritten notes embody, in wooing potential customers – and with great results.  One C-suite executive tells the story of how his handwritten customer prospecting campaign generated a 30% conversion rate in an industry where the open rate was traditionally less than 10%. 

Photo by Wendy Aros-Routman on Unsplash

What’s striking about this story is the fact that his initial exposure to handwritten notes came from a personal experience following his recruitment into his role. His recruiter sent him a handwritten “Thank you and good luck in your new role” note – which he proceeded to keep on his desk in his role for the next 4 years. If such a small gesture of intentionality from a recruiter had such a profound effect on an employee, how much more of an effect will this act have when implemented by employers directly – especially those struggling to retain staff?

Employee retention strategies need a breath of fresh air

Employee retention is a critical issue for many businesses, as high turnover rates can be costly and disruptive. Research from Gallup shows that the cost of replacing an employee can reach 1.5 – 2 times that employee’s salary! 

Among the enormous list of tactics and strategies that experts prescribe for retaining employees, handwritten notes stand out as a personalised way to show how intentional the writer is about the message being communicated. The act of committing time to write a note is a valid way for employers to show employees that they are valued and appreciated. This singular act can help to foster a sense of value, which can increase loyalty and ultimately lead to higher retention rates.

Research proves that handwritten notes are a viable employee retention strategy

The research also checks out. 

A study by the Harvard Business Review showed that handwritten notes – in the form of personalised letters of appreciation helped to significantly increase intrinsic motivation, performance and ultimately retention rates in employees. Employees in this study reported feeling valued, recognised for their hard work, and supported by their organisations. 

While this evidence shows that handwritten notes are a valuable investment of time that delivers high ROI in terms of employee retention, let’s delve into why handwritten notes are so effective and their psychological impact on employees.

Psychological Impact of Handwritten Notes

Especially in today’s digital age, handwritten notes can have a psychological impact on employees, unique from other methods of engagement. Some of these include:

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

Focus and Engagement

A handwritten note received from a manager or colleague can make an employee feel valued and appreciated, which can in turn give employees the push they need to focus on their work and engage more deeply with their tasks. 

Foster a Sense of Value and Belonging

Handwritten notes can also help employees feel valued and part of a team. Just like a note written to a romantic partner can help foster s sense of belonging, a manager taking time out of their schedule to write a note of appreciation demonstrates care and appreciation in a way that cannot easily be replicated. This can lead to a greater sense of belonging and a stronger committment to the company’s causes.

Trust and Motivation  

A company representative committing to writing a note to employees can create the impression of the company being invested in their employees’ success. This can lead to increased motivation and a greater sense of trust between employees and their managers.

Intrinsic Motivation and Morale

Handwritten notes can also tap into employees’ intrinsic motivation and boost morale. Receinving written acknowledgement of a person’s hard work and contributions can be a powerful motivator for employee. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and a stronger sense of pride in one’s work.

Overall, handwritten notes can have a powerful psychological effect on employees,  their feelings about their place in the organisation and consequently, their retention rates. By taking the time to write a note, managers can help employees feel valued, engaged, and motivated. 

They can help to boost morale, increase motivation, and create a sense of connection and belonging. In a world where digital communication is the norm, receiving a handwritten note can be a refreshing and meaningful experience. As such, it is no surprise that more and more businesses are turning to this strategy to improve employee retention.

Where do handwritten notes fit in an overall HR strategy?

The wider picture looking at the correlation between HR strategy and employee retention rates suggests that employers that dedicate resources toward talent retention (in addition to talent attraction), saw a huge positive impact on employee retention.

Source: Hive HR

Key Takeaways

  • Handwritten notes are becoming an increasingly popular retention strategy due to their personal touch and ability to increase job satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Research shows that handwritten notes can have a significant psychological impact on employees, boosting morale, motivation, and a sense of connection and belonging.In a world where digital communication is the norm, handwritten notes are a refreshing and meaningful way to communicate with employees and improve retention rates.

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