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Staff recruitment and retention

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The British Society for Rheumatology shares with us how it improved staff recruitment and retention.


While chief executive of the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) Susan Murray-Johnson spoke to Knowhow about how she improved recruitment and retention of salaried staff. Susan is now head of finance and resources at the Family and Childcare Trust.

The issues we faced

Many issues led to this change.

  • BSR staff numbers had grown rapidly.
  • High staff turnover rates had on occasion resulted in entire teams departing.
  • Prior to relocation BSR had been in a traditional town house with a layout that discouraged contact between people and some members of staff found the new  open plan office difficult.
  • Due to the high staff turnover, and sometimes unexpected departures of staff members, the loss of organisational knowledge was high. 
  • Often, bright young graduates were recruited who were keen to move on and up very quickly.

The actions we took

A recruitment, retention and remuneration strategy highlighted the issues and suggested solutions.

These included:

  • review of staff benefits 
  • review of salary bandings – job evaluation of all posts 
  • training review. 

How was the strategy designed? 

A traditional recruitment model had been used where people were hired into a role, trained and allowed to get on with their jobs. A new model proposed an updated recruitment policy where staff were recruited for their attitude as well as their skills. Training was offered to close any skills gaps. 

While people were recruited on ability, their attitude and potential to fit within a team were included in criteria when a panel was unsure about the most suitable candidate.

BSR decided to invest more in staff training and to continue to use a national pay scale for staff to help keep salaries in line with the average.

How was the strategy delivered?

Retention and benefits

  • Job evaluation was done using the National Joint Council (NJC) pay scales. The London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC) was employed to do this work. 
  • Benefits were enhanced. A link was established to show that the relationship between the employee and HSA healthcare was attributed to BSR’s commitment to staff wellbeing.
  • We moved to a modern, open plan office. Some really disliked it while others adopted a more open way of working which is what BSR wanted to encourage.

Knowledge Transfer

  • Working in teams on policy and procedure guidelines was important to ensure that at least a paper legacy remained as people left.
  • Knowledge transfer was harder to do with more practical roles, such as BSR’s conferencing. Here the team was encouraged to develop an extensive work plan to develop a trail of what was being done. 
  • With areas like policy work, where people were continually talking with other organisations, it was decided to make multiple people lead discussions so that not everything was left with one person. Spreading knowledge between a team acted as damage limitation.
  • For larger projects a steering group which had non-staff on the group, including volunteers and doctors, helped broaden the knowledge base.

Positive outcomes

Training was seen in a very positive light. Staff liked training as it was seen to be an investment in people. BSR covered everything from basic IT upwards. It also had whole team training, although it could be challenging to find training subjects that related to everyone. 

A staff survey was conducted which concentrated on the positive and the negative aspects of working for BSR. The results were generally very positive, highlighting a relaxed and sociable workplace as positive factors. This was a huge change from what was experienced when turnover was at its highest.

Negative outcomes

There was a very low take up of the pension benefit. This was partly due to at least half of the staff being under 32. 

A large organisational barrier was the scepticism from those who asked why change was necessary.

Lessons learnt

The pay reviews and benefits together were seen positively by staff and have helped reduced turnover.

The benefits needed more promotion. These are now promoted during the application process and at induction.


Page last edited Aug 27, 2015

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