We asked the experts


Силвия Донкова

How to engage and retain our people during the Great Resignation?

So many open positions, so few available talent, the Great Resignation, a global pandemic, inflation, political uncertainty - these are just some of the factors dictating the current labor market trends.

One of these trends that is also becoming a big challenge for employers is engaging and retaining the people inside the organizations. Sylvia Donkova, Head of HR at one of the most innovative manufacturing companies in the country - Ottobock, shares her experience in creating engagement and retention strategies, talks about best practices for dealing with this challenge and reveals some of the successful and working methods they use in their company.


Retaining and engaging people in the company are some of the key challenges on the current labor market. How does the higher engagement in the organization help to better retain the people within?

Keeping people in a company is not an isolated process. It is linked to the overall vision, mission and strategy of the organization. In recent years, the "fight" on the labor market for skilled talent has forced them to be creative and use different strategies and incentives. The main thing we rely on at Ottobock Manufacturing Bulgaria is related to our overall Employer Branding strategy. We believe that the people in the company are the best ambassadors to attract new talent, and the conditions we offer for their development and satisfaction are the main tool to retain. In fact, Employer Branding is a process that has two sides. On the one hand is attracting the right people, and on the other is keeping them in the company. Both sides require attention and awareness of the fact that "marketing" inside the company is much more important than the outside. This is where we talk about different retention practices and tools that make the company an attractive place to work.


How do you manage to engage your employees? What are the methods you rely on to increase engagement?

First and foremost, I would put ongoing dialogue and communication with people, as well as an annual engagement survey, as good retention practice. Ottobock is a relatively young company. We started our operations two and a half years ago and to date we have over 250 employees. We have put a lot of effort into creating the company's image in the region where we operate - Blagoevgrad, as well as attracting qualified employees. From the very beginning, however, it was clear to us and to me personally, as someone with over 20 years of experience in human resource management, that we need to take care of people not only by attracting them, but also by providing them with working conditions that make them enjoy doing it. That is why we have developed a retention project, the so-called Retention Program, which includes a range of activities from providing different types of training and development opportunities, to additional benefits, flexible working hours and last but not least a loyalty bonus. The program differentiates various incentives depending on the group of employees targeted.

I would also like to mention the company culture, which, if channeled in the right direction, helps build loyalty and commitment in employees. Every company is individual and has a unique company culture. In order to be aware of which common practices are working for us, we at Ottobock consult employees themselves through various types of surveys, exit interviews, etc. Based on the results, we draw up our action plan. In this way, all people feel included in the business.


What is the importance of the onboarding process as part of the retention and engagement strategy?

The onboarding process also plays an important role in employee retention, although many companies underestimate it.  A well-structured and consistent induction plan will give the new employee, in addition to the necessary information, a purely emotional sense of what it is like to be part of this company, which is crucial for their motivation and commitment later on.  

In summary, the issue of retention will always be on the agenda. Current research suggests that people change jobs over 80% of the time because of poor management/managers. So we need to think about what kind of managers we are and how we manage our people. Because the financial side is not always first. At Ottobock we currently have less than 5% turnover and this is due to the correct attitude, the right communication and the transparent way of making decisions.