Understanding your data

You can use workforce data to develop retention strategies, whether it is quantitative, for example staff survey results, or qualitative, for example focus group feedback.

Data sources you can use include:

Collecting and analysing this data and then tracking trends will help to identify the starting points for your activities and enable you to assess whether these are organisation-wide issues or specific to certain staff groups, demographics, departments or teams.

Model Health System and retention

To support you with understanding people data relevant to your organisation you can access a range of people ‘compartments’ in the Model Health System. The retention compartment is a repository for trust-wide and system-wide data including:

  • the NHS leaver rate
  • demographic data of workforce and leavers
  • turnover rates and reasons for leaving
  • sickness rates
  • retention related staff survey questions
  • provider manual workforce return data such as agency spend.

ESR exit questionnaire

The ESR exit interview questionnaire has now been updated with questions from the NHS Staff Survey, and two new questions that allow staff to self-report their reason for leaving and then to confirm what (if anything) would have encouraged them to stay. We have worked closely with the NHS Business Services Authority to make these improvements.

This functionality is available for any organisation using ESR Self Service and will automatically invite staff to take part in an online exit questionnaire. Data from responses can then be utilised at trust and system level to support retention planning.

Further information is available in our frequently asked questions document.

Please contact england.lookingafterourpeople@nhs.net with any queries.

Menopause recording on ESR

Find out more about recording menopause related sickness with this guide for line managers, human resources and ESR users which includes step-by-step instructions to help better record the impact of menopause on our NHS people. By recording accurately, we can gain a better understanding of the impact menopause is having on our NHS colleagues.

Further resources available

Working together to improve NHS staff experiences | NHS Staff Survey (nhsstaffsurveys.com)


The retention of our productive and talented workforce is a priority for us all, we welcome all staff who want to join our workforce and we want to retain them at all stages of their careers. Whether we recruit domestically, internationally, internally or externally, there are great benefits and efficiencies to be made in developing and retaining the staff we do recruit, at all levels.

Devising workforce retention strategies requires us to understand why people choose to leave and stay, we have formed our retention programme around the seven People Plan themes to better understand the workforce. We know if we improve the flexible working opportunities, champion equality, diversity and inclusion, and delineate clear and tangible career progression pathways, our NHS people are more likely to remain in the NHS. We also know that if we fail to create a sense of belonging, or there is insufficient health and wellbeing support in the workplace, our workforce are more likely to leave.

We base our retention strategies on quantifiable data by reviewing leaver rates and Staff Survey outcomes. We also benefit from contextual, qualitative studies which provide a rich foundation of resources and effective practices. Retention-related research can shed light on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the primary drivers of turnover and leaver rates.

Within this section, you will be able to access verified research studies to support your retention strategies and interventions.

Mullen Lowe Research Summary – June 2020

Do you have a research study that you want to share? Please contact us and let us know so that we can make it available for everyone.