Revolving doors and talent drains are expensive. Whether it’s new employees coming in, drinking a few cups of coffee at training and leaving again, or your longest-established talents moving on to greener pastures, high employee turnover uses huge resources and can damage organisational performance.
You can’t do much about an employee wanting to move from Sydney to Perth because of family reasons; and there’s no doubt that people are more driven by immediacy than they used to be (social media is perhaps both a reflection and cause of this?) But why are more people consistently leaving their jobs in the past six or seven years? And what does it do for team motivation to have a constant flow of people in and out of the company? Not to mention the burden on those responsible for hiring or the costs involved? The finger is squarely pointed at you, the leadership, to do something about it. The first step in doing this is to find out why it’s happening. Here I take a look at the main reasons. Every organisation is different – but this is no time to put your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. By identifying the reasons that relate to your organisation, you are better placed to look at reducing the steady flow of people out the door.
Poor leadership and mentorship
You may THINK that you have a talented leadership team in place. However, if that’s not the perception of your employees, either you have the wrong employees or the wrong leadership. It is the perception that counts here and it’s important – as a bad relationship with the boss is a key reason why people leave. In fact there’s a saying: employees don’t leave companies; they leave managers. If you merely accept that your people have poor relationships with leaders, it will end up severely affecting morale, performance and, perhaps most importantly, the daily ‘joy’ of work. When people dread coming to work, it’s difficult for them to stay long. What do people want from their leaders? Support, guidance, fairness, mentoring, development, problem-solving… are they getting it? Do you even know what it is or whether they are receiving what they need? Which brings us neatly to the next point…
Inadequate feedback systems
Often the problem is that an organisation is unaware of what its people are thinking. It is just not close enough to them to be able to know what’s going wrong. An annual performance review tells you little and is generally loathed by employees; unless there is a system of continuous feedback, putting leaders in touch with what their people are thinking and what their needs are, then you are working in the dark; and ‘surprises’ (like talent drain) can creep up on you before you have a chance to address them. Find out what your employees need and reduce the nasty surprises. Listen to and empathise with them. Do they need more challenge, more direction, more personal development, more skills training, more recognition? The list goes on but, without asking regularly, don’t pretend that you know.
Lack of opportunity
Another key reason why employees leave is a perceived lack of opportunity. When they see nowhere to go, they may feel trapped. When human beings feel trapped, they try to break free. People by nature need challenge and opportunity to drive them on. Career paths should be mapped out for employees according to their stated needs, allowing them to follow their goals and fulfil their passions. This is something that many companies no longer do and perhaps we need to learn from the past a little here. The first step is to find out what employees expect and where they want to go; and then help them get there with clearly defined steps. This will create positive emotions of pride, accomplishment, and self-confidence that will improve employee sentiment and sense of loyalty to the organisation.
Poor workplace culture
In your organisation is there no fun, regular conflict, an unhealthy level of competition, lack of communication, poor transparency, lack of accountability, fear and threat, no trust or respect, plenty of cliques, and general resistance to change? This points to a poor workplace culture where people do not enjoy their work and take the option to leave as soon as a better offer comes along. Your people probably spend between half and a third of the day at work five days a week; they want to enjoy the experience. A big part of workplace satisfaction is a healthy culture with good relationships with colleagues and leadership. Good relationships help people stay – and, of course, the reverse is true.
Lack of recognition
Employees unsurprisingly want to be noticed, recognised, and rewarded for their efforts. This ties back to the culture of your organisation: are you regularly celebrating successes and achieved goals, or are people in fear of losing their jobs if they make mistakes? Recognising talent and a job well done should be a basic part of the company culture, but it’s important for everyone to feel that they have the opportunity to be recognised – or it may create more divisions and cliques.
Lack of meaning in work
People more than ever want to feel that they are contributing to something, not just performing transactions or menial tasks. Look across the social networks and, amongst the debris, you find people looking for meaning and purpose. Gallup’s Q12 survey found that “the best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose, help them feel they belong, and enable them to make a difference.” It also found that those organisations that achieve this have lower employee turnover rates. It should be a part of leadership’s role to make team members feel like a meaningful and individual contributor to the success of the business as a whole – not just a cog in the machine. This will help people feel more connected to the bigger picture.
Lack of empowerment can be a major de-motivator for employees; it’s not enough to pay lip service to the idea of empowerment while micro-managing at every level. Where there is no accountability and poor leadership there can be little true empowerment, as there is no trust that the right people are in the right positions doing the right things and taking responsibility.
Talented people want to be free to express themselves and be able to make decisions; and young people are used to being independent. Workplaces need to embrace this culture or lose employees to organisation that place more trust in them.
The above problems are all reversible. They can all be addressed and managed. But leadership may need to introduce a little more emotional intelligence to do so. Employees are not just at work for the money and the perks; and they do not cease to be who they are when they enter the workplace.
Holding ‘stay interviews’ to find out why employees remain with you is one great way of counterbalancing the information you get when people leave. But there are plenty of other strategies available to employers…
If you’d like to start addressing employee turnover, start the conversation by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org