For every employee who left during the Great Resignation, there are many more hovering at the exit.
Many blogs have been dedicated to employees who quit and companies clamoring to replace them. However, an organization’s greatest workforce pool is already in your sights - your current employees. As you scramble to advertise positions, write clever posting copy, and sweeten the pot to stand out from your competition, you had better corral and massage current staff because they are at the exit and one offer away from leaving.
Employee retention studies highlight the benefits of retention and the detriment of attrition. Glebbeek & Bax (2004) state simply that “high turnover is harmful.” In addition to the massive time, effort, and expense of searching, vetting, hiring, and onboarding new employees, several cascading factors stress the organization.
First, the remaining staff is strained. For each open position, the remaining employees absorb those responsibilities. This situation compounds the problem: strained employees move closer to the exit, and when fewer employees do more, there is a significant rise in lost opportunity costs. If employees are too busy with one thing, they can’t do another thing. Your next impactful product improvement, or marketing campaign, or sales event will suffer.
Before you jump into the conference room or a Zoom call offering flowery benefits and perks to entice employees and buy back their loyalty, your leadership or consulting team needs to dive into the motivators for workers to stay or go. Employees are humans with lives and problems and motivating and demotivating factors. Ignoring this humanity will leave your organization scrambling for the benchwarmers and continuously repeating the hiring process while your competition lands the starters.
Research notes the reasons people remain or abandon a job. “People often leave for reasons unrelated to their jobs. In many cases, unexpected events… and employees also often stay because of attachments and their sense of fit, both on the job and in their community” (Mitchell et al., 2001). While employers need to acknowledge the needs and motivators for employee retention, they also need to be prepared to adjust their school of thought to make the changes happen. Employees are worth more than customers, and leadership needs to “do the right thing no matter how it hurts” (Dunne, 2021).
Go take a peek at the exit doors and fight the urge to get angry at the employees leaving or looking to leave. Instead, change your mindset, adopt an employee-friendly and form a plan to celebrate their humanity.
Dunne, B. (2021). The Unicorn Path: The One With the Most Unicorns Wins. Mystic Canyon Publishing.
Glebbeek, A. C., & Bax, E. H. (2004). Is High Employee Turnover Really Harmful? An Empirical Test Using Company Records. Academy of Management Journal, 47(2), 277–286. https://doi.org/10.5465/20159578
Mitchell, T. R., Holtom, B. C., & Lee, T. W. (2001). How to keep your best employees: Developing an effective retention policy. Academy of Management Perspectives, 15(4), 96–108. https://doi.org/10.5465/ame.2001.5897929