What does it take for managers to realize the value of their employees? Oh, I know…..a RESIGNATION! You’ve heard the saying “you don’t know what you had until it’s gone”. Or until you’ve paid tons of money re-training someone for 6 months or more.
I once worked for a small real estate law firm and after tirelessly working day and night and often weekends without reward in any form, I opted to resign. Once word got out that I had given my notice there was a panic. My subordinates began to worry that they’d get fired because “no one had their backs”. Managers attempted to guilt me into staying, colleagues were annoyed that they’d have to pick up the slack and yet not one time did anyone ask me “Why are you leaving?” The result: 80% of my team no longer works there and 40% followed me (at their own will, by the way) with a wealth of accumulated knowledge in tow. Something is scarcely wrong with this picture!
Is it possible to let one of your top performers, someone having heavy influence with your workers, just walk out the door and fail to ask why? The answer is Yes! Not only is it possible, unfortunately it is the norm for most organizations. Anne Fisher, contributor to CNNMoney wrote a great article, “To keep employees loyal, try asking what they want” wherein she references an interview of Aflac CEO Dan Amos quoted saying: “If you want to know what would keep someone from quitting, ask.” It sounds like common sense, but not many companies really do it”. With an employee turnover rate of 9% in 2010, Aflac has been named in Fortune Magazine’s list of “America’s 100’s Best Places to Work” for twelve consecutive years (1999-2010).
Not only is it a good business decision to find out what it will take for your employees to remain loyal, it is the essential most important factor in organizational success. Let’s break it down further; here are my top three reasons why good employees leave the workplace:
1. Poor reward system
Not everything is about having a big paycheck. Rewarding an employee can be shown in many ways, such as corporate recognition both internally and externally (company website or press release), an additional paid mini-vacation, an opportunity to take the lead on a new project, a promotion, a donation in their name to a charity they support or the most popular form of reward, a bump in pay or an unexpected bonus. While these represent some of the ways an employer can reward workers, they don’t work without one key element; communication. What money represents to one employee may be of no concern to another. The key here is to find out what your employees value most and build on that.
I’d have to primarily point the finger to management when it comes to employee turnover mostly because it is up to them to enforce, engage, and often times implement reward systems to keep employees satisfied and loyal. Whether it appears so or not, management always knows someone is working tirelessly. How do I know this? Because they set the deadline and demand the work is done! Therefore, it is a horrible myth to believe that it is solely the responsibility of the Human Resource Department to keep employees loyal. While I do believe HR plays a significant role in conjuring up ways to keep employees happy, (that is if an HR Director has a seat at the table of course) poor employee performance is about 80% lack of training or support from management and 20% employee mis-match. There is truth to the statement “employees don’t leave company’s they leave management”; however, much is to be said about employee recruitment as well.
3. No Work/Life Balance
My boss once saw me working late and asked me had I ever heard the term “Work/Life Balance” before. My reply: “Yes, of course, I balance work into my life!”. This is reality for the majority of professionals in the workplace. Here’s my advice: instead of offering vacations and more time off, refocus your attention on what has changed with society rather than the employee’s request for the same pay and less work! The truth is, now that many workers are social media crazed, they want more time to “check-in” on social networking sites, chat with friends, see what everyone else is doing and then begin to feel like they work too much because a buddy is having a blast at the beach. Think back to the time when there were no social networking sites, no bloggers, no chat rooms and the like, the term “work/life balance” was unheard of and yet here we are. So since this is an obstacle we must overcome, I propose we take those long gone allowable 15 minute smoke breaks (that have become a disgrace to man-kind) and turn them into 15 minute paid social balance breaks instead. Now this will be interesting to see!
Ultimately the culture of an organization determines the scope of employee retention efforts which requires strategic decision making and planning. But in an effort to avoid the possibility of the competition reaping the benefits of your investments, for starters a simple question will suffice.
Mary V. Davids is the Founder and Managing Member of D&M Consulting Services, LLC. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. Mary has over a decade of experience in cultivating employee engagement, enhancing employee motivation and workplace performance, leadership coaching and training & development. She also serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the South Florida Chapter of the National Association of African American’s in Human Resources. Book Mary to speak at your next event or hire Mary for leadership & professional development consultation today. Follow Mary on twitter @MVDavids.