Improving Employee Turnover Is Easy
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We respect your hustle.
Every company in the world wants to reduce employee turnover. If your workers are underpaid and overworked, the answer is right there. Otherwise, there's one thing every person wishes for yet so few of them receive at work: gratitude. People want to be thanked for doing something helpful. They want to hear 'Good job!' when they have excelled. They want to be treated well, especially if you are demanding they treat your customers well. If you want loyalty, give them kindness.
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Employee Turnover Matters
Nearly every company tracks employee turnover - the number of employees who leave the company and are replaced each year. It's an important metric to be sure, but looking at it as a flat number or percentage isn't entirely meaningful. Normally, high turnover rates are bad, but it could mean you are paying your employees so well they are quitting to follow their dreams. No animosity, only good feelings.
While that would be a noble reason to have high turnover, it isn't likely to be the case in most situations. Still, it goes to show that all metrics require more nuanced data to tell a meaningful story. If exit surveys and interviews are a thing, you hopefully have far more details as to why people are leaving. This information can let you know where your business is doing well or where it needs improvement.
All this to say, most companies are constantly striving to improve their employee turnover. Typically, reducing employee turnover means employees are happier and choosing to stay, as well as the company saving money on hiring and training replacements. It's a big deal and many business spends heaps of time and money trying to figure out how to reduce their employee turnover.
A Complex Problem With Many Factors
There are many, many reasons why people leave companies. Sometimes they quit, other times they are let go. There are countless reasons for either of these endings, some avoidable, some not, and there's no singular fix for everything. It's important to look closely at all reasons for turnover, along with the extra data you hopefully have. By doing this, you can get a better grasp of where and how things can be improved.
The problem is that many companies get bogged down by the plethora of possibilities and often try exclusively to solve things on a broad level. What can be done to reduce turnover by X%? How can we alter our hiring processes to only bring people on who are likely to stick around? When we fire people who want to quit, what reason do we mark that as?
The common problem with this approach is that it focuses more on the processes and less on the people. That, and it makes the solution seem more difficult than it often is.
People Over Process
I recently wrote about a time when I was trying to figure out why the majority of a company was afraid of being fired. I was sure fixing company policies was the way to go, but after speaking with people throughout the organization, I discovered that was not true at all. Since then, that same lesson has constantly popped up in my life and my work with other organizations.
People know what they want. Not everyone has thought about it enough to be able to articulate what tangible steps can be taken to improve how they feel about work, but with the right questions, you can figure it out. In my experience, people want the same things they have wanted at every job, in every relationship, at every stage of their life since childhood.
It's not a revamped hiring process or better data analytics. It's not more fun office perks or higher quality company-wide meetings. It's something even more universal than having better benefits. It is ...
Treating People Decently
The other day, I was listening to someone talk about the toxic workplace they were leaving and how they actually loved the job. It reminded me of the famous Marcus Buckingham quote: “People leave managers, not companies”. This day, however, the person telling her story said something else that inspired this entire blog:
"Treat me at least as well as you want me to treat your customers."
That's not asking for a lot. That's asking for the bare minimum. That's asking for a little bit of human decency in exchange for spending the majority of one's life helping to grow your business. This also isn't the first I've heard of this. In fact, it's what I've heard in one form or another literally every time I ask people what they wish they had when they are upset about their work conditions.
"I wish my bosses recognized the work I put in."
"I just want to hear, 'Good job!' from time to time."
"I want to know if I'm doing a good job or not. If I'm not, I'll improve, but I need to know."
None of these absurdly common examples take time, effort, or resources to provide. None of them require new training or outside consulting. None of them need a risk-analysis to determine if they are worth it.
You can even do these yourself in literally any situation in life. See the garbage worker pick up your trash in the morning? Say thanks! Get food from the drive-through? Tell them you appreciate them. Your partner did something nice for you they do every day? Call it out.
Studies have shown that expressing gratitude leads to increased happiness. And, when looking for an article about some of that research, the very first link (above) also calls out a relevant example:
Managers who remember to say "thank you" to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder.
The Simple Solution
Will showing gratitude resolve all your employee retention issues? Of course not. It will, however, make a huge impact on a large number of employees. It is also an easy change that can be effortlessly implemented and requires no time or money to do. That is the type of change literally every company wishes for.
Furthermore, creating a culture of recognition and appreciation will lead to many more benefits. Better relationships between coworkers will enable managers to better understand the needs of their team members. This, in turn, provides more data on what people need to want to continue working there. Additionally, the more you get in the habit of acknowledging the hard work of others, the more you will realize that people deserve promotions, raises, more time off, and so on. It creates a cycle of people being motivated to work harder and management wanting to give them what they need to keep working hard.
This is normally where the conclusion would be.
Replacing tradition with efficiency is kind of our thing.