Economists tell us that the overall economy is improving. The Society for Human Resource Management’s most recent job outlook survey found that most HR respondents (55%) are optimistic about job growth as we move into 2014. And all over in the HR press people are saying that as the economy improves, workers will start jumping ship and looking for new jobs that promise better pay and better treatment. Impending doom is coming, folks, and we need to do something about it before it’s too late.
Companies spend a lot of money recruiting and training good workers. Some try very hard to retain them—mostly by paying above market rates. Who wouldn’t like that? Well, the research says that a lot of people aren’t that impressed, and here’s why: The way to keep people on your team is to pay them a wage that is consistent with the local market and treat them well. And that’s where the front-line supervisor or manager comes in. The front-line supervisor is the company to her or his direct reports. In their eyes, if the supervisor is bad, the company is bad. Pretty simple. I describe this phenomenon in depth in my article How to Turn Around Turnover, available from Amazon.com. But Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of The Gallup Organization did a deep dive right to the point in their book, First, Break All the Rules:
“In today’s tight labor markets, companies compete to find and keep the best employees, using pay, benefits, promotions, and training. But these well-intentioned efforts often miss the mark. The front-line manager is the key to attracting and retaining talented employees. No matter how generous its pay or how renowned its training, the company that lacks great front-line managers will suffer.”
Here’s the bottom line: People don’t quit companies. They quit supervisors!
Still, selecting and nurturing good supervisors or managers isn’t a panacea, but it’s a darn good start.
So the first action you need to take to stem excessive employee turnover is to select the right individuals to manage people. It’s a skill, you know. Then, to support them, and hold them accountable for treating their direct reports with respect—and nurturing, motivating and developing them.
After that you can unpack the reasons why people stay and why they leave. This is done through surveys, focus groups, and exit interviews. Next, do some in-depth research about the costs of employee turnover. Do not rely on nifty government formulas to estimate the number. Add up your costs of benefits, recruiting, training, lost productivity, etc. Use actual numbers that reflect your reality. Then share the stats with your management team. Continue to monitor employee turnover on a monthly basis, always publicizing the results internally. Make improving the numbers a competition. Get people excited about stemming employee turnover and retaining talent. And never, but never accept the premise that turnover is just a part of doing business. That’s a classic cop-out! Another word for giving up!
I spent many years in the services industry, an industry that pretty much defines high employee turnover. We decided to challenge the industry’s conventional thinking that nothing could be done about it. It took a lot of culture-changing hard work, but everyone did their part and employee turnover took a 5.8% nose dive in the first year. Multiply that by over 44,000 workers, and we’re talking real bottom-line savings. Get excited about turning around your employee turnover before it’s too late. Greener pastures are being fertilized.