Raise your hand if you've heard the saying, "People leave managers, not companies." That should be the majority of us, as the research over the years keeps telling us this is a big reason for employee turnover: Boss sucks = people Quit.

Facebook's HR and People Growth team thought the same, so when their People Analytics team tracked why their employees were leaving, a different and surprising conclusion surfaced. 

What Facebook found.

In Facebook's case, bad bosses are not in their corporate DNA; they've spent years on hiring and developing the best of managers, and employees generally are happy with their bosses. This makes their discovery that much more intriguing. 

So why were their people quitting? In one short sentence:

It was the job that made them quit.

Yes, their work, tasks and responsibilities -- the very reasons we have been telling ourselves are not why people quit, are the actual reasons people quit. Time to revise the old cliché​ to "People leave jobs, not their managers."

As Facebook further analyzed the data, they found some clear differences in the people that stayed, as published in the Harvard Business Review.

  • People that stayed found their work enjoyable 31 percent more often.
  • They used their strengths 33 percent more often.
  • They expressed 37 percent more confidence that they were gaining the skills and experiences they need to develop their careers. 

What Facebook recommends to keep employees from quitting.

Even if people quit over their jobs, it still falls on management to make sure it doesn't happen. Retaining employees at Facebook comes down to creating the job around their talent's skills, strengths, interests and passions; then customizing work experiences that are motivating and enjoyable, that play to their strengths, and which keeps them growing and progressing along a career path.

Facebook offers several actionable ways to do that.

1. Craft the kind of jobs your people are passionate about doing.

Humans are wired to follow their passions, and many, say the authors, are looking for ways to bring their passions into their jobs.

This is where the strength of a manager with the mindset to support and meet the needs of employees comes in: They'll help to craft the kind of meaningful jobs employees will enjoy in the long-term.

One example given by the Facebook HR team involved a director, Cynthia, who was tasked with managing a large HR team. After a while, Cynthia wasn't enjoying what motivated her and brought her the most energy: solving problems with her clients in a previous role.

With her manager's support, Cynthia hired someone to eventually take her role so she could move back to an individual contributor role. In other words, Cynthia wasn't just hiring a direct report; she was hiring her future boss. 

It worked like a charm, thanks to that manager's willingness to support Cynthia with her career change. The new hire ramped up quickly into her new management role leading Cynthia's former team. And Cynthia, according to Facebook, "is now thriving and solving problems with the clients she loves so much."

2. Find out what people enjoy doing by conducting an "entry interview."

We're all familiar with the dreaded exit interview, and I've written about its better alternative -- the "stay interview."

Wharton professor Adam Grant, author of Originals and Give and Take, also contributed to the Facebook HR study, and introduces the practice of the "entry interview." From the HBR article:

In the first week on the job, managers sit down with their new hires and ask them about their favorite projects they've done, the moments when they've felt most energized at work, the times when they've found themselves totally immersed in a state of flow, and the passions they have outside their jobs. Armed with that knowledge, managers can build engaging roles from the start.

3. Find out what strengths people have, then let them play to their strengths.

Right now, you may have several polymaths under your roof you could leverage for business outcomes. Did I lose you? Polymaths are knowledge workers that are good at many subjects, never just focusing on one. It would behoove managers to recognize their diversity in skill as a true gift, and allow them to try new things.

But first, recognize who they are and what strengths they bring to the table. You may find out that a network engineer in your IT team is a closet (and kickass) product designer with teambuilding skills, or your administrative assistant is a multi-lingual problem solver with leadership potential.

Once you find out the unique and varied strengths of knowledge workers that aren't reflected on that cut-n-paste job description posted on your careers page, here's what the Facebook HR/People Growth team recommend:

  • Create new roles and job assignments that leverage people's whole array of strengths and gifts.
  • Give knowledge workers the time and resources they need to seek and share crucial information and knowledge that will get the work done. Some estimates suggest that knowledge workers spend more than one-quarter of their time searching for information, stated the Facebook team.
  • Build a searchable database of experts once you, the manager, know who does what. The goal is to put employees' strengths on display so that people know whom to contact.

4. Create work that meshes with personal priorities.

Managers should pay attention to ensure that new roles, responsibilities or promotions don't conflict with employees' personal or family lives. It's up to management to work with employees to ensure work/life integration benefits both sides.

For example, if a new promotion requires more travel that negatively impacts the care taking of aging parents back home, or if a new mom is coming back from maternity leave only to find that her work schedule conflicts with parenting (a real-life scenario shared by Facebook), managers must be flexible and consider tweaking the job so it seamlessly meshes with personal commitments.

In closing, the Facebook People Growth team stated that managers who give their employees this kind of support "find that their people not only deliver but also stay longer --  they're proud of where they work." 

Published on: Jan 18, 2018