Of all the headaches a leader must face, one that becomes an ongoing issue is employee retention. The business networking site LinkedIn reported that 10.9 percent of its members changed jobs in 2017 alone. What does that mean for your company, with the cost of turnover between 16 and 20 percent of an employee's wages?
Apparently, everyone is in the same boat, practically no matter what the line of work. As you might expect, technology-related jobs have the biggest turnover, at more than 13 percent, but sectors from health care to financial services also see double-digit numbers when it comes to losing employees.
Some of that is inevitable, of course, and sometimes may even be desirable--but continuous training, exit interviewing, searching, and rehiring is a vicious cycle.
Let's face it: Job turnover is expensive (six to nine months of an employee's salary), morale-sapping, requires an intensive amount of time on retraining, and is often a big waste of everybody's time when you can avoid it in the first place.
What's a better use of your time? Focusing on how to give your employees what they need so they'll give you what you need: their loyalty.
Give them what they want (you'll need to find out what that is first)
So far, so obvious, right? But sometimes the most obvious is the most helpful. You find out what people want (and need) by listening to them and acting in their best interest.
So, what do people who work with you want and need to be at their best? Maybe it's as simple as slightly improving the brand of coffee you serve in the break room. Maybe it's as involved as bringing in educational programs (or paying for them) so they can keep up with their computer skills.
Or--here's the part where your listening skills will really be put to the test--maybe it means finding out who has child care issues and helping them work out a flextime schedule; maybe it means finding out who is being heavily courted by a competitor and offering new responsibilities and challenges at the right time to make the grass look greener over on your side.
As I wrote in an earlier Inc. story, "You can solve your people problem by helping to solve your people's problems."
Compensate them in ways other than just a raise
In the current climate, where jobs are more plentiful than they have been in years, you might find your employees starting to look around at their options.
The Wall Street Journal reported that companies are getting employees to join them and stay by, among other things, getting involved in their need to pay for educational expenses. That can go beyond tuition reimbursement plans to include student loan counseling and refinancing support. An employee who feels secure about his or her financial future can think about expanding horizons and trying new things. That's the kind of person you would like to have (and keep).
Give them a view of the future
What saps morale the most? Uncertainty. Of that, if you'll forgive me for saying so, you can be certain. People just don't like to be kept in the dark. I don't, do you?
So, before you even consider getting out the corporate checkbook, get out the five-year plan and enlighten people about their own career paths.
A recent Harvard Business Review article reported that workers who stay in the same job for too long and don't see a change in job title (and the related upgrade in responsibilities) are "significantly more likely" to leave and get that upgrade somewhere else.
Of course, promotions should come with an upgrade in pay, as well. But don't let your budgetary limitations become the rope that hangs you as an employer. Take your employees into your confidence as much as possible; hear their ideas about how to make their jobs more interesting and rewarding. It's their company too, and listening to them is one way to keep it that way over the long term.