Using the term “record-breaking” to describe today’s economy isn’t hyperbole.
The economic recovery that started in mid-2009 is now the second-longest in U.S. history (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis). But hidden among the employment statistics is a metric that poses an increasing challenge for middle managers: the “quit” rate.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks voluntary separations initiated by employees as a measure of economic health. The data go back to 2000, and the quit rate this summer hit its highest level in 17 years. In 2017, more than 1 in 4 employees decided to voluntarily leave his or her job. That’s up from 1 in 5 in 2013 (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, 2018).
Why Employees Seek New Opportunities
Not surprisingly, quits go up as unemployment goes down. But that inverse relationship doesn’t tell the entire story. Ability and willingness both impact the employee quit rate (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, 2018). An employee’s ability to leave is often determined by the availability of better job options. Willingness, on the other hand, is about satisfaction and engagement in a role.
Beyond the numbers, it’s important to consider who employers are trying to hire. All workers have more options today, but top-notch workers have the most opportunities. Think about the characteristics that an employee a star: drive, high productivity, effectiveness, great communication skills, and creativity. These skills influence not only how they do their jobs, but also how they manage their careers.
Related: The 4 Cornerstones of Employee Retention
Finding Employee Motivation Buckets
Beyond the basics — competitive pay and a safe physical and psychological work environment — employees are motivated by three things at their jobs: career, community, and cause (Source: Facebook, Harvard Business Review, University of Pennsylvania).
Employees seek careers that allow them to leverage their strengths and expertise while promoting continued learning. They also want a community that respects and recognizes people, which promotes connection and belonging. A clear cause helps them understand that their work is making a difference.
Combating the Job-Hopping Trend
After working with thousands of leaders across diverse organizations, we have developed an employee retention framework that nurtures the ideals of career, community, and cause. As such, it provides the guidance and tools managers need to engage staff and maximize success.
The T.E.A.M. model — which stands for teach, empower, align, and mentor — encompasses four distinct categories of leadership practices. This helps managers improve individual and collective performance.
Here’s how you can use this approach to mitigate job-hopping:
1. Make teaching a key leadership responsibility.
Effective leaders are great teachers, and great teachers are always learning. Employees look to managers to establish clear priorities and direction. They then provide focused support so that teams can achieve defined goals.
As a teacher, the manager offers the expertise and wisdom that shapes the course of the group’s success. Of course, managers also learn from the knowledge and contributions of individuals to make the team stronger.
At all levels, strong leaders are highly visible. They engage in meaningful conversations with both staff and customers, host town hall-style gatherings that bring together cross-functional team members, and plan interactive work group meetings to share information and gain insight from colleagues.
Related: 5 Tips to Becoming a More Emotionally Intelligent Leader
2. Empower staff to produce better results.
Central to all contemporary performance-improvement methods, including lean and Six Sigma, is the idea that better solutions emerge when you talk to the people closest to the work. When you’re trying to make work better, more efficient, and more satisfying, gathering feedback from front-line employees is crucial.
Large, complex projects often involve cross-functional groups drawn from many departments. However, managers should also pursue more focused intradepartmental projects that involve team members in decision-making.
3. Create aligned, team-specific goals.
Most organizations have mastered the art of setting well-defined, specific, and measurable goals at the corporate level. But to influence behavior and performance, companies should also have tactical goals at the department or unit level.
The first step is setting, tracking, and consistently reporting these goals. Then, teams can more productively discuss progress. This helps work groups strengthen their sense of purpose and improves quality, service, and efficiency. They’ll clearly understand their most pressing initiatives and how to incorporate those goals into their work.
Related: 3 Top Companies’ Strategies for Hiring & Retaining Women in STEM
4. Encourage employees through balanced, consistent feedback.
Mentoring staff members to improve performance is arguably a manager’s most important job. Too often, managers think of feedback as only sharing negative information. But to build morale and develop a high-performance culture, managers should also have conversations that reinforce success and reward positive results.
Besides creating a culture of recognition and appreciation, balanced feedback helps employees readily accept constructive criticism. Feedback that only points out mistakes and deficiencies is demoralizing — and in the end, it will aggravate turnover instead of reducing it.
Day-to-day demands and crises arise, so some managers never find time to achieve seemingly lofty goals meant to enhance employee engagement, retention, and loyalty. But engaging employees and earning full commitment isn’t just in a manager’s job description — it’s central to the way that the best leaders complete tasks and blaze trails with their teams.
Burl Stamp is the founder and president of Stamp & Chase, a consulting firm that helps organizations improve their customer experience, build brand loyalty, promote a culture of safety, and increase employee engagement. Prior to launching Stamp & Chase, Burl served in several senior management roles in healthcare organizations across the country, including St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. His specialties include strategy development and implementation, leadership communication, customer experience assessment and enhancement, branding strategy and management, and employee engagement. To learn more about Stamp & Chase, follow along on the blog.
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