Turnover is natural. People move on to new jobs all the time. What happens when the turnover is not natural? Where does the blame go when 10% or more of your workforce quit en masse? Trick question – blame (or the mentality associated) is one of the reasons you’re seeing employees walk out the door. Start looking in the mirror before you look anywhere else. In the meantime, it’s time to learn and grow for the sake of your team and your business.
Many of the issues that companies with large percentages of attrition face aren’t necessarily because the jobs effected aren’t desirable – though, that can be a factor that becomes the tipping point for people to stop being productive or leave a position entirely. The same idea is functionally similar to performance and attendance in high performing students that seemingly fail a class that they have excelled in up to that point.
If one student in a class has a severe drop in performance it is reasonable to ask if there may be an opportunity for remedial attention or possibly a conversation about motivation/outside influences. We can also consider that there is simply a gap in teaching/learning style. However, what if it is an entire class of honor students that have performed well across the board until eight out of eleven (73%) fail the same class with the same teacher. A conversation must take place sooner rather than later about the teacher and their relationship with the students in that class.
Just like an avalanche starts due to instability and can’t be stopped – the same goes for attrition in any business. You will generally see one disgruntled employee turn in their notice (if you’re lucky – many workers have resorted to simply walking away without notice of any sort) and that will quickly grow if the same feelings are held by others. It will happen exponentially faster when a member of leadership turns in their notice, especially if they were well-liked by other teammates. When the team sees someone leave that made work enjoyable in even some small way it quickly becomes easier for multiple employees to walk away.
The same concept exists across every profession – sports, education, military, corporations, small businesses – the list goes on. Another obvious example is when you see a restaurant, hotel or retail operation with a sign that reads ‘Under New Management’ – something was wrong and it wasn’t necessarily the employees or their jobs. Furthermore, the problems were so entrenched and obvious that ownership now has to advertise that there has been a change in leadership.
There are plenty of jobs that are tough, dirty and dangerous – some of them are all those things and more, yet they don’t experience the same high rate of turnover and attrition that affect less harsh positions. What makes them different?
The buzzwords of teambuilding and fellowship are still thrown around like leverage, technology and synergy. If you want to start making things better for your workforce, stop using cringeworthy buzzwords and start interacting with them as people you depend on to get the job done every day. The best teams and businesses function at a high level because there is trust. As with most valuable attributes – trust is earned.
The first active measure you can take to grow trust is by having open, consistent and honest communication with your team. This doesn’t mean to gossip with your co-workers about other members of your team. There is no quicker way to lose trust from your workforce than allowing gossip to occur or worse, taking part in it as a leader. Tell your team when they have done a good job. Thank them for efforts that you notice them making to improve. Positive reinforcement goes exponentially further in encouraging desired behavior than negative reinforcement or punishment.
You can show trust by giving your employees growing roles and responsibilities. When you see a new employee starting to show mastery in their initial trained skills it is time to introduce new skills. Employees becoming bored in a job that is showing no growth opportunities is a fast track to losing some of your best people.
Another valuable trait you can give your team is autonomy. Few aspects of building trust are more obvious than showing your trust by giving employees the ability to go out and simply do their jobs. This doesn’t mean to send them off to their duties and talk to them a couple times a month. It means letting them do their job while also having a consistent dialogue that allows you to have a natural and honest relationship with each person on your team.
Where does your team stand? Where can you be proactive in order to make the changes needed to stop or slow turnover and attrition? It starts with one small improvement – which one will you implement today?