Employee retention is always a hot topic. How do we engage our employees? How do we retain our employees? Do we want them to stay, or some of them to leave?
Previously I wrote about how employee turnover is your friend. Employee turnover, when kept to a moderate level, can be a good thing. In my experience, workplaces with very low turnover tend to develop a culture of entitlement. People within a culture of entitlement feel that they shouldn’t necessarily need to work hard to keep their jobs.
You shouldn’t necessarily worry about employee retention just because people want to leave your organisation or team.
However, there are certain circumstances when you should start to worry about employee retention and concentrate on improving it.
Worry about employee retention when your top performers aren’t staying
When your best performers are looking to jump ship, this can be a warning sign. It is never fun when one of your best team members wants to leave, but it does happen. If you find that there is a trend of your top performers resigning, there are a number of potential reasons.
- There may be limited opportunities for advancement. If a high performer can’t get a promotion, better pay or some other perk, they’ll likely leave.
- You may not be rewarding performance. It’s worth asking yourself whether you are actually rewarding your top performers accordingly. Do they get the same treatment as the average or poor performers? It’s not surprising that they want to exit.
- People are getting away with murder. Your top performers are working hard and trying to do well. They may be noticing that other people are performing poorly and never being held accountable for it.
When your top performers aren’t staying, it’s worth looking closely at your team. It is not always possible to retain exceptionally motivated people. They may have grand plans that are bigger than your organisation. However, top performers often leave because they aren’t being recognised or rewarded accordingly.
Worry about employee retention when you can’t keep anyone in a particular role
If you keep hiring for a particular role and you can’t keep anybody in it, there may be a problem. I’ve worked in places where the turnover in particular roles is far higher than others. This is usually a sign of a few possible problems:
- The role is horrendous: Some roles are simply unpleasant. They may involve cold-calling, dealing with conflict or other stressful situations. In these instances, it’s worth investigating whether you could offer more support for the role or change its characteristics.
- Your team is not working effectively: Sometimes a team is working so poorly together that certain roles become more difficult. It may be that people in other roles are slacking off, or that others don’t have the right skills for their role. Both of these factors will place a greater burden on someone if they need to compensate for it.
- You’re hiring the wrong people: Some roles are better suited to certain personalities. When you are hiring, make sure you spend the time to find a candidate with the right demeanour and personal style. You could also provide a realistic job preview, which aims to give candidates a sense of what the job will *really* be like.
Worry about employee retention when you don’t really understand why people are leaving
If people are resigning from your organisation and you don’t really understand why, you could have a problem. When people leave for more money, a promotion or a career change, it may not necessarily be a problem with your team.
However, if people are leaving your organisation for other jobs that don’t seem much better, it’s worth doing some thinking.
If you can’t really understand why people are leaving, it could be that you are out of touch with the feelings of your team. Perhaps you have the “blinders on”, refusing to see or address the issues that are right in front of your face. Perhaps you feel as if people should just feel lucky to have the job, but they don’t seem to think so.
In these cases, you need to find out the truth. The people who are leaving may not tell you, but there will probably be peers in your organisation that may know the real reasons. The truth might hurt, but it’s the only way to be sure that your team is not terrible to work in.
You shouldn’t necessarily be razor-focused on employee retention. However, you should look for the warning signs that you have a larger issue than just a few people quitting.
Often high levels of turnover are cause for alarm, but it is always dependent on the type of role and the industry that you work in.
If you think you might have a problem with employee retention, it’s worth looking closer at the way your team functions before assuming it’s all just a “coincidence”.
If you need particular advice about the function, composition or design of your team, Thoughtful Leader consulting services can help.