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How To Save Your Business From The Turnover Tidal Wave

This post was written by Emily Martin, Owner of Ally HR Partners LLC

The big concern for employers has shifted from difficulty in attracting and hiring talent, to the unusually high, and increasing rates of loss of talent.

In their fourth annual Engagement and Retention Report, Achievers Workforce Institute identified some pretty serious trends in employment, and this has also been reflected in similar data, including stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of those surveyed by Achievers, a majority 52% of respondents indicated they will actively seek a new job in 2021- that’s over half of the workforce, and BLS says this number is on trend to be the highest it’s been since 2001.

The main motivators reported by those who indicated they will be seeking new opportunities include better compensation and benefits (35%), as well an improved work-life balance (25%)- all things the pandemic helped highlight the need for. By contrast, those who report they will happily be staying put, cite the already satisfactory work-life balance (23%) and a strong recognition culture (21%) as the main reasons they plan to stay put.

With this information in mind, we’ve put together a short-list of actions any business can take to prepare to fight off this wave of turnover. Hint- most of it doesn’t involve you just increasing pay rates.

1) Start tracking this data so you know where you stand and when there is a problem

Tracking turnover is not hard, you just have to start putting this data together, because it’s data you already have. Turnover is simply taking the number of employees who left your Company during a certain period and dividing it by the average number of employees you had on staff for that same period.

Once you have this information, you can use this as a starting point or baseline to account for any signs of upticks to be concerned about. You also can use this to compare against averages in your industry to see how you’re doing compared to your competitors, and if you can and should be doing better.

Some tips:

If you have data from 2019, consider using that as your benchmark since 2020 and beyond has been anything but normal. In addition, you may consider tracking this information on a specific departmental, manager, or even position level to get even more detailed info on where there may be concerns.

Other considerations for more narrowly focused data points include voluntary vs. involuntary turnover, or constructive vs. destructive (some turnover is good and functional for your business).

2) Accept that employee experience matters, what that means, and that you’re totally in control of it

Money isn’t enough to keep employees happy, and it won’t be enough to keep them with your business long-term.

As mentioned above, recognition is a big driver of what’s keeping employees in place, and that includes nuanced elements like appreciation and overall engagement. And who is responsible for creating, cultivating and maintaining the employee’s experience? Their Manager. Managers (leaders) at all levels have the greatest ability to influence employee experience- that’s why the saying goes that employees leave Managers, not Companies.

It is the Manager that is responsible for performance management (feedback, recognition, opportunity), and the day-to-day experience of the employee (appreciation, engagement, communication, etc.). It is for these reasons that employers should be putting greater emphasis on hiring, training, and holding Managers accountable for all-things people-management related. The experience your employees have with your Managers will have a direct impact on what they think about working for you- and whether they want to stay or go.

In addition to engagement and recognition, employees more than ever are coming to expect more from their job when it comes to how it serves and supports their overall desired quality of life- and that includes flexibility and work-life balance. In fact, satisfaction with work-life balance was rated just as high as recognition when it comes to reasons why employees plan to stay in their current role.

If you’ve taken measures during the pandemic that, either on purpose or inadvertently, have allowed your employees more freedom, flexibility, and autonomy, you should really think twice about starting to pull these back. Employees have seen behind the curtain and now know that this is not only a real, viable option for businesses, but also in many cases something they’ve been missing and probably don’t want to give up.

On the dark side of this new work-style, many are also finding that working from home means they are always at work- and some employers have taken advantage. Burnout is being reported at an all time high and although it may be helping businesses in the short-term, employees can’t perform in that headspace forever. Make sure that you are also taking care to ensure that your employees are maintaining a good balance while working from home, or you likely will lose them too as a means of just survival.

3) Start using actual data to make decisions and use this to drive real results

If you want your people to be happy, spoiler alert, the best place to find out how to do that is to ask the employees themselves. This intel should be coming from your on-the-ground Managers who hopefully are building relationships and interacting with employees each day, but there are also more company-wide and efficient means of collecting this valuable data- data that you can then use to continually monitor and adjust the satisfaction-factors on a regular basis.

Some suggestions include exit interviews for each employee who leaves (a simple quantifiable survey about their motivations for leaving), stay interviews (like an exit interview but for staff who stick around to ask about why that is), or simple measures like suggestion boxes, or quarterly employee feedback surveys. The point is to discover from the horse’s mouth what you’re doing that’s working, what’s not, and then do more or less of those things. Before you rush to make any changes based on assumption, this is a smart alternative to consider first, otherwise your efforts could be totally wasted. This includes considering this action before rushing to make wage adjustments in the current labor market, despite everything the news is saying about pay rates. Once you give people more money, you certainly can never take it back, and if this wasn’t the reason your people were unsatisfied to begin with, you could end up with a more expensive payroll with no different results. Perhaps better benefits or a toxic Manager is really to blame for your people problems. Or perhaps your staff has just realized that they’re willing to trade higher wages for a better work-life balance, or freedom to work remote.

Like it or not, we are living in a new world post-COVID. One thing is for sure, the idea of employment has shifted dramatically, including all the expectations that go along with it, and there is no doubt that elements of this are going to stick around for a long time. Like it or not, businesses are going to have to adapt to this new employee- driven landscape or face some real difficulties in attracting and retaining talent, talent that is needed for your business to succeed.


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Have a question about this information, a tough situation you’re unsure how to handle, or just looking for some reassurance? We can help! Ally HR Partners helps HR people, business owners, and other people leaders who are overwhelmed or unsure tackle their problems, and strategically plan to prevent them in the future! Reach us at Emartin@AllyHRPartners.com

This post was written by Emily Martin, Owner of Ally HR Partners LLC, a Buffalo-based HR consulting firm that helps small businesses identify and implement custom solutions to their people problems and opportunities. Often a business’ #1 expense, Ally HR Partners believes your people should be your #1 asset. Through an integrative partnership approach, Ally becomes your internal expert on all things HR including compliance assurance, performance management, and strategic HR initiatives designed to make the most out of your Human Capital. For more information about how Ally can work for you, visit AllyHRPartners.com.

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Step Out Buffalo Business

Step Out Buffalo Business is a business focused publication featuring tips and tricks for entrepreneurs and small business people in Buffalo & Western New York. We write what we know and when we don't know, we ask an expert in the field. We've gained our knowledge through experience growing businesses in various industries.

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