Overcoming the Revolving Door
The scribbled sign on the door said it all: Closed due to staffing shortage. While I’ve become accustomed to seeing this sort of thing at small mom and pop shops, I was shocked to find it at the entrance of one of my favorite bistros. The French eatery, family owned since forever, withstood recessions, and a host of building repairs in the decades before the pandemic. Right now, however, “my place” is shuttered because employees are tired, burned-out, and not quite sure what they want to do next.
McKinsey calls it the “Great Attrition” although many others in the industry refer to it as the Great Resignation, as I’ve written about, in prior articles. Their research provides sobering evidence of the upheaval underway in our businesses. Surveying employees from multiple countries across the globe, McKinsey finds that 40% of surveyed employees are likely to quit their jobs within the next six months. Eighteen percent of respondents state that their intent to move on to something else within the six-month window ranges from likely to almost certain. Amazingly, the Great Attrition also includes a significant number of respondents who are prepared to leave their current jobs without another job waiting for them. Not surprisingly, the attrition is highest in the entertainment and hospitality sectors. However, historically stable sectors of the job market – management, education, and healthcare – are also seeing unprecedented turnover.
As leaders of many of the organizations reckoning with attrition, we need to ask ourselves, “Why is this happening to our organizations and what are we supposed to do about it?” The answer to the first part of this two-pronged question is obvious. All the disruption underway since the first quarter of 2020 has many workers evaluating both their personal and vocational priorities. What’s my purpose and what is most important for me and the people in my circle moving forward? While many organizations have offered incentives and flexibility, it may not be enough. Like it or not, when members of your team are pondering the existential – like purpose and meaning in the workplace and community – incentive pay, a new office chair, or any other inducement will not have the leverage to keep people in place when they question the impact they’re having each day, and whether their work aligns to their core values. As the McKinsey study so aptly puts it, people want more interactions and relationships and meaning, not more transactional perks.
So, what do we do to combat the shortages and the revolving door? The first step, and perhaps not the obvious one, is to talk to your employees about why they are leaving the organization. Listen and be empathetic. Don’t immediately assume that it is all about compensation, work/life balance, or health-related issues. The McKinsey findings note, “The top three factors employees cited as reasons for quitting were that they didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54 percent) or their managers (52 percent) or because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51 percent).
Although I would hope that conversations are taking place with employees WELL in advance of an exit interview, but it’s an excellent way to capture employee sentiment, at a time when employees feel greater safety in sharing their direct feedback (no fear of retribution). While it may be painful to hear some of the things exiting employees have to say, the data and anecdotal information gleaned from these conversations offer a goldmine of insight. Exit interviews also let the departing team members know that their feedback will help build a stronger organization for those who are just entering the (proverbial) building and, if they didn’t always feel heard while employed, that their feedback was valued as they exit.
What you do with all this information will determine how effective you are in retaining the great members of your team and attracting new ones. Make sure your leaders have access to the data. Also, give them the bandwidth to craft a vision of how the organization can enhance meaning and belonging in your space.
Those who don’t take these attrition/attraction trends seriously – and do something about them – will soon have a sign on their door like “my place.”