Opinion piece on attrition, first posted in our new online HR community – the Employee Experience Hub!
Imagine that, in an idle moment, you’re looking at your company-issued smart phone and you see an advert for a job on LinkedIn that seems to be right up your street. You click on that link, and you start to make an application and that’s when your boss appears in front of your desk (yes for a change you are in an office) and says “I can see you’ve clicked onto LinkedIn Jobs but before you go any further, can I talk to you about how you’re doing and the opportunities available to you here?” Amazing right? Scary possibly? But whilst this seems like a ‘big brother’ situation, maybe this isn’t so far-fetched.
Attrition has always been a problem in business and, right now, Great Resignation or not, it’s more important than ever that this gets managed. There are more jobs than people available to fill them in the UK marketplace and the demographics suggest that it could stay that way for a while to come.
Attrition comes with a big cost
Attrition also comes with a big cost attached to it. Thus, companies are intensifying their efforts to predict which workers are at higher risk of leaving. This is so that managers can try and stop them. Tactics out there range from garden variety electronic surveillance to sophisticated analyses of employees’ social lives. ‘That couldn’t happen at my employer’ you’re thinking, but who knows? What we do know at WorkBuzz however is that there are other better ways and means of knowing why people quit – it’s mostly very predictable. But, if you don’t know what they are, maybe you could use some insights into what others have discovered, and give your business a fighting chance of not losing the looming talent war?
Comparison is a ‘killer’
What most affects people is how they are doing compared with other people in their peer group. Or comparison with where they thought they’d be at a certain point in life. Moments that matter can trigger people looking for something new or better to do, driven by such comparisons. The triggers are unsurprisingly things such as work anniversaries, children, and birthdays most especially mid-life milestones (I changed jobs when I was both 40 and 50) as these ‘events’ trigger reflections on progress and can prompt employees to assess their careers and to take action if they are unhappy.
Large social gatherings of peers such as university or class reunions can also be catalysts as they are natural occasions for ‘life’ comparisons to be made. The big realisation here is that it might not be just what happens at work that makes an employee restless for change; it might be what is happening in life outside of work that’s a big driver too. Is it worth analysing both?
What can you do about it? Well, in the US in particular, we are seeing the rise of companies such as Joberate. They monitor employees’ social media usage for their clients and spot things that might be driving this, providing insights on what’s going on behind the scenes at home and at work. Is it a bad manager, is it a training issue, is the job or position being undervalued?
Are you checking in?
Another approach might be to use your in-house resourcing or talent team a little differently. If you know that your people are potentially more vulnerable to approaches when they change roles, or when their manager changes, or when a service anniversary is completed, or when a birthday is reached, then why not contact them to ask them how they are doing before they call you with any decisions? It’s not impossible to use your HR system to create lists of employees who might benefit from a ‘check-in’ call. And this might even be more important now we are into the world of hybrid working.
When I was at HS2, we checked in with people on their three, six, and nine-month anniversaries, because we knew that this focus slowed attrition rates amongst our new joiners. The insights we got from our EE and EX surveys told us that we needed to focus on this group and where to look and when in terms of critical skills and functions. We did therefore try and combine some insights from our survey tools, with simple predictive analyses based on anniversary dates, to create some interventions that worked. What could this look like in your organisation?
Whatever you decide to do, you need to get to your people before they make a decision to leave you. Pre-emptive intervention is a much better way of dealing with employees’ wandering eyes than waiting for someone to get an offer and then trying to persuade them to stay.
Research suggests that almost 50% of employees who accept a counteroffer leave anyway within 12 months. In life, as in work, once you’re in a relationship that’s ending, the breakup is inevitable even if your ‘partner’ temporarily persuades your otherwise!
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