We’ve all seen it happen: A worker is excelling on the job. Her skill set is an ideal match, she understands and excels at her tasks; she takes initiative, actively furthers company goals, and genuinely seems interested in the work. Then she leaves. Everything seemed like a wonderful fit, and at the same time, no one feels they can fault her for wanting to explore her potential elsewhere.
As an employer, employee attrition is a hard—and often discouraging—situation to watch happening inside your company. Whether you run an industry office, cutting-edge software company or a startup, hiring the right staff workers and, more importantly, retaining them is a vital but often unexpected task.
Is there some magical handbook for finding the perfectly-equipped staff that also wants to stay at your company?
Not really, and that is exactly the point.
Often companies are losing dedicated and talented employees not because it isn’t good fit, but because people are dynamic and complex. What fits on paper one day may not fit in practice the next.
Hiring and retention practices have to be as multifaceted as the employees they seek to manage...especially in a work world where the 9-to-5 standard is quickly disappearing.
“Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or extrovert?”
That question comes from inside a female entrepreneurship group I belong to. Each month featured mentors talk about topics like overcoming fear, perfecting your elevator pitch or how to create on-brand content. We also highlight a female entrepreneur from the group each month.
In addition to questions like “what inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship?” every woman is asked things like, “if you could get an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?” and the introvert/extrovert question.
How to Decrease Employee Retention
What does this have to do with company employee retention?
With hardly any exceptions—each one of these women was previously an employee at a company where they enjoyed and excelled at their job. And they left. Not because it wasn’t a good fit, but because they knew there was also something better.
The point is this: Employees have options.
Thanks to startups, the proliferation of social media, a millennial workforce and society’s growing acceptance of “different” work environments—workers are no longer expected to fit inside the square employee box.
Companies now find themselves with the ball in their court. Adapt, or risk losing talented staff like these women who’ve set off on their own.
When asked why they left the corporate world, the responses normally sound like these:
“I was working in restaurant marketing for several years with an awesome local management company, but I tend to have a lot of ideas. I naturally felt uncomfortable working on different projects during my ‘day job’ that weren't related to it, so I knew something had to change.”
“Working in corporate was predictable. I knew that the quality of my work and work ethic, combined with connecting to the right people at the right time, would lead to future growth. And it did….On one hand it taught me everything I know. On the other hand, it revealed to me the gap between the life I was living and the life I wanted.”
“I was working for other people and believing that I could do the same thing, only better. In some cases I was right, and in others, I’m still struggling…”
Retention Best Practices
One entrepreneur, who is now the owner of multiple successful businesses with hundreds of employees, said this about management:
“The best advice I’ve been given in recent years is to challenge people to be the best they can be, and hold them to a higher standard than they might believe they are capable of. I found that when I do, people will surprise you by what they can achieve.”
Essentially—believe in employees as complex people with a high capacity for growth and change. Be the platform, rather than the container. Provide employee development for those eager to learn and stretch themselves. Create employee engagement and make a company's values and vision prominent so their work can be meaningful. Business success is definitely a different beast these days.
It's not a question of them getting out if you are not trying to box them in.
For more on workplace behavior, success strategies in business, and entrepreneurship, check out our HeartLead resources.