Isn’t it amazing, when you find someone who’s really good and you get to hire that person? I would say the emotion is as intense as the frustration you feel when that person leaves your team and goes to work for someone else…and you find out the reason that person left was either you or your Company.
Did you know for instance that 3 out of 5 newly hired employees get called by recruiters from your competitors within their first quarter working with you? And what’s more unnerving, 1 of them might leave in the first 12 months.
Most common reasons are a better salary or a better position, and sometimes a better boss. If the three happen together, boom, the Trifecta of attrition happens! They just get lucky and you can’t be mad at them for that…but it still stings. You hired them, you worked with them, you are still watching them reap success or struggling with something when they break the news: “I’m leaving”.
There have been studies that show that people quit for at least one or more of the following reasons:
There are plenty of articles out there explaining the top 3, 5 or 10 and I only read a dozen of them…and they were enough for me to try and take a stab at it. Sometimes not even gurus have answers you know so you have to improvise, try your own way at these things.
After doing a lot of thinking and remembering those articles I did I read, I got to my first conclusion: it is impossible that I don’t know why people working for me are leaving. I am not saying I can read minds of course but if I am doing my job right, there is no way I won’t see it coming unless it’s mere chance (as in an employee wins the Lottery or they need to take care of family business, etc.) in which case all I can really do is focus on the ones that stay.
As I don’t believe there are unique or infallible methods for anything (other than cooking that is, never mess with the recipe unless you know what you’re doing), all I have is my own advice and here it is, a collection of the ones I give myself every now and then.
Be 100% honest. You know. If you don’t know what makes every single person in your team tick, then what do you do from 9 to 6 every day? Even if they haven’t told you directly, you’ve heard things, or you suspect them. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a statistic that said “8 out of 10 managers know when someone is about to quit.”? There isn’t any that I know of…and if anything it’s the other way round, most managers don’t know until it happens but I still refuse to believe it: how can you not know when someone is about to quit if you spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, all year round with them?
Money. Never allow it to be an issue. What’s the first question a recruiter will ask if they call someone on your team? You know, the pivotal one: “How much are you making right now?” or “Are you happy with what you’re making?” or anything that looks like that. You know exactly how much money they are making and if you are doing your job right, you know how far below or above the average for their positions in the industry they are. I am not saying that you need to overpay people…but you kinda do. It’s about something really really simple: we all work for money regardless of how much we love or hate our jobs. Money talks, and if they get an offer that’s big enough trust me, even if they think long and hard about it, chances are they might end taking it which is not a bad thing. But it will leave you wondering: were you paying them correctly? Could you have paid more? Did you just lose someone really valuable for a lot or just a little more money than they were making with you?
Ask them and let them speak, don’t tell them what you expect them to say. I’ve seen a number of managers in my life, supervisors and even directors ask questions to their employees and interrupt them in the middle of their answer. I have even seen managers not able to look at said employees to their eyes when doing so. And what’s worst, I’ve seen them repeat it over and over, as if they didn’t care which is probably true. Why would you ask a question if you don’t care about the answer? That only pushes people away, people who should be learning from you is just getting chastised, ignored by that attitude. As far as my experience goes, all that does is build a wall around yourself and people tend to walk away from walls, or walled-up managers.
Build spaces, not just bridges.You are to them the person that gives instruction, coaching and objectives. You are also the guy who gives them and takes away their jobs. You are “the corporation” to them. I’ve heard and said myself many times that bridging that is important so that they understand you are also human, but what if we do it the other way? Isn’t it important for you to know they are human as well, bound to make mistakes at one point? The bridge per se won’t help there…you need to build spaces for them. Spaces where they can trust you, spaces where they can join you and want to share their success, or their ideas, or what’s ailing them. The minute you see them as simple resources…that’s when you stop caring about the people they really are. You can fake interest, but you can not fake the emotions they’ll share with you if you look at them as the extraordinary people they are.
Get out of your office and off your chair. Work in the floor with them. Do you know that your office might be called something like the “King Goblin lair”? Or even worse if they are more imaginative than me. Spend more time with them. Not just 10 minutes every day if you can. Go have lunch with them, or go buy something to eat with them or just appear one day with food for everyone. Make that office into a space where you can go and have meetings or just put stuff as a storage room. We all get it: the importance of the office and such…but do you really think you’re helping them stay if all they see is your door instead of your face? You can be the one reason they stay…but that only happens if they know you exist actually.
Recognize talent, don’t force it. It is kind of an ugly thing to say and sometimes improper, but it is a known fact: not everyone is equally talented on the say specific subject. That does not mean that they lack talent all together, it only means you as a manager need to build spaces for your employees to show and use those talents. You can’t force some things and you should never force people to anything. The thing is, if you force them…they’ll start looking outside. And you don’t want to make it easy for those competitors, specially not when you can fix it so easily. Just try to find out what things move them, what things they really feel comfortable at and once you do…there’s the talent you wanted to see. Recognize it, and foster the self-discovery of such talent.
Praise them enough that they know they are worth it. It seems that “good job” is all a manager or a boss can tell an employee about their performance when it’s good. Well, it’s not. Sometimes you need to humble yourself to them, and if you are a true leader that will come naturally to you. It happens to me every day, and I try not to shy away from telling them what I admire of them, or what I find amazing of them and what they do. Some of them will make you really proud and continue doing so with the right nudge and opening up about them being good at something is so much more than that. Just put yourself in their shoes, remember when you were in a similar position…and nobody gave you even that friendly pat on the back. If you’re not doing this, chances are they are not feeling either. People who don’t feel appreciated…well…they’ll look for a place were they do feel it.
Don’t foster rumors, but don’t dismiss them completely. There are certain principles any leader defends, like transparency and ethics which defy the sole concept of rumors. As leaders we learn to stop them and address them when real…but that doesn’t quite end them, does it. Teams or actually groups of people will have rumors. They will make them, or bring them in and you will only hear a few. Well, some will make you want to stop them and you should and some others you won’t even know are out there. But…do you know what rumors really are? Information. Granted, not the best source of information you want, but a source nonetheless. And guess what, sometimes that information says “a competitor is offering your employees more money”, or “your team thinks you are being stubborn and they’ll suffer for you”. With time, patience and practice you will get to make those rumors into useful information and one day some of it might help you make your team’s life easier.
I know it might be harder than this and all those articles, studies and papers say so. There’s a whole field to study this and I’m not specialized in HR, but I like to think I am a very lucky manager who is chosen every day by his employees to lead a team. Now, that doesn’t make me an authority on this subject but it does give me a mission: try my best, every single day. So I can understand them, work harder for them, make their lives easier. I know they’ll leave and I know others will come but it doesn’t matter because I do know one thing.
If I do my job right, they’ll stay long enough to grow and live to their potential, and if that happens all we can get is success, and isn’t that what all managers want for their teams?