To be honest, the question isn't whether any of your organization’s best employees will leave you this year or not. The real question is how many, how soon, and how can you do something about it?
Employee retention has been tough for years now, especially in specialist roles. But it’s about to get tougher, because more than a third of the workforce is ready to walk.
A recent survey of more than 1,000 UK employees and managers, carried out by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), reveals that 37% of employees plan to quit their jobs in 2015. That’s a huge increase — almost double the figure the ILM reported for 2014, when 19% planned to quit. Only two years ago, in 2013, it was 13%.
What attracts employees in 2015
To understand what your employees are looking for when they look elsewhere, let’s take a look at the top ten things the survey respondents told the ILM they want:
- 59% want greater opportunity for career progression. This is key to understanding the workforce of 2015 — whereas in 2014, only 35% gave this reason for wanting to leave their jobs.
- 56% want better pay. You might think this is a predictable answer, but look at the numbers. Only just over half of the employees planning to leave are driven by salary. That means 44% will leave even if you pay them more.
- 50% want a job that interests them more. If half the employees leaving your company do so simply because they got bored, you’ve definitely got a problem.
- 30% want better management. In other words, the job isn’t necessarily the problem; a lack of intelligent leadership will send some employees hunting for better options.
- 27% want more training and development opportunities. Again, leadership is the issue at the core of this desire. If employees are keen to learn, yet you fail to teach them, how will you build the next generation of mobilised workers and effective leaders?
- 18% want more flexible working arrangements. Whether it’s to homeschool their children, take a part-time training course, or run their own small business on the side, employees in 2015 like to take control of their schedule.
- 5% want to work with nicer people. “Nicer” is a difficult concept to define or quantify, as its meaning changes from one person to the next. But it’s worrying to think that 5% of the workforce don’t feel their current colleagues are nice people.
- 3% want better parental leave. And who can blame them? Employees don’t ever want to feel like you believe the company’s more important than their family.
Emotional reasons for leaving
Aside from seeking more desirable working conditions and compensation, 25% of the employees planning to quit in 2015 told the ILM their reasons include feeling unappreciated at work. Here we see another rising trend; in 2014, only 16% gave this as a reason to leave.
According to a 2014 survey by the relationship charity Relate, feeling unappreciated is only half the story. 42% of employees don’t have any close friends at work — and as a 2011 study by professors from California Sacramento University and the Wharton School of Business proved, loneliness impairs performance at work.
An employee who feels unappreciated and isolated is unlikely to expend any discretionary effort for the company’s sake. Why? Because those employees don’t see themselves as inside the organization. They already feel like outsiders, so they have no reason to stay loyal to their employer.
How to prevent an employee exodus
Let’s be clear about this: you can’t “retain” an employee, you can only do your best to remain attractive as an employer. To make employees want to stay, show them that you’re willing and able to give them what they want.
They want career progression and training. So you need to put those structures in place, of course. But for it to be effective on employee engagement and retention rates, you also have to make sure employees know what opportunities are open to them and how to access those opportunities.
And employees want relationships. Genuine, personal connection with other human beings — a working community that motivates and mobilises employees not only to be more productive, but more innovative too. So to gain real competitive advantage for your company, create a pervasive culture of connection and interaction. Give employees a shared purpose and plenty of opportunity to share their ideas.
How to engage employees in 2015
Generational diversity has reached a peak, with up to 5 generations in the workplace. The new generation of talent has expectations and preferences that are vastly different to those of earlier generations.
Millennials see less of a boundary between professional and personal relationships, happily sharing personal details such as salary, relationship and family issues with colleagues. They also expect to give and receive feedback continuously, whereas previous generations are accustomed to the traditional ordeal of the annual employee engagement survey.
But what employees of all ages really want in 2015 is simple: a sense of community, an opportunity to grow, and encouragement to aim high.
“Engagement” isn’t something you do to employees.
It’s a two way street, and your role is to create an organization that’s fulfilling, meaningful and inspirational for everyone who works within it.
Traditional engagement surveys aren’t dead; they’re still useful in some cases. But the mass survey is being replaced by new tools and techniques such as rapid pulse surveys, analytical applications, and event-driven surveys.
These tools allow you to measure job satisfaction, employee happiness levels, and organizational alignment in real time, and discover the correlations that tie employee retention and performance to other work factors.
So adopt the new technologies and techniques, and think creatively about how you engage employees. It’s time to try a more integrated, holistic approach.