The “Big Quit” continues and employers are running out of ways to stop the bleed of excellent talent who are craving change for the sake of change. Only a couple of years ago, most companies were led by the golden metric of keeping voluntary employee turnover under 10%. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 report, voluntary employee turnover rates are at an all-time high of 25% for talent across most industries. Canada is not far behind with about 21% voluntary turnover. And while many employees leaving (38%) have been with the company less than a year, employees of all ages and tenures are checking to see if the grass is greener elsewhere.
This is a big and costly problem for companies of all sizes.
Losing high-performing employees can have detrimental impacts on a company, as can hiring the wrong replacements. Employers are doing everything they can to retain top talent but it’s just not working. Employees are leaving for various reasons but the top 3 biggies are compensation, work environment, and career advancement. As my start-up and scale-up clients will attest, there’s only so much money that can be spent on salaries, office environments are totally different animals in remote workplaces, and career advancement needs to happen strategically, not haphazardly. Sure, there is always a need to assess these critical components of overall work experience but many companies have tried making improvements with little success.
There’s only one thing left to try: acceptance. Instead of looking at each employee departure as a deep loss to the company, it’s time to change the narrative - embrace the change and celebrate the contributions of those departing. How? I just might have some thoughts.
Positive, informative communications
“John Smith has left the company. We’d like to thank John for his contributions”. Sound familiar? I bet it does. This type of message basically allows your audience to draw out their own conclusions about why John is leaving. Not ideal. In a circumstance when the departure is voluntary, there should be more to say about John and his impact on the company so find the words and say it with optimism and enthusiasm!
Find a way to celebrate
The employee who is voluntarily leaving has likely made important contributions during their time with the company. This should be celebrated in a way that fits well with your company culture. Perhaps it’s a “wall of fame” or a Slack channel that shares ‘kudos’ about a person and allows colleagues to wish the departing well. For small teams, this perspective of ‘celebration’ is so important in being able to effectively forge ahead with a positive mindset.
Start an alumni community
Just because someone is choosing to leave the team, it doesn’t mean they can’t cheer from the sidelines. Employees who have very positive work experiences are usually quite keen to stay engaged with what’s happening at their former company. Keeping the lines of communication open is an excellent way to inform former teammates of company progress or ask for their support in filling hard-to-hire roles. Chances are, you’ll grow a community of passionate ambassadors who want to see the company succeed and you may even gain a few boomerang hires in the process.
Transparency from recruitment to exit
Being transparent and authentic helps build a strong employer brand. Honesty in talking about what the company is and isn’t will help job candidates make informed decisions before accepting an employment offer. If you’re a start-up that can’t offer the highest salary in the industry, say it and talk about what you can offer by way of culture, social impact, benefits, etc. You will find that people choose employers for all sorts of reasons and what you want is a really solid match based on very transparent conversations. This open communication should carry throughout the employment journey so that employees can feel comfortable having frequent conversations about advancement opportunities and professional development. If you can’t offer an advancement opportunity to an employee, tell them why (timing, priorities) and offer them your support in any path they choose moving forward.
Voluntary turnover is a natural part of a company’s evolution and should be treated that way. Embracing the change with acceptance and intentional, informative communications will help your team manage effectively through this type of transition. Involuntary turnover requires a different approach - perhaps one I will write about in another article.
Green Horseshoe Solutions (GHS) offers strategic guidance and fractional services that enable companies to fuel their employer branding through revitalizing engagement programs, forging community partnerships, instituting corporate social responsibility practices, and communicating impacts that matter. Whether you are looking to build a social responsibility plan from scratch, measure the impact your business is already making, shift the tone and feel of your internal messaging, deploy new engagement programs for employees and community, or think differently about your employer brand, GHS will work with you to advance your goals.