By KWAN-ANN LIM
PING! The familiar sound of a new e-mail arriving in my inbox momentarily distracts me from my task at hand. A box at the bottom right hand corner of my screen pops up with a familiar title. “Not again,” I think to myself.
Title: Changes in staff structure
We are writing to inform you of some recent staffing changes. Sarah has recently decided to leave to pursue further studies at AIT University and will be replaced by Joyce. Sarah will continue to work with us on a part time basis.
Paul is also leaving for other opportunities with potential international travel.
We wish Sarah and Paul all the best in their new adventures.
Head of People and Culture
The first time this happened, I didn’t think too much about it. But when it happened for the fifth time in three months, my mind could not help but wonder why people were leaving.
Is it the company culture? The way employees are being treated? Should I start looking for something else too?
Why employees leave
Employee turnover rates come at a high cost to an organisation – additional training, onboarding, interviewing and advertising expenses; impact employee morale and engagement. For that reason, every time someone leaves I try to ascertain the reason for their departure. Here are some of the sentiments I have received.
I left because of changes in personal circumstances, I still think the pros outweigh the cons on the job and I am saddened to leave, but I am excited about the change and potential opportunities that will come out of this.
I left because I was fed up of the way my manager treated me. I am used to getting full autonomy when managing projects and dealing with stakeholders but now I feel suffocated as she micro manages everything I do. This is not how I envisioned I would spend my working life.
I left because once I asked to be sent on a self-improvement conference but was flat out refused. Every time I try to take the initiative to make the company a better place, my boss not only doesn’t appreciate it but he dampens my efforts.
All I wanted was recognition for my work. There doesn’t seem to be a system that rewards performance in this company, so it doesn’t motivate me to want to do more and better for the company. I knew it was time to move on.
Natural attrition is healthy in an organisation and is a way to prevent disengaged employees from overstaying.
But when you have top performing employees leaving, this is a cause for concern, and employers must consider and review their management practices.
There are two reasons people leave: their personal circumstances have evolved and they have no choice but to move on; or they have past the point of merely tolerating the current environment and want change.
This might interest you: Are Quitters Losers? Here’s Knowing When To Give Up
What motivates employees?
There is a saying in the bible, for where your treasure is; there your heart will be also. Different things motivate us all and this is dependent on one’s values and priorities.
Here are four important things that will help your employees feel belonged and appreciated.
1. Trust and autonomy – being given responsibility
Nothing empowers a person more than being entrusted with something important, a responsibility that they know is bigger than what they are qualified for.
I remember the first time I was asked to lead a small team; I was taken aback that they thought me fit enough to be a leader of this group of 20 people.
While I was thrown in the deep end, it made me want to give my 110% and pushed me to rise to the occasion.
One of the best ways to keep a good employee is to give them the freedom to do what is needed while ensuring they have a good support system.
2. Purpose and impact – being able to make a difference
In every human being is the innate desire to make a difference in the world. Doctors are held in high-esteem because they save lives.
Every year thousands join the military to serve their country despite the apparent risk and danger. The way to motivate someone to be passionate about even the most mundane tasks is to connect them to the why.
I do not naturally enjoy repetitive or mundane tasks but when I focus on the why, it helps me build the endurance to last the distance.
Recommended reading: Are You Working For A Cause Or Applause?
3. Recognition and commendation – being shown appreciation
Whether this comes in the form of monetary rewards or verbal affirmation, being appreciated means being valued. In one of the organisations I worked in, there was a good recognition programme, but the problem was that it had become a check-the-box exercise.
Employees, including myself became aware of that, and it lost its effectiveness. Recognition is important, but it must be in the right means and way. Some like cash bonuses, others simply like to be told they had done a good job.
Employers must create an honest culture of effective recognition in order to engage their best employees.
4. Flexible working – being able to have work-life balance
As a soon-to-be mother, work life balance is not just as a concept but a reality that is becoming especially dear to me.
This includes having the option to work from home, flexible hours tailored to my lifestyle and picking projects that do not require travel.
But this no longer just applies to mothers. Millennials nowadays want to be their own boss; it is rarely about the money but about passion and what is fulfilling.
In a world where opportunities are lush, millennials feel less of the need to stick to one job but rather they can use the Internet and social media to create something out of nothing.
Therefore, employers need to be able to cater to a wide range of lifestyles and be flexible in their approach.
These, of course, are assuming the bare minimum of essentials to get a job done is in place.
For example, a functioning laptop and mobile that syncs to one’s calendar is highly valued for a management consultant who deals with an extensive number of clients and a flurry of meetings.
Or, the simple necessity of being paid on time and having a safe workplace culture where bullying is not tolerated is expected by all. Without these bare-essentials, none of the above will make a difference.
Employers and employees
Employers must continually strive to provide a good environment for their employees before it is too late. What if they leave, you ask? But what if they stay?
The cost is too high to ignore. Employees leaving may be part of the work lifecycle, but we must not be the reason for it.
On the flip side, as an employee, we must stay engaged and passionate about our jobs. We can take the initiative to help our employers get better by maintaining a feedback loop and establishing a healthy work culture from the bottom.
When we find, ourselves losing passion, and dread starts to sink in on Sunday nights – perhaps we are better off looking for a new job than wasting our employers’ time and money.
Both employers and employees are equally responsible for maintaining a great job experience. Both must work in tangent to make the working world a better place, that starts with proactively building a culture of trust, recognition, flexibility and purpose from the top down and bottom up.