High employee turnover can be catastrophic for the CEO and their entire organization.
Losing top talent increases your rehiring and retraining costs, plus it reduces employee incentive to stick around.
If unchecked, employee turnover can gain momentum and lead to a mass exodus of your best talent and eventually create a “brain drain” … where those who can easily get another job do so.
In response, executive leaders often default to throwing money at the problem or making big, radical changes. These approaches are often disruptive to the business and do not generate a significant return on investment.
So if you’ve got 6 months to reduce employee turnover with a limited budget, how do you approach it?
That’s where my recent interview comes in with JF (Jean-François) Goldstyn, Chief Learning Officer at SQS Software Quality Systems and who has an extensive background HR and long tenure at Harvard Business Publishing.
Step 1: Identify the Root Cause for those who Leave and also for those Who Stay
It’s critical to determine the root cause of employee turnover before you take action.
Many organizations adopt exit interviews to determine why employees quit, but an even bigger opportunity is to understand why your top employee stays in the first place. Then you can build a plan to reinforce what’s already working.
JF suggests one of the most proactive ways to execute this step is through stay interviews. These are interviews for uncovering the reasons your top talent stays at your company, so you can effectively craft a strategy to retain your best and brightest.
Another bonus JF says from stay interviews is that it “allows you to do early detection of at-risk talent”. Just scheduling a few stay interviews with your best employees can go a long way in showing them you care.
In a stay interview, you can try questions like:
- If you were contacted by a recruiter who offers same pay and title at a different company, what are the main factors why you would stay committed to your current job?
- What elements of your job would you like to increase? What elements would you miss if you took another job?
- What would you like to decrease? What factors make you sometimes dread coming into work?
Step 2: Implement a Flexible Approach Based on the Frustration of the Employee
Once you identify the root causes for who leaves and who stays, you can begin to categorize and select an approach to address the biggest factors.
This allows you to vary your approach based on the employees’ main sources of frustration.
Here are three possible areas of focus to improve employee retention:
- Lack of career opportunities: JF mentions “shadowing or job rotation”. This gives employees an opportunity to learn about a different area of the company and expand their purview beyond the current job. This can reinvigorate their interest in the organization.
- More money: Review how they are adding value in their current position; then as JF says, “add job sculpting and new responsibilities and higher targets”. Collaborate with them to see how they add more value today and explain how that can lead to higher paying opportunities within the organization. You can also look beyond money and identify other forms of compensation like a more flexible schedule or additional training in an interest area.
- Don’t like their boss: One of the most common reasons for quitting is that an employee doesn’t like their boss. You can equip the employee with strategies to deal with an unreasonable boss. You can also try “identifying a different reporting structure (within reason) or pair them up with a mentor”. Of course, changing the reporting structure isn’t always possible; but when you at least have the conversation it can generate more goodwill and prevent your best employees from taking that next call from the headhunter.
Step 3: Give Your Time to Your Most Valuable Employees
Often, the CEO only gets involved when there is a big problem–perhaps related to the biggest employee issues. However, an important employee retention strategy is to ensure an allocation of your time to your best employees. This can be tricky because there may be a real race horse in the “less than best” too.
Yes, your time is valuable. Many leaders use this as a reason to limit their interaction with individual employees; however, consider the cost of losing your most valuable employees–those who add the most “value” to your organization. You may realize that giving your personal time to key employees is the most effective and important employee retention tool at your disposal.
JF suggests, “getting your senior leaders involved with coaching at-risk talent”.
Remember when you were coming up through the ranks and an executive took a personal interest in your career?
This can take the form of mentoring, coaching, or informal Q &A session; but the bottom line is when a senior leader shows any interest, it makes a big difference.
P.S: Download my free report, 7 Strategies for Senior Leaders To Get the Most Out of Their Workforce
This modified version of this article originally appeared in Ben Fanning’s Inc Magazine column