What if half of your company's top performers quit this year? A new report indicates this potential scenario taking shape. A recent survey of 2000 employees in the US and Canada found that 52% of employees have one foot already out the door. Of those planning to leave, 36% are planning to quit for better compensation and benefits. Another 25% are planning to go to find a better work-life balance. While most employers feel the work-from-home environment has created a better environment, the survey revealed that 71% of employees are disengaged. One of the most significant adverse impacts of losing your best employees is how it impacts company culture. An organization's culture exists within the shared experiences and learnings of its employees. As employee turnover increases, the ability of the organization to pass on learnings decreases significantly due to lack of experience, fractured relationships, and limited employee time due to a lesser skilled workforce. Great companies are the outcome of having great employees. Now is the time to act by identifying your organization's best employees, implementing retention strategies, and leveraging talent measurement and data analytics.
Identifying Your Best Employees
The first step is to identify your organization's high-potential employees. A tool being used by many top-performing companies to identify high potential employees is the value and promotability matrix or nine-box grid (see Figure 1). Employees are rated as low, medium, or high for performance, competence, organizational values, and the ability to be promoted. While this is easy to explain, it can be a little more involved in the application. One recommendation is that your organization align on what is low, medium, and high performance. At a minimum, I recommend implementing talent calibration meetings to align the employees' performance and standardization of rating levels. Beyond differentiating employees, this nine-box matrix helps organizations create personalized development plans and organizational accountability for growing the employee pipeline. In my experience, when implemented correctly, this tool and the additional insight from targeted assessments add immediate company value.
Retaining Your Best Employees
Employee turnover does not have to be inevitable. What can you do right now that can have an immediate positive impact increasing the chance of retaining your top talent? Consider implementing stay interviews and a targeted coaching program:
Stay Interviews, a.k.a. talk to your employees with the intent to learn how they are doing and what you can do to help. Anyone can administer a stay interview, but my recommendation is the leader because they need to develop trust. The act of listening and then doing something about what is learned will build trust with their team. However, if you have a leader you do not trust, you need to change the leader and have someone you trust to speak with their team. The following are a few of my favorite questions I include in stay interviews:
Positive Aspects of Working Here
Why were you initially attracted to this opportunity? Do the same reasons exist today?
What recognition have you received lately that makes you feel good? What part of your job do you find rewarding?
What do you enjoy most about working with your leader and the broader company leadership?
Based on your experiences and interactions, how would you describe our company culture? Strengths and Opportunities?
If you were granted three wishes and could change your job and this company, what would you wish to change?
Looking five years into the future where everything you ever wanted has come true, describe what do you see?
If you are an executive or Human Resources leader and want to embed stay interviews within the organization, consider using this interactive meeting activity:
Print off pictures of each employee that reports to each one of your leaders.
Invite your leaders to a meeting and have the pictures on the walls around the room.
Ask each leader to walk around the room without looking at any notes to add the names of their direct reports and one fun fact they learned from their stay interviews with their employees.
All employees want feedback, and your best employees place a high value on feedback and continuous growth and development opportunities. Offering internal or external coaching programs are a great way to encourage employees to stay. Integrating coaching programs into your organization can significantly increase employee retention rates and help your organization succeed.
Coaching is not counseling or mentoring. Counseling deals with past or current trauma, mental health, and symptoms, to restore emotional wellness. Coaching focuses on the future and not the client's history. A mentor, unlike a coach, sets the agenda for their client using their experiences to guide the relationship. While that approach can be helpful in reality, we are all created with different strengths and backgrounds. A coach draws out the executive's desire and works to co-create options to achieve the employee's goals with individual and organizational benefits. In addition to positive impacts on employee retention, the benefits of investing in coaching are many; 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence. Over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills. 86% of companies report that they recouped their investment in coaching and more.
The GROW model is a popular coaching approach. Given that the ultimate goal of coaching is related to change within the employee, the process centers on using essential questions and client-centered critical thinking to invoke the employee's self-awareness and personal responsibility. The GROW model represents a journey that clarifies the goal that is both inspiring and challenging to the employee. Then the following step involves exploring the current reality considering barriers between the current state and desired future. The next step consists of exploring options based on the principle that imagination creates breakthroughs. The final step is clarifying the employee's will and way forward. It involves defining specific timebound actions with the commitment, accountability, and reporting to lead to transformation. The client ultimately chooses what decisions to make and which steps to take to meet their goals.
Talent Measurement and Data Analytics
After taking steps to retain your best employees, you will want to leverage data analytics to understand better why employees quit your organization and develop organizational retention goals. Beyond being dissatisfied, there are various reasons identified in scholarly research as to why employees tend to leave a job, such as:
Instability in management
Poor work environment
Clear job expectations
Perceived better job opportunities
Influence of co-workers
In addition to using measures to understand why employees quit, I recommend you track measures to help your organization understand the value and the cost of employee retention. In addition to the most visible replacement costs, there are others, such as productivity loss, workplace safety issues, and moral issues. Josh Bersin builds on this understanding and explains that employees are appreciating assets that produce more and more value to the organization over time, which helps to explain why losing them can be so costly.
Lastly, what if you could assess an employee's flight risk and identify where to focus on retaining employees accurately? What if you could measure how attached your employees are to the organization and how connected employees feel the organization is to them? Through organizational assessments and diagnostics, it is possible to gain better insights to pinpoint strategies. If you are interested in learning more, let's talk.
Allen, D. (2008). Retaining talent: A guide to analyzing and managing employee turnover. SHRM.
Baumgartner, N. (2021). Achievers 2021 Engagement and Retention Report. Achievers.
Bersin, J. (2013). Employee retention now a big issue: Why the tide has turned.
International Coaching Federation (2009). Benefits of Coaching.
Kimsey-House, K., Kimsey-House, H., Sandhal, P., & Whitworth, L., (2018). Co-active coaching: The proven framework for transformative conversations at work and in life. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
Mamun, C. A. A., & Hasan, M. N. (2017). Factors affecting employee turnover and sound retention strategies in business organization: A conceptual view. Problems and Perspectives in Management, 15(1), 63-71.