A few bits of data on employee turnover caught my attention. They don’t answer those questions in the title. But they do highlight the challenge that any meaningful answers must address.
A vast majority of North American employees plan to pursue new job opportunities in 2014, according to a poll by Right Management, the talent and career management experts within ManpowerGroup. Eighty-three percent of the nearly 900 workers who participated in the online poll say they intend to actively seek a new position in the New Year. - Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2013.
Then in December I read this:
In 2013, 86 percent of people were in a job they didn’t like, and 55 percent planned to look for a new job that year alone.1 The cost to employers of shuffling those people around the economy is staggering. If only 10-15 percent of the workforce changes jobs (the annual estimate is 13 percent), it costs American businesses a mind-boggling US $2 trillion a year just to replace them.
It’s from Chuck Blakeman’s excellent book, Why Employees Are Always a Bad Idea, Page 48. Chuck cites sources for much of his data in the book. But I can't find it. I'll ask him. But, I trust Chuck and the figures in that paragraph sound right.
The numbers point to a huge bubble getting ready to burst.
13% of all workers will change jobs in 2014.
83% of American workers are looking to change jobs in 2014. However, that's based on a survey of only 900 employees.
86% of American workers last year said they didn't like their job. I doubt much has changed on that one in the first seven days of 2014. Don't you?
70% of American workers are sleep-walking through the day. The more clinical term is disengaged emotionally and intellectually with their work responsibilities.
Those figures show a bubble of discontent that's bound to burst some day. And when it does it will spew, ahem, disruption throughout the economy. Much of that spew will be in the form of costs: hiring, training and new desks and unhappy stakeholders.
You're an above average leader at an above average company. Right? But let's use the average percent of employees who are expected to change jobs. 13%. Can you afford 13% of your employees to leave?
Maybe you're thinking Let 'em go. If they're sleep-walking let them sleep-walk somewhere else. You might think you're holding aces in this gamble. Your peers and competitors offer nothing better. Just like you they chose to ignore their employees and their achievements in a meaningful manner. Your reviews emphasized weakness. Maybe you thought that’s the path to betterment or maybe you thought that’s good way to avoid bonuses or raises. You avoided investing in training and updated resources to help them reach their goals and showcase their strengths and accomplishments for their peers and even you.Their workforce is just as disengaged, you might say. Statistics are on your side you say. Your employees know they cant leave because the cubicles aren't any better in the other companies. So far, you've been right. The one thing keeping your employees at their desk is they know it's no better any where else.
Granted, withholding that investment is what’s inspired only 30% of your employees to care. It's why goals are rarely reached if anyone even knows about them. It’s why your bosses are always, well, impatient.
But, it's your company and your competitors do the same so hold on to those aces of disinterest and lack of investment. It’s worked so far and why mess with success, even its paler imitation, right? Your employees aren’t going anywhere, there's nowhere for them to go.
Someone once asked a boss, What if we train our employees and they leave? That very smart boss said What if we don’t and they stay? That's where you are, comfortable with middle-of-the pack results, deaf to your bosses demands and who cares about the employees. Cool.
But, what if you did invest in their training? Just, what if. This is just a blog post and I'm not wearing pajamas while I write it so have a little fun and consider the question. What if you recognized their achievements?
You clenched, didn't you, at that mental picture where you're...ewwww... recognizing someone for something good they did. It’s change. Change makes everyone clench tight. But what if you discovered their strengths? Maybe even celebrated them?What if your employees then showed up for work engaged and excited? Who knows? It can happen. Their bar of expectations have been set so low it’s easy and inexpensive to exceed them. The big challenge is consistency. And the bigger challenge is that first step.
What if your revenues grew faster than your industry peers? Or your cash flows? What if your Earnings Per Share grew faster and your customer churn rates dropped? What if your sales conversion rates rose? That's what happens when you recognize your employees in ways that are meaningful to them. That's what happens when your employee engagement levels are superior to your competitors.
Now you’re in uncharted territory. Happy territory, but still uncharted. Now, they’ll stay because they want to not because they see no other options. Now, you’re out front, the leader of your industry pack. Their expectations of you just rose. For some people that’s distracting.
Would that be distracting for you? How disruptive to your comfort level would it be if everyday your employees barged into your office and said things like:
I'm so excited!
Another customer just gave us a testimonial!
We rolled out this new product in half the time it took us the last time! And there's no blowback from the customers!
We just had a great meeting with [that other department] and we've got a plan!
My close ratio went from 50% to 80%!
One day a new company who understands the power of employees will pierce that comfortable and warm little bubble of disengagement you've built. The sound of employees leaving and left will be deafening.
Why not be that company? No not the one with the sucking sound rushing through the hallways and overturning desks. Be the one the pierces the disengagement bubble of your competitors and let the sucking sound rip through their hallways and deliver the stars to you.
It's the new year. Make it a happy one.