Sometimes one employee’s departure can set off a chain of exits from the same team or department. Periods of high employee turnover may occur after a beloved manager or senior leader departs the team, or when remaining employees find themselves expected to take on a departing colleague’s work without a new title or pay bump. With the Great Resignation in full force, businesses can break the cycle of continuous turnover by prioritizing employee retention.
So, how can your business hang on to top talent? Shift your focus from the employees you're losing to the ones that remain. Listen to, engage, and motivate the employees who are coping with the fallout of an employee departure to make sure they don't burn out. Here are our tips for reducing employee turnover and keeping your employees happy.
1.) Give credit where credit is due
When an employee departs a company, it’s common for their projects and responsibilities to be temporarily passed on to their colleagues. While most employees can handle the additional workload for a short time, their patience will fade if the hiring timeline drags on or is put on pause. In these instances, it’s important to manage expectations around how long your employees will have to shoulder these additional responsibilities.
Why does this matter? Culture Amp data shows one of the top reasons employees leave jobs is because of unclear job expectations. Asking employees to take on new responsibilities for a few weeks until you can backfill a role is very different from asking them to double their workload indefinitely. In the latter situation, consider giving the employee a new job title, salary, or even a temporary bonus to compensate them for their additional effort and acknowledge their contributions to your business. Plus, promoting an existing member of your staff who has stepped up and proved themselves after a colleague’s exit can be a great way to reinvigorate a team.
If promotions and raises are out of the question, at the very least, be sure to recognize your employees who are going above and beyond. Let them know that you see how hard they are working and appreciate their contributions. Doing so ensures that they feel valued at your organization and makes them less likely to look elsewhere for a new role.
2.) Be transparent around hiring timelines
If you’re planning to backfill an exiting employee’s role, be sure to regularly communicate hiring updates to your employees. If your team had to take on extra responsibilities after their colleague’s departure, they are probably wondering how much longer they’ll be required to pick up the extra slack. You can ease their minds by keeping them up to date on how the hiring process is progressing – especially if they aren’t part of the interview panel. That said, whenever possible, try and include members of the team in hiring conversations and interviews. That way, your employees have a say in who they will work with in the future.
When weeks go by without an update, employee morale is likely to suffer. Let your team know where you are in the process, whether you’re conducting phone screens, on-site interviews, take-home assessments, reference checks, etc. Keeping your team in the loop makes it easier for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, helping to reduce the possibility they’ll want to leave too.
3.) Train empathetic managers
Change affects everyone differently, and your company needs managers who are in touch with their team’s needs. This quality is especially important after an employee's departure.
While many companies invest heavily in improving people leaders’ technical skills, the pandemic has highlighted the value of soft skills. In times of transition, managers who lead with empathy are better equipped to listen to their teams’ needs and ensure every teammate feels supported. When employees feel overwhelmed, managers can help by adjusting their workload, prioritizing or deprioritizing tasks, and instituting no-meeting days so direct reports can focus on heads-down work. If employees need more support, their managers are responsible for advocating for them and getting them the resources they need to succeed.
Empathetic managers can make all the difference when it comes to retaining talent. While empathy comes naturally for some people leaders, others might need guidance on becoming more mindful of others’ needs. Culture Amp’s Skills Coach uses behavioral science and spaced repetition to help managers create new, lasting habits. Using quick, highly actionable exercises, your company can help busy managers put their new skills into practice and be more mindful about how they coach and lead their teams. Having strong managers who are in tune with their team can improve the employee experience and lower employee turnover at your company.
4.) Conduct stay interviews
If morale is suffering on your teams, ask managers or skip-level managers to schedule “stay interviews” with their direct reports. These conversations allow you and managers to learn what each member of their team likes about working at your company, as well as what they would change if they could. Stay interviews can help your managers better understand employees’ mindsets, career ambitions, and, most importantly, the likelihood of them leaving the company.
With this information, your managers can do everything in their power to build a better workplace for your employees and entice them to stay at your company. This could mean assigning them to new projects in their areas of interest, sending them to an industry conference, instituting flexible hours, etc. Every employee has different wants and needs, so use stay interviews to understand what they’re looking for in their career and how your company can help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
5.) Address why employees are leaving
A colleague’s departure often inspires individuals to reflect on their own jobs, long-term career goals, and emotional fulfillment at your company. Culture Amp has found that the three most common reasons employees leave jobs are: lack of professional growth, unclear role expectations, and poor inclusion.
Using your stay interview findings, identify the issues that could lead your team members to start applying elsewhere and work to resolve them. Here are three ways you might address these common reasons for departure:
Lack of professional growth: If an employee feels they aren’t growing, consider giving them a challenging new project, enrolling them in a training program, sending them to a conference, or finding them a mentor to help them learn new skills that can take their career to the next level. You may also want to walk them through potential career paths within your organization so they understand their future opportunities and have a clear understanding of what skills and experience are required to move up the ranks.
Unclear role expectations: If an employee is confused by the expectations surrounding their new temporary responsibilities, it’s essential to provide clarity. Have the employee’s manager schedule a career conversation with them. Draft a clear job description together, so the employee understands exactly what’s expected of them and how to prioritize their tasks moving forward.
Poor inclusion: If your employee doesn’t feel like they’re part of the team, make an effort to recognize their contributions, assign more collaborative projects, celebrate wins as a team, and give employees more time outside of work to get to know one another. You may also want to enroll your teammates in annual diversity training programs and other pieces of training that work to build a culture where every employee feels they can be their true, authentic selves.
Every employee’s situation is different, so approach these conversations on a case-by-case basis and work with each person to create a work environment that helps them thrive and prepares them for a long, successful career at your company.
The key to anticipating and reducing employee turnover
Even during the Great Resignation, employee turnover is preventable. Your organization can take action right now to engage and retain your employees. Find out how to keep your top talent happy and engaged with our newest eBook, “5 ways to help retention (now).” You’ll learn the five tips top HR experts and thought leaders are using to break the cycle of high employee turnover and build a culture-first experience.