Why are people leaving?
Why is it that organizations hire talented (or seemingly talented) employees, train them, take pride in them (or are disappointed), and watch helplessly as they leave?
There are many factors at play here. The often heard one is the lack of employee engagement, but the real issue lies much before engagement goes for a toss. Attrition is only the result. There is no point focusing on the result. One has to focus on the causes.
The causes are varied. From the lack of proper job fitment, to a lack of touchtime with the manager, to not receiving mentoring or recognition, to feeling that one is not being allowed to contribute fully, to a lack of autonomy, a lack of direction, career growth, compensation and many others. These things need to be fixed in order for the end result to look better.
Allow me to demonstrate this through my own experiences, which will undoubtedly find echoes in everything you may have experienced or heard about engagement, retention or attrition.
Earlier in my career, I was with a BPO firm was about 3 years, and another one later for a little less than 18 months. The latter one was a mega name and had a great value system and some noteworthy HR practices.
So why did I stay for longer with the former? In the former company, 2 things stood out. I was given an almost free hand to innovate and implement, and free speech to contribute. I felt valued. I received high class training, which added value to me. So why did I quit? Well, the trainings stopped, and I was not being given credit for the work I was putting in. Nor were my managers mentoring me the way they were earlier. The place had slipped into a harder place, a business only place. It had grown. It wasn’t like a start-up anymore.
The reasons for my leaving the other company were also exactly the same. I wasn’t getting the feeling that my contributions were valued enough. The growth of my career (which I’d call my own “Business”) was not accelerated, but being impeded.
Solving the Employee Turnover Puzzle
While most of the attrition factors point directly to the manager, it is the responsibility of the organization to groom the manager and to demonstrate, not just communicate, the values that the organization states it seeks to inculcate.
The problem isn’t always top down either. Leadership in most organizations today knows the value of engaged employees, and exhorts the organization to respond to that need. (According to a Gallup study, higher employee engagement in organizations translates into an 18% rise in productivity, a 12% rise in both profitability and customer metrics, and 31% reduction in employee turnover!)
However the Leader’s message gets lost, often at the level immediately below him. The KRA’s of the senior management do include people metrics, but year end review seldom see these being discussed. Senior management knows this and allocates their scarce time to the results that will be discussed – the bottom-line.
The triple bottom line rarely if ever gets any focus. The companies in India that do focus on the triple bottom line, like ITC, find themselves on the 2011 BT list of Best Companies to Work For. The above study says that employees today are beginning to look at the career as their “business”. If organizations cannot help their business grow, they leave.
So what is the answer?
Every organization on that list puts employee comfort, health, flexibility, learning, growth and balance at the centre of their HR initiatives. The message is clear: Help employees discover and express themselves fully, and they will reward you with their loyalty, productivity and creativity.
Therefore the answer is for managers to pay a lot more attention to how their employees feel. Feel about themselves, about their manager, about the organization, and about their relationships with each other. And how does the manager go about doing that?
For starters, we as organisations must focus on imparting learning in Interpersonal, Communication, and Team Building Skills to our managers. By equipping people managers with the skills they need to make employees feel more valued, the employees are guaranteed to feel appreciated & important.
Next, we invest in building ourselves as a Learning Organization. This can be done by offering learning opportunities to our employees to further their professional and personal growth. However, Learning Organizations are those that don’t stop at training, but additionally create a learning environment that allows people the room to make a few mistakes, try new things and learn from them.
HUL is one organization that allows its employees a free hand to implement practices they think will benefit the organisation. As a result of this autonomy, their reputation among young aspirants, particularly students is that of a “dream company”. A 2011 survey by Nielsen said that HUL is one of the top five employers of choice.
Additionally, HUL provides year-round leadership training programmes, a mapping of employees’ potential and a three-year career projection, should they choose to stay on in the company.
Furthermore, we help our employees to find, rediscover or maintain that delicate Balance between work, life, interests, society, taking and giving.
Having helped our people find this awareness, we can be confident of providing a kind of leadership that nourishes the self, the organization and society.
And before long we will find ourselves on both lists: Best Employers to Work For and Most Admired Companies.
About the author: Aman Zaidi