The causes of employee turnover have been researched now for over 100 years. During that time, almost 60 evidence-based reasons have been identified as having an impact on whether an employee resigns. Some of these have a greater impact than others, which is why new research released by the Universities of Memphis and Washington is so instructive.
The researchers conducted an analysis of more than 300 studies from the recent past. Among all their findings, the most important was a set of three causes they found to be the most current and relevant: (i) personal fit; (ii) the job market; and (iii) turnover contagion.
Personal fit is when an individual leaves an organisation because they find themselves working with people who are dissimilar to them. This lack of similarity can be related to gender (such as a female employee resigning from a male-dominated workplace) or even emotions (such as a highly stressed worker in a team of people who aren’t stressed).
The job market pertains to macroeconomic factors that compel an employee to start job hunting. If there are plenty of jobs available, for example, turnover tends to rise.
Turnover contagion is much like the infectiousness of any disease. Should one person resign, the risk that others will follow is heightened. Like a domino effect, many organisations develop a turnover problem primarily because when one valued person goes, so do others.
The challenge is what to do about it. As a first step, the researchers suggest finding out who’s thinking of resigning. They recommend the following methods:
- Simply ask them in person, although they might be reluctant to admit it.
- Run anonymous surveys that include a question on their turnover intentions.
- Use sudden changes to performance as a stimulus to explore commitment levels.
- Identify unusual absenteeism trends as a prompt to discuss whether employees are engaged and how you could help reverse any lack of engagement.
Because as soon as you know someone’s thinking of leaving, you can act to remedy the cause before it’s too late, whether that’s by redesigning their job, building a more inclusive team, or offering greater training and support. The more inconvenient alternative is to see them walk out the door and never return.