Staff Turnover - 10 May 2012
In Judaism, there’s a simple tradition that’s often followed whenever someone dies: the mourners open the windows of the deceased’s house. They do it because they believe it helps the departed soul make its way to heaven. It’s a type of symbolism that suggests the soul is trapped when the windows are closed. But when the windows are open, the spirit can at last escape from the room.
It’s from the Book of Daniel, which narrates Daniel’s habit of opening a window each time he prays. Interpreters of the Torah suggest he did this to drive away harmful spirits.
Whenever someone resigns from your team, his or her soul has departed the workplace, and what’s left behind could be harmful spirits that compel other employees to do the same thing. That’s the problem with staff turnover. It can be contagious. When employees see their colleagues leaving – sometimes for bigger and better things – they similarly start to contemplate how green the grass might be on the other side.
Of course, you can’t stop everyone from resigning, but as soon as someone does, it’s a trigger to take a specific action: open the metaphorical windows of your office and drive away the harmful spirits that tempt others to think about quitting. In particular, drive away:
The harmful spirit of discontentment: Exit interviews are useful, but they’re too little too late. Stay Interviews are better. These are conversations with just one agenda item, and that agenda item is the unearthing of discontent. Your employees might be bored, unchallenged, or itching for something more. A stay interview is the first step in remedying the problem.
The harmful spirit of disappointment: When employees have expectations at work, no matter how unrealistic, and those expectations aren’t met, their disappointment eventually leads to their resignation. Avoid this by finding out what they’re expecting in advance. Then, either meet those hopes, or replace them with new ones that are more reasonable.
The harmful spirit of discouragement: Research demonstrates that if people resign from a job for a pay rise of less than 20 per cent, in most cases they’re not really leaving for more money. They’re leaving because of other discouraging factors in the workplace. Typical causes include a lack of recognition, a lack of opportunity, and a lack of development.
The harmful spirit of disagreement: You’ve probably heard of the cliché that people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. But they also leave colleagues. In droves. When people work in disagreeable environments and toxic cultures, a new job is their chance to escape. Great managers make it a priority to build cohesive, positive and vibrant teams.
Many leaders talk about the need to reduce staff turnover, but their behaviour rarely matches the rhetoric. Because when the four harmful spirits of discontentment, disappointment, discouragement, and disagreement are present, staff turnover always persists. As the Jewish proverb says, “Do not be wise in words – be wise in deeds.”
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