In today’s collaborative workplace, the cost of employee attrition is higher than ever. As offices continue to migrate to a teamwork model, replacing an employee has become significantly less seamless than plugging a new person into an existing role.
But it’s not just employers that bear the brunt. Job hunting is stressful for employees, affects their continued education, and is by no means as prevalent as stereotypes of job-hopping millennials makes it seem.
The major reasons for people leaving their jobs have actually stayed the same over generations: there’s no room for growth, they’ve been offered a better job, or they just don’t like their manager. But as the Harvard Business Review reported last fall, new research indicates that in addition to the usual suspects, addressing why workers quit is only half the battle - paying attention to when they leave is often more telling. As a recent study found, one of the major drivers that gives employees itchy feet is how they feel they measure up to their peers, or where they imagined they’d be at a certain point in life.
That doesn’t mean that keeping employees happy - or if you’re an employee, figuring out what would fulfill you from a job - is entirely arbitrary. In fact, for today’s millennials, who prefer a seamless work-life integration over an artificial balance, predicting what they value can often be learned by looking at their relationships outside of the office.
By paying attention to their relationships and passions, a clear pattern has emerged: today’s millennials and the generation rapidly following in their footsteps want their life - and their work - to be meaningful. And the way they would most like to achieve that? By being involved in things that make them feel good, allow them to do good, and help them become their best selves. By establishing a clear line of communication between employees and their managers about what would help them feel like they’re progressing on those three fronts, companies and employees can avoid the negative impacts of job attrition and build healthy, long-term relationships instead.
Happy relationships keep you healthy. It’s not just a hyperbolic statement, it’s backed by research - an analysis of over two decades of studies on the quality of marriage and health found a strong correlation between higher marital quality and a higher sense of personal well-being. And as we’ve reported on our own blog before, this similar correlation is made with employees: healthy couples (or, in our case, employees) are statistically proven to be more successful in the workplace. But how can companies and employees build that kind of relationship with each other that leaves the employee feeling motivated and satisfied?
As we reported on our blog, couples that specifically set aside time to connect and talk over a conversation or through an activity were three and a half times more likely than their counterparts to feel satisfied with their marriages. Translating this to the workplace is a cinch: make sure managers are constantly in communication with their employees about their individual goals - particularly in the categories of how they feel and how their personal development needs are being met. In turn, employees should be clear with their managers about their goals - both personal and professional - so that expectations are clear on either side.
Whether it’s keeping teams in communication on Slack, or taking a page out of outdoor apparel giant REI’s playbook and launching a “Company Campfire” social media platform for employees to ask questions and engage with each other, building a culture of communication is critical to keeping employees fulfilled and happy.
- Be Flexible
Gone are the days where being flexible simply meant letting people work from home from time to time. But before you panic and assume that empty desks as far as the eye can see are all your future holds, let’s reframe what flexibility looks like: for today’s upcoming workforce, it’s not about working less, it’s about working best, and that means that a one-size fits all approach just isn’t going to cut it.
Instead, be receptive to changes in team processes by finding what works best for your teams and individual employees, and working with them to maximize their efficiency, rather than using the “This is the way we’ve always done it” attitude to set a status quo.
Mobile workplaces have made it easier than ever for employees to stay in communication even when they’re working from outside of the office, but also consider other options to allow workers to design their own breaks. Sabbaticals, once the domain of college professors, have become popular at companies like REI, Patagonia, and even Adobe, all of whom offer employees who’ve worked a certain number of years with the company a month or two of paid leave, so that they can recharge their batteries.
When it comes to relationships, both professional and personal, today’s younger generations want diversity above all else - and that doesn’t just mean racial. While racial and gender inclusivity are supremely important for forward-thinking workplaces, today’s millennials show a strong trend toward valuing a diversity of opinions and viewpoints, in addition to demographic diversity.
By finding team members who each can contribute something different, instead of simply hiring cookie-cutter copies of the same resumes, diverse companies can be sure that they’re attacking every problem from the view of multiple consumers, rather than just one or two.
For today’s employees, simply doing good work isn’t good enough - it also has to be meaningful. And companies that set clear benchmarks for what they stand for, and set time aside for employees to also do good in the world, helps achieve that more than anything else. Rather than taking a haphazard approach to corporate social responsibility, taking some time to see what matters to employees - and finding time for them to be able to volunteer on their own - is an easy way to create a cohesive strategy that blends with company values.
- Examine company values
Knowing what matters to your employees and your bottom line is an easy way to find community service work that emphasizes your corporate mission. At the United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills, creating inclusive entertainment has always been their primary focus. This year, the agency decided to forgo their annual Oscar party and instead held a United Voices rally, featuring celebrities, creators, employees, friends, and locals, all in support of having the Trump administration overturn their travel ban that has prevented many Muslims from entering the nation. The company also donated $250,000 to the ACLU and the International Rescue Committee.
- Set clear goals
Whether you’re setting corporate giving goals for the entire organization, or you’re an employee measuring your social giving footprint, setting long-term and short-term goals helps execute on giving back in a way that feels tangible. For StandDesk, that meant identifying a long-term goal of helping people get healthier and happier, both in the workplace and outside of it. To act upon it, their short-term goal is to build a height adjustable standing desk for children, so that they can partner with children’s health non-profits to donate standing desks to public schools.
Be Your Best Self
If lack of promotion and growth is one of the major reasons why employees leave companies, giving them reasons to feel their personal development is growing can help ameliorate clogged pipelines and give employees even more reasons to feel invested in a company that’s equally invested in them. The great thing about personal development goals are that they can be implemented in a way that helps the company too - and not just in a nebulous “Happy employees perform better” kind of way!
As we reported last week, curbing cell phone addiction in the office is a major way to reinstitute productivity and order to an office culture that’s full of interruptions. But employees - even the millennials - are adults, and nobody wants another parent nagging at them about what to do. Campaigns about how constant smartphone checking can take the average worker more than 10 minutes to get back to work, and more than 20 minutes to be fully engaged once again, are better served by educational material that helps employees learn how to meditate for five minutes a day, because it increases gray matter in the brain and leads to better memory, focus, and engagement.
Similarly, by identifying personal development weak points and using them to make an organization stronger as a whole, you’re not prepping an employee to take those skills elsewhere; you’re teaching them about what a working relationship can look like when an employer is invested in them - something that’s hard to leave down the road.