Three Things That Make Staff Want To Leave: And One BIG Thing That Makes Them Want To Stay

Alison Dennis teaches our Leadership Development classes here at FVCE: Supervisory Skills 1, 2, & 3, Coaching for Effective Leadership, and Conflict Resolution for Leaders. Registration is now open for all of her upcoming classes. We recently asked her a few tough questions about how companies can combat the current staffing crisis.

We’ve all had it happen: you’ve spent the last few months getting that new staff person fully trained and settled in, and just when you think they’re happy and enthusiastic, they suddenly hand in their notice. We could expect the reasons to be that they were offered more money elsewhere, or they were lured by great benefits. But, you might want to reconsider those assumptions.

According to Alison Dennis (CPCC, ACC, Dip Rehab. & Disability Management), and an Instructor at Fraser Valley Continuing Education based in Langley, near Vancouver BC, those can be attractors but often the deciding factor for staff has more to do with how they feel about the organization.

“Money is rarely the reason, certainly not in the top 3. This was true before the pandemic, and it definitely feels even more so now that people are taking a hard look at job satisfaction, and how their jobs fit into their overall life plans and work-life balance. With the current staffing crisis, even experienced HR recruiters may feel tempted to throw money at the problem, but there are more meaningful ways to attract and retain excellent people,” says Dennis. She suggests a different approach.

“Job satisfaction is more than money. It’s more than great co-workers. Often, it’s about feeling like their job is part of something bigger than themselves, part of something that makes a real difference and that aligns with their core values. Values are our compass from which we make decisions and how we see ourselves in the context of the workplace. Are there healthy relationships that make coming to work rewarding, and have an emotional connection to the workplace? Friction in workplace relationships is inevitable; successful companies recognize this, and provide tools for staff to navigate and deal with this friction effectively so that the relationship remains intact, and the creativity that can result from conflict is harnessed. This is one of the most worthwhile training investments a company can make – training all of your leaders to be effective at managing conflict and mediating solutions.

According to Dennis, the top three reasons that people leave their current jobs are the following;

1. Lack of a great work environment and organizational culture. Yes, this statement seems rather nebulous, but for the most part, it refers to the way the employee experiences your Organization, right from the first interview through to day to day work interactions. Trust, opportunities for growth, and a workplace culture that encourages creativity takes commitment to achieve. But working towards these should be a constant goal for any company, large or small. If you have a workplace culture that is in any way toxic, or has unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict , it will eventually wear down even the most dedicated employee, leaving them feeling frustrated, unappreciated and disengaged. We all want to feel great at the end of the workday.

2. Lack of effective leaders and leadership skills. Plenty of writing about quality leadership exists out there from a technical standpoint, but what about the soft skills – leading from a place of authenticity, trust, and truly wanting to set up staff for success by knowing what they need to succeed. Putting it into application means knowing and understanding your employees at a deeper level. A positive and encouraging environment, where staff feel safe expressing themselves and bringing forward new ideas doesn’t happen overnight. A clear career path can give new staff a vision of where they can go in your organization, and support from Management means many small actions that happen every day. Giving space for each person in the organization to exercise their personal leadership – to themselves and potentially to others as they move up the ladder – is part of a healthy process. Making this happen isn’t rocket science, but it does take work, and regular one-on-one time with individual staff. They say people are attracted to great companies, but leave because of poor Managers. Leadership at every level must be be on-board, in creating a positive organizational culture, leading to a positive and engaging employee experience throughout the lifecycle of an employee.

3. Lack of job clarity. No, you don’t need a “scoreboard” on the wall to have clear goals. This is all about *communication*. Not everyone learns or hears in the same way. Learning to communicate to connect with the different communication styles, and at different frequencies, means that everyone not only hears, but is heard. Agreement on common goals that clearly outline roles and responsibilities, and the contribution an employee has to the bigger picture, are extremely important. Without that clarity employees are left trying to figure that out for themselves. That may create a situation where your high performers jump in and create what works for them, and then become frustrated when their vision does not align to yours. It is important as a leader to create an environment where everyone contributes, and where everyone is given accurate and current information and tools to achieve success. This allows everyone to show their value over and over again. The root of meaning is in the deeper, truthful and authentic communication that only happens once (1) and (2), above, are achieved.

So, knowing now what makes people leave, what makes them stick around? You’ve probably already guessed what Ms. Dennis might say, “There are many complicated charts and data about this, but it really boils down to making people feel appreciated and have a sense of belonging. If people feel they bring value to the organization, and not just by the numbers, but all the other things they bring to the table, they are much more likely to stick around and outperform your expectations.”

“And, they need to hear this message in their own language or communication style, so to speak. Different communication styles need different things, and it’s not difficult to figure out what that person needs: different types of recognition, encouragement, frequent verbal feedback or confirmation, opportunities for increased responsibility and associated pay, increased and so on. There are many tools to help with this, and there are many ways to accomplish all of these. It’s just a matter of learning to flex your preferred style of communication to meet the individual in a meaningful way.”

Of course, we know that offering training is an excellent way to demonstrate your faith in your staff. They are worth your investment, and training is a reciprocal investment with staff that want to give you their time and their heart. Talk to us about training classes and programs that are just right to improve relationships and efficiency in your organization.

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