Ron Piccoult recently published an article in the New York Times with almost the same title as mine. I will admit he thought of the title first, but it is something I have been looking into for some time. The recession has been battering companies and their management for years now, and this battering has spilled over onto their few remaining employees. If companies really believe “people are our most important asset” they have a serious issue with deferred maintenance.
In August Deloitte published a study indicating that 49% of current employees are actively looking for a job. It makes me wonder how many others in the survey did not want to admit they were looking, or how many people that are looking didn’t participate in the survey. Deloitte’s recently published Center for the Edge survey shows that a paltry 23% of current employees are passionate about what they do. Lucy Kellaway of The Economist called 2010 “The year of the disengaged employee”.
The Center for the Edge survey also sites numerous examples of what we know already. Passionate employees are more productive, work together better, and produce more creative solutions than those who are not.
Eventually, like all other economic cycles, this one will turn around to the point where employees will have other options and they will take them. It is easy to foresee a huge churn of disaffected frustrated employees heading for the exits, with predictable consequences in terms of costs, degradation of customer service, and damage to company brand. We not only need to reduce employee dissatisfaction but help our employees be passionate about what they do.
So what to do? How do you turn this coming tsunami to your advantage?
Unfortunately much of the damage has already been done, but the good news is that the same things that will help you keep your employees will also put you in the best position to capture the best and brightest as they flee your competitors. I am not talking about free energy drinks or installing a gym, (though a gym idea is not bad…) I am talking about things that will not only help you keep your existing employees and snag the best new ones, but will also make you more cost efficient and help your brand.
While a new gym is a nice employee perk, and to a lesser degree even pay, they are not the key issues. More important to the top notch employee is relevance. Relevance is more than empowerment. By relevance I mean the ability of people to understand how their job fits into the company goals and the freedom to do what is needed to have an effect on those goals.
Do your job descriptions and org charts really match what your employees really do? Do you actually hold employees accountable for the deliverables you need, or do your evaluations describe 2 or 3 key events in the last 6 weeks or so? If you add to that a 2.5% salary raise, same as the guy who surfs the net all day gets, you should expect to be right on the beach for the Turnover Tsunami.
In order to stem this tide, and more importantly to catch the best in the next wave, companies need to insure that they have a clear mission and goals and their talent strategies are aligned with and reflect these. They need to make evaluations meaningful and tie their incentive programs to the right results. Job descriptions need to define the real skills, abilities, and deliverables, as well as the personality traits needed for success. The number of years someone has been doing X or Y is not an effective indicator of future success, but it remains one of the key discrimination criteria. Some managers lack formal training in how to select the right candidates. Org charts need to reflect business process vs. WWII style command and control systems.
This may seem like a lot of work, and a big commitment, but the results will allow your company to be riding the wave as opposed to being hammered by it.