Employee Turnover is a Big Problem. Here's The Big Solution.

Today’s workers have more choices and more leverage than arguably ever before. Several factors that, even when taken alone, shift immense power to employees, have combined to truly make it an employee’s market. The big ones:

  • The US unemployment rate has dropped steadily for nearly a decade and is currently 4.1%— plenty of jobs, plenty of need, plenty of options for job seekers (or anyone open to a new opportunity)
  • Loyalty to employers is low. (while it’s a myth that millennials job hop more than previous generations, it’s still a completely valid concern — people do, have, and continue to frequently change jobs. An ERE Media article citing Deloitte research on millennials explains, “...two-thirds of them expect to have a new job by 2020. If five years from now seems far-off for that prediction, consider that 25 percent plan on leaving their job in a year.”)
  • Widespread internet connectivity has increased visibility into other open roles, enabled remote work options, and provided access to info and data — such as salary averages, competitors’ benefits packages and employee experience accounts from current employees themselves. These arm candidates with all kinds of intel and negotiation backup.

Even the norms and expectations around how we think of “work” are changing, pushing people to seek alternative arrangements (more on that below). Unsurprisingly, this new reality has many HR and Talent Management teams scrambling to figure out how to hang on to top talent. Retention has now been cited as the top workforce management challenge for three consecutive years in the annual SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Report. In this year’s edition, 47% of surveyed HR professionals said it was their number one concern.

It’s a big problem, no doubt — but there’s a solution. The problem may even be similar to the solution. Let us explain.

The Gig Economy is Partly to “Blame”…

We’ve covered the gig economy and its impact on talent management in the enterprise extensively (see herehere, and here). That’s because the impact is significant. In a nutshell, the rise of the gig economy — specifically, the freedom, flexibility, choice, and opportunity to rapidly acquire experience and exposure it affords “gig workers” — has changed the expectations among workers across the board, including full-time employees. While many are choosing to go freelance, the majority are simply seeking more of that variable, project-based work style that fuels the gig economy. Meaning: They’re job hopping.

Presently, that’s the only way to do it. If you want to be an employee, but you also want the opportunities to grow and advance like your gig-worker friends, you have to job hop. Hence, retention issues.

…Yet The Gig Mindset Also Reveals the Solution

Here’s the big idea: Offer your employees internal “gigs.” Let them, to the extent possible, work largely on a project basis (as opposed to a “role” basis, in which they perform the same set of tasks and assume the same set of responsibilities for months on end). Let them initiate their own projects. Let them join other teams across the organization, or self-assemble into their own teams. Let them function more like independent contractors, without ever having to leave the company.

Actually, don’t just “let” this all happen — encourage it. Support it. Restructure jobs, rethink career trajectories and rewrite company norms. Build a talent marketplace, in which you make visible and available all the internal projects and problems folks could tackle. Go further — provide learning assets and leadership opportunities to everyone. Provide career coaching. Make it all personalized to the individual, and optimized based on data.

This is how we solve the retention problem. Employees are leaving because they’re seeking growth and advancement. This is how we give them what they’re seeking. This is how we keep good talent around.

It’ll take a good deal of work to make this happen in your company, sure. But you could start small, roll it out slowly, and make incremental changes. There are also, ahem, experts that can help you figure out how to tackle it, and technology that makes this approach even possible in large organizations and enterprises. Seems like a good idea to check those out; we’ll leave you to it!

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