“Job-leavers” is what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls those workers who quit one job without having secured another. The number of job-leavers is growing; it’s reported that approximately 1.1 million workers left their jobs in October of 2011. It is impossible to identify with any certainty what types of people would leave a job without having another to go to, but it does beg the question: Why would they? Are these workers so disengaged from their employers that they would rather resign than remain? Does such a correlation exist? We think it does.
Let’s first define what we mean by employee engagement: The extent to which a worker feels like he or she is an active participant in the development and maintenance of her job, her career. Put another way, does your organization provide your employee with opportunities to maximize his education, experience and training in ways that contribute to the organizational objectives? If not, surveys show that the majority of your staff will have every intention of leaving for greener pastures, which, somewhat surprisingly, may not even include better pay.
The concept of employee engagement has changed over time. Business has, as a rule, focused on compensation as being the most effective employee retention tool. Raises, perks and bonuses have long been seen as the key to keeping employees “happy”. Recent studies about employee engagement have shown, however, that it is not always about money. In fact, it rarely is. And emotional commitment to the job, while important, is not the critical factor either.
So what factors do determine engagement? What are companies doing or, perhaps, not doing that cause more workers to self-identify as job-leavers than ever before?
It’s all about job satisfaction. Seems obvious, doesn’t it, that those truly satisfied in their jobs rarely leave them. And, as is the case so often, satisfaction is a function of expectation. For them to be fully satisfied, you must allow your employees to meet their expectations of the job. When it comes to jobs, satisfaction comes from being truly engaged. True engagement doesn’t happen unless and until individuals understand how their interests, values, priorities, skill set(s) and goals relate to the culture, mission and objectives of the organization for which they work.
Any disconnect between those components will adversely impact the level of engagement an employee feels about his job and the company. Only if your employee likes her job, feels she is good at it and believes that what she’s good at helps further your goals will she feel fully engaged. Full employment engagement, then, requires maximum job satisfaction which, in turn, necessitates belief of the employee that he is contributing as much as possible to the overall success of the business and does so on a continuing, sustainable basis.
Managers and, even more importantly, executives, must devote the time and energy sufficient to identify the level of engagement of every employee and then formulate an action plan for retaining those who are not fully engaged. Questions to ask of your employees include:
- Do you feel you are encouraged to use your talents?
- Do you feel we recognize your accomplishments adequately?
- Do you feel like a member of a team?
- Do you trust the decision making of the company’s executives?
- Do you feel we are maximizing your abilities?
Answers to these questions (among others) like these will allow you to structure your organization and employ your human resources to maximize engagement and minimize the need to replace job-leavers.