I was inspired to write my last blog post, Facing Burnout at Work? Here’s How to Replenish, after multiple clients shared how exhausted and over-extended they have been feeling at work. (If you can relate to that, click over to the post for some easy-to-implement strategies.)
This week, let’s look at this issue from the employer’s perspective: dealing with turnover, a consequence of burnout.
Research is showing that around 50% of the American workforce is in “job hunting mode” post-pandemic. If they’re not actively searching for a job, they’re passively checking out their options. That amounts to millions of people! One leader I know lost 3 employees within 2 weeks!
From a leadership perspective, focusing on retention is more important now than ever.
Focus on Whole Person Growth
As a leader, you must be focused on “whole person growth”. That means taking an interest in the employee’s life beyond work, valuing and building trust in your teams, and acting in service of your team members.
Not long ago, I had a new client who came to me from a referral. This new client was all about separating work and personal life. She wouldn’t talk to me about her personal life… at all.
Now, that doesn’t work for me. I know it’s impossible to separate the two, and in my coaching practice, I work with my clients to find ways of creating harmony between these two interconnected aspects of their experience. As a leader, you need to do this to some extent as well.
Yes, we want to talk about work — accountability matters, so let’s just assume that being a good leader/employee, communicating a vision, and setting expectations is the baseline. Beyond that, what also matters is that you, as a leader, tune into the rest of that person’s life outside of work, especially in this climate where so many employees are ready to jump ship.
Be an Advocate for the Whole Person
Fair warning: the following might feel counter-intuitive if your objective is to retain employees, but hear me out.
Often, employees keep it a secret when they’re looking for a new job because they think their boss might fire them on the spot if they find out. As a leader, you have an opportunity to shift that and instead be an advocate for your team members.
I’ve always told my team, “If you’re at the point where you’re even thinking about starting to look for another opportunity, I want to know so I can help you get where you want to go.” For some people, the “next job” was someplace else, but for others, it was within the same company. That’s a win for the employee and for the organization. Either way, your job as a leader is to help your employees get to where they want to go. They are going to do it with or without your help. So why not help them?!
When you get curious about the people you work with and start asking questions, it shows that you care about the employee as a person, not just a worker who can produce X amount of work product each day.
Ask questions like:
- As a leader, am I helping you get your next job?
- Am I helping you develop the skills and competencies to get your next job?
- Am I helping you network?
- How can I be an advocate for you?
- How might I be holding you back from getting the job you really want?
- What else can I do to support you?
Listen to their responses and make adjustments as needed. Then, ask about their family & friends, the things they like to do for recreation, and their hobbies. They will feel valued and heard when you do this.
Lead by Example
Years ago, I worked in the ski industry. I frequently met employees who lamented, “I thought I would get to ski more, but I’m in my office all the time.” Fortunately, I regularly had my bosses say, “Our meeting is on the chairlift today!”
They set an example by walking the talk, which gave the rest of us permission to do the same, and everyone still got their work done. If you’re the boss, lead by example. Take time for yourself so your employees know that they can take time for themselves to stay refreshed and not get burned out.
This is an excellent method of retention.
As a leader, it can feel like we have to do everything ourselves, forgetting that we have a team of people that report to us, peers, bosses, and others that are there to help.
Nobody is expected to know everything. Asking for help is one way to tap into the natural human impulse to collaborate with others, and it’s a great way to show your team members that you value their input. Asking for help builds trust and credibility… and it gives your team members permission to ask for help, as well.
As you evaluate your processes and look for ways to retain employees, remember that focusing on whole person growth, being an advocate for each employee’s success, leading by example, and showing vulnerability are all great ways to create an environment that employees love.