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Welcome to the organisation … Now how can I help you to leave us?

December 14, 2011

Do you find your current role satisfying? Are you committed to staying with your current employer? If you answered yes to both questions then you are officially in a minority…

Are you a manager who knows that your staff are the most important part of your business – even more important than the clients? Do you invest heavily in their training and development? If you answered yes to both questions then it seems you are also  in a minority…

I have been talking with a lot of people whose business it is to help organisations get the most out of their people. Speakers, trainers and facilitators who have all been telling me that despite all the positive talk organisations are just not investing in their most important resource at the moment. The most common reason seems to be they don’t have the time – people are too stressed, too busy trying to do their day job to spend a day in training. Even if that training is about being more resilient and more effective in the workplace!

A revolving doorA survey taken in September this year* has found that a majority of people don’t like their jobs and are either seriously considering leaving their organisation or will not commit to staying. Nearly half of senior managers are seriously considering leaving their organisation – not changing roles but leaving.  The numbers at the bottom are no better – half of the employees aged between 25 and 34 are also seriously considering leaving.

On top of all of this one fifth of all workers are apathetic and would not commit to staying or leaving.

That means the next time you are in a meeting chances are two-thirds of the people in that room either are looking for opportunities elsewhere or are just at the meeting to pass the time because showing up takes less effort than looking for something else.

Any way you slice it that cannot be good for an organisation.

Which begs the question …Why?

Lack of training opportunities and career development support were two of the key factors. Being able to see how their work contributes to achieving the organisation’s overall goals is also important. This is particularly so for 25-34 yr olds who place a higher importance on satisfaction with the type of work they do than any other group and at the same time they are the least satisfied with the type of work they do and are the most likely to leave. (This is the same group who are the most likely to promote their organisation as a good place to work and are most willing to go beyond the requirements of their job to help their organisation succeed!)

That lines up pretty well with what I am hearing…

You know, when I signed up I thought it would be a great place to work but now I find myself feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the way things are done around here.”

I am happy enough doing what I do now but I don’t want to be doing it in five years time. I don’t want to become “management” and I just can’t see any other opportunities inside the company.

Or something seemingly a little more problematic…

I don’t want to do this anymore, I feel like it is time for a change. What I would love is a way to pay the bills while I study for my new career.”

The days of a person working their whole life for a single organisation are gone so I think the best thing you can do to get the most from your employees is to start from (before) day one and do everything you can to help them to leave.

  • Be honest about your organisation’s values and goals. Let potential new hires talk one-on-one with the people they will be working with so they can ask how things are really done (and if you wouldn’t want every one of your current team doing that then you really have a some work to do!). If they don’t like the way you do things, chances are you are not going to like the way they want to do things.
  • Be honest about opportunities to grow. There are only so many positions for higher paid help and if the people in those roles haven’t changed in the last few years then don’t bother talking about career paths. The flip side is you need to create a space where it is safe for people to tell you that is not what they want and for you to be comfortable with that.
  •  Be creative in finding ways to help people to leave your organisation in a few years time if that is what they want. Let them take their long service leave as a year of four-day weeks so that they can do volunteer work or study for a new career. I remember hearing of a local council in Canada who had a program that allowed you to put aside 20% of your pay so that every five years you could take a full year off on ‘full’ pay to do whatever you want. Where do I sign? (and why would I ever want to leave?). The value that their people bring back to the organisation in terms of different perspectives and new ideas must be supercharged by the energy they have gained by having  a year to do what ever they want.
  • Be supportive about a move to a competitor to take on a position with new responsibilities. Chances are that same person will be looking for a new role in a few years and your organisation might benefit from the experience that they gain.

The pay-off might just be employees who are more engaged and committed to your organisation. You would be able to plan more efficiently for the times when people will leave and if you follow the Canadian example you will have opportunities opening up each year for people to try new roles for twelve months.

To me that means that your employees will be happier and that equals happier clients and a happier bottom line.

I don’t think it matters what your organisation makes, what service your people provide or what resource it is that you extract from the earth and sell – if you don’t start doing something differently with your most important resource you are going to find yourself in trouble. And I don’t mean that you are going to be sitting in a meeting room where two-thirds of the people in the room are thinking about being somewhere else – you are going to show up for that meeting one day and end up sitting there wondering where the other two-thirds of your team have gone.

* Mercer – What’s Working TM survey – September 2011 and the Australian survey summary  “Inside Employees’ Minds


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth Stubberfield permalink
    December 14, 2011 12:47 pm

    Again, a brilliant post. How come you can capture the issues of our workplace today so succintly and propose innovative solutions where all the big corporates cant ??

  2. Megan permalink
    December 14, 2011 1:12 pm

    Thanks again for a stimulating post, Paul. There is some really great material on the Mercer website as well…

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