It’s not just my job — it’s my life

Remote Year Staff in Lisbon, Portugal (Photo credit: Heather Lee)

Did you know employee attrition in many US based organizations runs well into the double digits? That at Capital One the average age of their employee population is just 32, yet their employees stay for less than two years before quitting? Or that at Booz Allen Hamilton, paying above average salaries doesn’t necessarily equal employee satisfaction, and people ship out after just twenty-five months?

Prior to joining Remote Year, I partnered with a number of early stage startups and multinational organizations working specifically on recruiting, HR and people strategy. I have found that there are typically three key stages for any people-first organization; talent attraction & engagement, career experience, and employee retention. Unfortunately from my observations many companies invest a lot in stage one (dating), however they fail to follow through on promises in stage two (the relationship), which leads to disappointment, delusion, and often exodus in stage three (the breakup). The cost associated with the continual churn of hiring, training, and losing employees is high: not just the direct financial impact, also the significant emotional scarring of your existing talent base (how many of my co-workers left this week?). So why are business leaders getting it so wrong?

It’s not just my job — it’s my life. I was reading an excellent report from Gallup recently, and they made a rather novel discovery: ‘everyone in the world wants a good job, (and) this is especially true for millennials’. More so than ever in the history of corporate culture, employees are asking, “Does this organization value my strengths and my contribution? Does this organization give me the chance to do what I do best every day?” Because for millennials, a job is no longer just a job — it’s their life as well.

Have a think back to the last time you interviewed at a company and subsequently accepted their employment offer. How quickly did the shine of dating, and the honeymoon period wear off? Was the French champagne quickly reduced to drinking domestic flat beer at the office happy hour? Did your manager set goals with you, explain how you could have impact on the team, and what success looks like in your organization? Ultimately did you feel welcome, and did the culture translate into an environment where you felt happy, content, and able to produce your best work? For many of us when we don’t feel inspired, the relationship sours pretty quickly.

Celebrating continued success, not commiserating your employer choice

According to Gallup, the majority of millennials (55%) are not engaged in the workforce. Many millennials likely don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies are not giving them compelling reasons to stay. Half of millennials — compared with 60% of non-millennials — strongly agree that they plan to be working at their company one year from now. For businesses, this suggests that half of their millennial workforce doesn’t see a future with them. That’s a scary statistic.

So what should change?

Say for example, you’re in an organization that’s applying an 80/10/10 investment to the recruiting, growth and retention of your employees. A small but significant step is to move the needle and rebalance your approach to focus on stages two and three. In my previous post, I highlighted the importance of redefining the career experience (not provision of a career path) for your employees, especially millennials. Attracting the right talent is important; giving them ample opportunities to learn, develop, and discover is critical.

Some other questions to ask yourself. Are you having the right conversations? Do you have regular one on one meetings, provide real-time feedback on performance, and importantly do your employees see you as a partner in their future success? How engaged are you? Are they? You may also want to consider whilst in a pre-millennial world we measured contributions annually; at that point your talent may already be disengaged, close to leaving, or worst case have quit. Six-monthly cycles are the new benchmark, and I would even encourage quarterly goal setting and measurement on the way to that bi-annual review.

Several of the Fortune 500 companies that we’re partnering with at Remote Year have experienced these painful mistakes first hand. Our role is often that of a relationship counselor; we’re acknowledging these past mistakes yet gently encouraging the employer and employee to start dating again, this time with a view to building a sustainable and long lasting relationship that doesn’t end in one year or less. By engaging with us, employers are demonstrating that they are thinking long-term about the employee career experience laterally rather than literally. And in doing so, they’re helping us shape the Remote Revolution.

Ash is the Head of Business Development at Remote Year, a year-long program for digital nomads to travel the world while working remotely for their current employer.

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