More than I can recall at any point in my professional career, employees are churning through companies at alarming rates. Employees are voluntarily leaving one company for another, seeking a path to rapid upward mobility. This trend has been lowlighted by tech companies like Uber, which have a dismal average employee tenure of just 1.8 years. The stimulus for this situation is the robust economy, close-to-full employment and companies willing to outbid incumbent or competing companies for talent.
I cannot say it with enough emphasis: Business leaders must wake to the reality that employee churn is a Scud missile aimed at the future of their companies' growth.
Employees are the key to satisfied and motivated customers, and, therefore, growth; they are the holy grail of business. Taking care of employees, making them a priority and supporting their career paths is the healthiest thing a growing business can do. To put an end to abysmal employee churn rates, every executive (not just HR) should commit to creating a company culture where long tenure is not only common but a badge of honor.
For example, at my current company, Sage Intacct, we've established a culture where employee satisfaction is a priority. We've put in place policies and benefits to ensure employees grow and thrive in their career at the company. This enabled us to grow twice as fast as our competition and led to a higher percentage of long-tenured employees. As proof, more than 44 percent of the leadership team at Sage Intacct have an average tenure of 10.2 years.
Over the years, I've discovered tips on establishing an employee-first culture. Here's how I propose making your company one where employees want to stay to develop their career for the long haul.
1. Plan careers with employees
Rather than viewing hiring as a talent grab, consider it an opportunity to create an alliance. When interviewing, I'm interested to hear about an employee's aspirations – not only to see if they align with corporate structure (that's important, too) – but because I want to determine how I can support them on their professional journey. I like to ask about what they want to learn and what they enjoy, even pushing them to divulge their five and 10-year plans. I look for actionable ways that we, as the employer, can fulfill their needs.
By creating win-win relationships with prospective employees, I can find people who will be champions to my company's customers, thrive in my company's culture, and, in turn, that allow me to invest in their career and life goals. When this type of alliance is established, the employee is motivated to stay and live out their five- (or 10-) year plan with our company.
2. Showing your appreciation goes a long way
Employee appreciation should be embedded in the culture of any growing company. This goes beyond instituting a weekly bagel day and celebrating high performers or those working on flashy projects. True work life isn't all glitter and positivity. Success in business often means working hard through good and bad times.
As such, we make it a practice to both give special thanks to employees for their daily perseverance, especially those who have worked through a difficult project (or period within the company's history). In these cases, I love to reciprocate when possible – ask employees directly how the company can thank them or provide them with custom incentives of their choice.
When employees see that you truly recognize and value their commitment to their work, they'll be motivated to come into work each day and give it their all. We all have bad days, but when employees find a supportive and appreciative company culture, it's rare that they move on.
3. Establish consistent communication and goal setting with employees
From my perspective as an employer, if an employee only stays for a year, the relationship was lose-lose. In their short stint, they didn't gain enough expertise to provide a large enough return on the training and resources provided to them by the company. I understand why it happens – the lure of a higher salary, a bigger job or even stock options are tempting. As such, it's in our best interest to establish an environment that caters to personal milestones and longevity with my organization.
To help employees understand the long-term strategic advantage of staying, consistent communication is a primary tool. I ensure that managers keep an open line of communication with employees to understand career goals and provide pathways to achieve those. Moreover, every employee's quarterly goals should include some level of professional development and training to ensure we all see progress. For example, can I offer career training through a service like Lynda.com or encourage an employee to attend a conference or take outside training to propel them to the next level? When employees see that an employer is willing to invest in their future, they invest more in the company's future.
Employee churn is a growing problem in many industries, especially technology. This trend is an unfortunate reminder that many companies aren't focused on the right growth metrics. If you're looking to grow your business in a sustainable way that produces results, both in the present and in the future, I urge you to fight passionately against employee churn. The healthiest companies are those where churn is the exception, rather than the trend.