Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.
– Richard Branson
If I had to choose one neutral word to describe the modern workplace without pointing out its flaws or bringing out its advancements, this word would definitely be fast-paced. Going under continuous and dynamic structural changes to survive the challenges of an ever-changing labor market, companies are asked to adjust the nature of their job designs and secure their competitive edge.
Work intensification is a relatively new phenomenon. The upward trend of factors such as pace of work, job demands and working hours was initially brought into attention in the 2nd European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) (1995) where more than half of the participants reported working at a high pace, both in terms of high speed and tight deadlines. Interestingly, this figure was only 19% in the 1st EWCS (1990). By 2005, the 50% figure remained stable adding the note that these employees were actually working at very high speed for three-quarters or more of their time (3rd EWCS) and as for the latest findings, 33% of employees come across a very high level of job demands defined by three or more pace determinants (6th EWCS, 2015).
Inevitably, fast-paced working environments have tremendously affected the way we work from so many perspectives. When everything happens in fast forward, who has the time to take a step back and reflect on the effectiveness of the process and its impact on both the productivity and the overall mental and physical state of the employee. When deadlines keep tightening, plans keep changing, people come and go, teams are transferred and restructured, how easy can it be to detect those vague details that sound an alarm bell? And even if someone does notice them, how feasible can it be to take sustainable corrective actions?
Employees have various reasons to leave a company, but they don’t necessarily share all of them during their exit interview. Most of the times, official reasons include going after a new opportunity or a better salary. But what makes them search for a new opportunity or a better salary outside the company at first place, this is the real question.
So, what might impel a good employee to silently start looking elsewhere? Below are six potential, well-concealed reasons that might help unveil the mystery:
- Unclear role responsibilities & excessive cross training.
In general, there are two types of cross-training. In a stable and flourishing business, cross training is a sign of wealth and prosperity, a clear indicator that strategy is successful and people stay motivated. In a business that faces growth issues, cross training might be the result of being understaffed. Good employees are usually all in for cross-training as they realize they can only evolve by getting the whole picture rather than repeatedly performing the same tasks. However, if those same employees perceive it as a sign of panic and short-term solution, they will most probably feel frustrated and lose their motivation.
- Department’s instability.
Within a work setting, changes are usually expected and even challenges can sometimes be refreshing. Without those two, we would just stay still. They are the fuel that keeps us going, moving forward and developing. Even the most change-averse employees usually come in terms with this indisputable fact. But again, as everything else in this life, there are changes and there are too many changes. And too many changes lead to insecurity and demotivation and create an environment of suspicion, doubt and a lack of trust.
- Misuse of delegation.
In a working environment of instability and excessive cross-training, delegation is in risk of losing its actual meaning and the purpose it is supposed to serve. The most usual phenomenon is the transfer of responsibilities from “higher” to “lower”, basically overloading team members that have no authority to delegate themselves. In such occasions where the delegations are not supervised at all and people take over too many responsibilities that they then pass over to the next one regardless of how this can help their career path, chances are that turnover rates will rise.
- Unfair recognition system.
There are two ways of being visible in a company. You can be performance oriented or you can be socially oriented. It might be the case that talented people who bring great value to the company on a daily basis are being neglected and isolated (due to high job demands) or being appreciated only behind closed doors leading them to exit the company in search of new opportunities. Besides, let’s not forget one of the fundamental work-related stress theories, Siegrist’s Effort-Reward Imbalance (ERI) model (1996)*, that showed how strong the relationship between the effort an employee is putting to stand up to the expectations and how fairly this effort is rewarded is into creating high-strain jobs.
- Knowledge is lost in the way.
This is the direct result of the above. Knowledge and experience bring value to a company. Experienced high-performing employees are assets, they are contributing to revenue creation. They are the qualitative factor in an equation full of numbers. On the contrary, constantly losing people with less and less experience, having newcomers training newcomers, results in loss of knowledge and this kind of loss is irreplaceable. People can be replaced, but lost knowledge cannot be recovered. In result, a high turnover rate might end up in more employees losing faith instead of seeing an opportunity to climb the ladder.
- Inefficient education systems.
Another challenging event might be the constant introduction of new tools and processes. This along with the whole dynamic structure of a company that operates in full speed to catch up with the market’s expectations may result in last-minute rough education sessions, mainly on a theoretical basis, that leave the employee confused, frustrated and stressed.
Moral of the Story
A successful strategy involves motivated employees. Underestimating those lurking factors that can potentially demotivate and alienate even the most dedicated employees may be harmless for today’s productivity, but it stands no chance in the long-run. Foresee and prevent.
*Siegrist, J. (1996). Adverse health effects of high-effort/low-reward conditions. Journal of occupational health psychology, 1(1), 27.