We all know that no job lasts forever. Employees may choose to move on from your organization for a number of reasons. Some turnover is outside your realm of control, like when an employee is terminated due to an ethics violation, when someone moves to be closer to family, or when another company recruits your employee and offers them the opportunity of a lifetime.
Still, there are times when an employee would have been happy staying with your company — if you had known about their unhappiness and provided other opportunities before they handed in their resignation. For example, an employee who likes your culture but isn’t a fit for their job could become happy once they step into the right role. Someone who feels underpaid could become more satisfied once they receive a raise. However, organizations often have no idea that an employee is unhappy until they’ve put in their two-week notice.
“Two week’s notice” is still the prevailing operating paradigm for most employers today. At this point, most companies are not actively encouraging employees to speak up about the changes they want. Employees may be fearful that if they mention that they want to do something different, they will be asked to leave. As a result, an employee often ends up leaving the organization rather than finding a good internal opportunity to contribute in a different role.
What’s refreshing is that the paradigm is shifting. Robert Glazer, CEO of Acceleration Partners, recently spoke to HR leaders attending TinyCon (a conference for everyone who cares about employee engagement and culture). In his talk, he declared that he’s putting an end to the “two week’s notice.” In lieu of this policy, he’s encouraging his employees to talk about the changes they want, and then works with them one-on-one to develop a “mindful transition” plan.
What’s Wrong With the Standard Two Week Notice Policy
Robert argues that the two-week policy is a “relic from the command and control era of leadership, and pointed out a couple of things that are problematic with the policy:
- When someone leaves and merely gives their employer a two week notice, the employer is not given the opportunity to fix the problem and then has to rush to find a replacement.
- The employee leaves on a bad note, with a trust deficit. They mentally check out well before their last day, so performance is poor towards the end of their tenure.
After doing some research, Robert piloted a different approach, one that’s focused on creating a safe space for employees to address job concerns. “We said to people that if you come to us to talk about your problems, we promise you we will not walk you to the door.” In addition, he decided to be direct with employees when their performance was lacking, and give them enough time to look for jobs elsewhere.
Through this experience, Robert has learned some important lessons, including the root causes of why employees quit. He splits these causes into three categories.
- Things an employee can change and want to change
These are things employees should be aware of and committed to fixing. Some examples include: money issues, relationship problems with coworkers or outside of work, skills that require more training.
- Things the company can adjust and is willing to adjust
There are situations that present a problem for an employee and the company will decide that it’s in their best interest to fix the problem. These issues include: 1) a bad relationship with a manager, 2) the employee feels like they’re underpaid, 3) the employee craves more challenging work, or 4) the employee wants to switch roles.
- Things that won’t change and nobody wants to change.
There are situations that don’t have good solutions. In these cases, it’s better to initiate a transition as soon as possible. Examples of these issues include: 1) The employee’s values do not align with the company’s values, 2) the employee wants a raise/promotion but the employer thinks they are not deserving, 3) the job role changed due to business needs and the employee is no longer qualified or interested, 4) the employee wants to do something different but the employer cannot provide the opportunities.
Glazer points out that in the first path, it’s possible that the initial seed of discontent could percolate and expand, causing a “quit and stay” mindset to set in. In the second path, problems may be surfaced through honest manager-employee conversations and they can be addressed in a relatively short amount of time (two, three or six months). In the third path, it’s probably best for both sides to be upfront and ensure that the transition happens quickly.
How Companies Can Prevent Future Offboarding
Robert’s idea of a mindful transition program really resonated with me. I agree that it would be in a company’s best interest to understand how employees are really feeling about their work and craft intentional transition plans for those who aren’t happy.
To get some additional ideas about how companies can prevent future offboarding, I decided to talk to our own VP of People – Stacey Klimek – to get her point of view.
What Is Your Point of View on Managing Employee Exits?
Stacey: Here at PayScale, we encourage employees to be open with us about how they’re feeling. If they’re unhappy in their current role, we encourage them to have a conversation with us about why they think they might want to leave. Ideally, managers should be talking to employees at least every 90 days about career development. We believe that having regular conversations about career development is the best preventative measure: if you consistently talk to employees about career goals and the skills they want to develop, there shouldn’t be any surprises.
What Role Does HR Play to Ensure Managers and Employees Are Having These Conversations?
Stacey: We realize that there may be managers who aren’t having career development conversations with their direct reports on a regular basis. If a manager isn’t initiating those conversations, we encourage the employee to bring it up to their manager. If they need help figuring out how to have this conversation with their manager, HR is here to help the employee figure this out.
Additionally, we remind managers to have these check-ins and ask their employees on a scale of one to five how happy they are to be at the company.
Do You Have Plans to Put in More Structure or Processes Around Career Pathing?
Stacey: Yes, we plan to do some work with managers in 2019 to ensure that every manager has a playbook for each of their direct reports, from a development standpoint. The goal is that every employee and their manager will be aligned on a development plan. Both sides know the employee’s goals, career aspirations, the skills they’re working on and the steps they plan to take in the next six to twelve months to make progress.
We’ll know this program is successful when we go to an employee and their manager separately and ask each “what is your playbook?”, and both parties provide the same answer.
How Do You Encourage Employees to Think About Their Own Development?
We believe that every employee should take ownership of their own career. Our HR team is open to having conversations with our employees and working with them and their managers to figure out how we could provide the opportunities they want.
In general, we encourage employees to think deeply about their own development. Sometimes, an employee will come to me and say “I want to be the VP of X or the Director of Y.” When I hear this, I dig deeper and ask them “why is it important that you have this title?”
Sometimes, people say they want a specific title, but what they’re really after are things like respect, the authority to do things without oversight, or the desire to be exposed to new areas of the business so that they can better influence or advise the decisions being made. Through these conversations, we can help employees be realistic about where they are and determine want they need to do to reach their target (whether it’s at PayScale or elsewhere).
Additionally, we believe there is value in providing professional coaching as a resource to your employees –if you have budget. A professional coach can provide another safe space for employees to have conversations about career development. A trained and certified coach is able to probe and ask questions in a way that’s different than a manager. They can challenge employees to think about something in a different way, or try something new.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you have thoughts to share on how organizations might prevent “bad” turnover? Share with us below or on Twitter.