How to stop key staff from jumping ship 

Article first published in the Business Post on Sunday, 12 September 2021

Simon Boucher, head of the Irish Management Institute, predicts that a staggering 40 per cent of employees are thinking of moving to a new job this year. Understanding why can help you mitigate the problem

Given the uncertainty that has prevailed on so many fronts for the past months, it may come asa surprise to hear that a significant proportion of the Irish workforce is willing to take the risk of jumping ship in favour of a new role with a different employer.

In fact, according to Simon Boucher, Chief Executive of the Irish Management Institute (IMI), more than 40 per cent of employees are thinking about leaving their current job this year.

“In an average year, the global turnover rate for staff is just 11 per cent and, when it comes to an employee deciding to leave their job, there are a few factors you could point to,” Boucher said.

“The relationship with an employee’s direct line manager is the number one reason why somebody would leave their position, something that has been true for many years.

“Then, there are other factors like the opportunities available for promotion and growth within an organisation, or being offered a better position elsewhere.

“Milestone birthdays and events like school reunions are times where we can tend to compare ourselves to our peer group. This can turn people’s heads and get them thinking about pastures new.”

There are a number of reasons behind Boucher’s high prediction for the rate of staff turnover in the months ahead.

“2020 was an unusual time and people were not in a position to leave their job because of the instability of the market. Now, we are seeing pent-up demand from organisations looking to recruit,” he said.

The pandemic is a major driver in the push to seek out new opportunities. “Tech is booming and an employee might find that their skillset is more in demand now. Many people used the pandemic to upskill and it is now time to follow through on that.”

The pandemic also prompted individuals to consider how their organisation was dealing with the many challenges posed by Covid, compared to others.

“Some companies were very focused on flexibility and employee wellbeing, while others were slower to adapt to the new world,” Boucher said.“

Managers need to focus on staff connection. Although it is challenging, it is possible to be extremely connected ina virtual environment.

“Good people management is important:understanding the pressures people are under and understanding wellbeing at an organisational level, a team level and on a manager-direct report level.”

In order to discourage employee departures, managers needed to get a handle on what people wanted, Boucher said. “Know what your staff’s preferences are. Ideally, what would a future blended working environment look like for them? Maybe your staff are more interested in a hybrid working model,” he said.

“Develop clear policies that address these preferences. Then provide staff with clarity on what the organisation’s current approach to work is, but let them know that this will evolve over time.”

Flexibility and staff wellbeing are both key here. “I don’t know anyone whose wellbeing hasn’t been affected by the pandemic, and staff are much more aufait now with how employees are treated across a range of different sectors and organisations,” Boucher said.“If your organisation isn’t meeting perceived norms, you’re going to be on the upper end of the turnover spectrum.

This article first featured in the Business Post on Sunday, 12 September.

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