Algorithms are becoming increasingly relevant in the workplace. From sifting through resumes to deciding who gets a raise, many of these new systems are proving to be highly valuable. But perhaps their most impressive, and relevant, capability is predicting which employees will quit. Losing an employee can have a drastic effect on team morale, and result in a domino effect that leads to poor performance and productivity. Not to mention, it is expensive, and not just because of lost talent. But not every company has a fancy algorithm to help them out. Even predictive models that can identify the behavioral patterns that reveal who will quit don’t excel at explaining why they do. This is likely because the reasons people quit are deep-rooted and complex. The study below provides insights about the mistakes leaders commits that makes employee quit from the organization. Understanding them, and how they impact your team, will help you identify those who are at flight risk, and make changes that may convince them to stay.
Mistake 1: Setting inconsistent goals or expectations.
When employees are forced to choose between tasks in order to meet competing expectations, the result is a team of stressed out people without clear priorities. When a team members find themselves in sticky situations, no one is confused about how to manage them. Consider this scenario: A sales representative at a rental car company has to choose between serving her next client, or correctly logging her previous client’s information into the system. Her manager has made it clear that “slow service is poor service,” but she knows that improperly entering customer information could get her fired. Choosing between these two tasks causes her to experience high levels of stress on a daily basis, and as a consequence, she hates her job.
Mistake 2: Having too many process constraints.
Process constraints often occur when a lack of information, resources, or another factor, stops an employee from doing their job. I’ve seen this take place, for example, when a worker is forced to wait for several other tasks to be completed before they can move forward with a project. Such conditions will naturally inhibit performance — which are evaluated by managers — even if it is not the employee’s fault. In turn, the employee begins to feel powerless, and displays low morale, poor work quality, and frustration. Talk openly to them about their performance and ask questions that will help them communicate any concerns on their end.
Mistake 3: Wasting our resources.
Pretend you are a marketing manager. You have until Friday to roll out a new campaign. It’s Tuesday, which should theoretically leave you with plenty of time. But there’s a problem. You have six meetings for a total of four and a half hours today. The following day, you have seven meetings, which eat up six hours. On Thursday, you have to attend a team training session for five hours. So, when are you supposed to work? This is what we call resource waste. In the case above, and many others, the resource going to waste is time. Employees who are constantly crunched for time tend to get burned out faster, which impacts the quality of their deliverable. If you don’t give your team the resources they need to succeed, you are setting them up to fail. It’s not uncommon for employees in this situation to leave and seek out a company with a more sustainable work culture.
Mistake 4: Putting people in the wrong roles.
If you ever hear an employee say, “I went to college for this?” you can bet they are not happy with where they are or what they are doing. This is another example of waste, but I call it “knowledge and skills waste.” Unused abilities can leave employees feeling undervalued and faceless. An algorithm can easily take a job posting, outline the skills required for it, then take a resume, and infer the knowledge and abilities of a job candidate. But if there is a disconnect by the time that candidate becomes an employee, you’ve got a risk factor out of the gate. Start by checking the job description your employee was hired into, and compare it against their current task load. Are there gaps, and if so, how wide are they? Take notes. Then discuss them with your team member to see which gaps are falling short of their goals, and which are the most important.
Mistake 5: Assigning boring, or overly easy, tasks.
Think about the last time you had to go to a work event that you really didn’t want to attend. Maybe you had to converse with too many people about uninteresting topics or sit through several hour-long seminars in a single day. How did you feel after the fact? When employees don’t have enough to do, they can lose motivation and experience negative emotions. If they suppress those emotions, they can become physically and emotionally exhaustion. The net result is a lack of work satisfaction and engagement, forcing employees to finally ask whether this job is the right fit for them. A learning agenda with target goals, and a roadmap outlining how they will reach them, will also help us keep track of and check in on their progress.
Mistake 6: Failing to create a psychologically safe culture.
Hostile environments are easy to spot. If you notice your team members being overly agreeable or quiet in meetings, that’s a bad sign. When employees fear their thoughts or ideas will be met with repercussions, they tend to behave this way, which means you are likely operating in a fear culture. Employees who do not feel psychologically safe are more prone to error, and less likely to take risks, participate in healthy conflict, or grow in their roles. Contrarily, team members that feel psychologically safe are productive, innovative, and enjoy a sense of belonging. The more you can incorporate your team’s feedback into projects and strategies, the more empowered, valued, and safe they will feel working for you. In addition, show some humility.
Mistake 7: Creating a work environment that is too safe.
Studies show that a moderate level of pressure and friction at work is healthy for employee growth. But the key is moderation. When employees feel overly pressured to perform well in their roles, they can lose sight of what’s important, and in acts of desperation, use unethical means to excel. On the other hand, if your employees have no pressure at all, they may start to wonder if their work even matters. People who find no meaning or purpose in their work perform below their potential, are less productive, and are often less loyal than those who work in purpose-driven organizations. You should also be sure to remind your employees of what they are doing well, and how their role contributes to the goals of the larger organization (no matter how big or small their contribution is).
Mistake 8: Leading with bias.
Consumer studies show how much customers value being treated fairly by the companies they give their money to, and the same can be said for workers on the inside, giving up their time. Leaders who are fair — without bias — are leaders who employees can trust, and a trusting manager-employee relationship “defines the best workplaces,” improves performance, and is good for revenue. A lack of trust, however, can result in low morale and a team with little or no guidance. Think of it this way: if your employees don’t trust you to lead them down the right path, how will they come together and align their efforts to meet a shared goal? Put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to work at a place without clear direction?
It’s true that there is no way we can control every aspect of our team’s work experience. If someone wants to leave bad enough, sometimes they just will. That said, focusing on our own behaviors, what we can control, will do wonders to improve the performance and cohesiveness of our team. The better we manage, the more productive, innovative, satisfied, and most importantly, loyal our team will be.