"This really is a great place to work!"

"This really is a great place to work!"


What does it take for employees to say this about their organization? That’s a multi-million dollar question, isn’t it? Especially important at a time when competition for good people is at a decades-high pitch and replacing lost employees costs thousands.

In its 2019 Retention Report: Trends, Reasons and A Call to Action, the Work Institute gathered data from 250,000 employees including more than 37,000 employees who quit their jobs in 2018 and concluded that employers are not taking employee retention seriously. Voluntary separations are up 7.6%, and importantly, the study identified preventable causes also trending up. The study found that employers could have retained more than three out of four employees who quit in 2018.

The top preventable category of reasons for voluntary separation in 2018: lack of career development. Twenty-two out of 100 employees cited career development as a key reason they left. Eleven out of 100 left because of manager behavior. Five out of 100 left because of the work environment.


People want to believe they matter

We can assume that the employees included in the study—and we can generalize this out to the population at large—left their jobs for these and other practical reasons. That’s fair. And we hope that employees are careful and objective about important life decisions involving their careers.

But you know what? These findings point to a simple truth: in every part of life, people want to feel that they matter, and for more than just for their immediate contributions. Imagine the strength of the bond between an employee and an organization that shows it cares about his or her development, whether that company is the exclusive beneficiary of that development—or not.

An HR VP once told me that it was a stated value of his department that career development for his company’s workforce was paramount—whether employees used their gained expertise at that organization or elsewhere. That organization’s voluntary turnover for full-time employees was 9 percent at the time, and trending down.


Rethink your content strategy

In the last 25 years, I’ve worked with thousands of leaders and employers in every industry and hemisphere under the sun. Experience shows that when employees at all levels in an organization believe they matter—their ideas, their work, their careers, and most of all their development, truly matter—that organization has a leg-up in the retention game.

Does your organization live up to this ideal? One way to test: look at your intranet content. Is it full of company news, accolades, and announcements about this year’s open enrollment? In short, is it largely self-promotional and transactional? If it is, you’re losing a tremendous opportunity to engage and inspire employees at all levels, specifically with career content that links to your organization’s LMS and job posting systems. This is as simple as brief, practical articles that help them be ready for change, grow in their careers, handle conflict, communicate effectively, and believe in the future and their role in creating it.

This isn’t rocket science. Career development content and robust linkages to internal training and opportunities sends a clear message: whether you choose to stay here or go elsewhere, we care about your development as a contributor to our success, an influencer on your team, and ultimately as a leader and role model, wherever you work.

As a serendipitous side effect: all this creates a vibe no one wants to leave.

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