Sunday, December 18, 2011

TurnOver TurnUnder and TurnIn

I recently attended a presentation focused on the topic of employee turnover. As I listened, I kept thinking about how much attention we pay to turnover. This is not surprising as we are seeing renewed interest in reducing turnover because economic conditions are slowly but surely improving in various areas, and employers are worried about losing people. These same employers always have been worried about losing their best people. However, the focus we take is on turnover -the big leaving event. Why????
Turnover is really part of a big continuous variable, and it's way at the end of that continuum and in the negative direction. If we think about what employees do within organizations, they can engage anywhere along the turning continuum. Here are three options:
* TurnOver - they leave. (at the one end, negative)
* TurnUnder -they stay but hide - this is often called "withdrawal" behavior (in the middle)
* TurnIn - they work to become a key part of the organization, and they bring other people along with them, inside the firm (at other end, positive)
What we need is to understand the continuum of events. What makes an employee turnin, turnunder and turnover? Then use that information to continually improve the work environment and ultimately the business.
I've been studying employee energy at work, and over the years have collected over 1 million data points analyzing how energized people are at work and what's energizing or de-energizing them. There are clues to the 'turning' challenge in this work.
* People TurnIn when they feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. There are two interventions that employers can do immediately to improve their 'turn-in' rates:
1. Provide a way for employees, with no fear or risk, to submit new ideas and suggestions. Employees have reported that being listened to and having their ideas acted upon is more powerful than many traditional incentives.
2. Engaging in ongoing, real-time conversations with employees about priorities. I've called these "priority moments." The pace of change at work means that employees are getting bombarded with new work every day, and they just want to know how to reprioritize. Teach everyone how to engage in priority moment conversations.
* From the data we also can identity at least two ways to assure employees will "turn over" and run as quickly as possible away from their company.
1. Ignore problems when they occur; pretend the low performers are really doing ok; ignore bad customer experiences; do nothing when employees are angry and upset.
2. Fail to communicate to the point where employees lose all confidence in the top leadership team, the firm's vision and the people around them. Confidence, we find, is a key predictor of energy, which in turn directly predicts "turning" stage (turned-in, turned-under or turned-over).
* Below are two ways to assure your employees will "turn-under" or hide, try to keep under the radar and avoid being noticed, slowly withdrawing until they finally have time to turn-over.
1. Refuse to hold people accountable. If people are not accountable at work, then keeping quiet and laying low works incredibly well.
2. Provide no means for employees to speak up. People can become invisible and just "get along" fairly easily in this type of environment.
Getting to ideal, with most of your people being at the turned-in stage in the turning continuum does not take a lot of money or effort. It involves listening, interacting, and being agile and even admitting the need to be agile. It involves creating an environment where people are part of something bigger than themselves that they like.
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