It's clear when you ask the question that you know you have a turnover problem. That's not new information. A lot of answers have been geared towards the impacts and describing the cost that this kind of turnover incurs. That's all really great information, and none of it helps you fix it.
Great, your problem has a huge impact and you need to fix it. What is your problem, though? Turnover is a symptom it's not the problem.
You have a culture problem.
You have people who neither trust nor respect each other, and they're clearly not encouraged to do either. While the stats show turnover for the organization, how many people do you have who have been there 5+ years? These may be some of your problem areas. What are your development plans? How are your middle managers leveling up your individual contributors? What is their path to empathy for their peers?
- You need to eliminate hostile or toxic behavior immediately.
- Identify your most senior people. Are they trustworthy? Are they respectful? How do they lift the people around them? If you can't answer these questions with positives, then this is your first solution point. They need to be leveled up in soft skills, leadership and empathy. If they won't, they need to be replaced.
- Listen to the pain points. Your individual contributors will have a LOT of complaints. Tie them together into common process points, and use that to identify the process improvements that will alleviate that pain.
- Separate the people from the problem. Describe the problem to someone who has no idea what you're talking about. Use no names; use only roles. If you can't separate the person from the problem, the person is the problem.
Great, you've started fixing the process - What about the people?
People in general want to feel needed and valued. They want their work to matter to someone else. They want to become better at what they do, and they want to be able to do more. They accomplish this through their managers and supervisors.
- What do your training programs look like?
- What incentives for advancement are available?
- How are successful actions rewarded?
- How are individuals held accountable for misteps?
- How does their work get promoted to a place of value?
You need to be able to answer these questions very cogently. If you can't, then your people are leaving because the company doesn't value them the way they want to be valued.
What about the toxic/angry folks?
A lot of people will tell you they need to be fired. Many people are ready to give up on them. Someone who gets angry or frustrated is someone who is showing you how much they care. They might not care about the right things at the moment, but they are invested in what they do and who they are in their position. I encourage you not to give up on these people. I've invested in my toxic individuals in the past, and it's paid off in huge dividends. These people have become some of my highest performers.
- You need to listen to them. Hear their problems. Help them get past them. This takes time. It takes encouragement.
- Connect them to their peers. Educate them on how their behavior is impacting the people around them. Expect better from them. Tell them that's not acceptable and that you need their help.
- Find their value points, and help them achieve them. If it's getting work in front of a customer, do what you can to help them do that. If it's interacting with other areas of the organization, find opportunities to make it happen.
- Identify their toxic behavior and address it right away when it happens. You don't have to hammer people. Just make it clear you're watching and expect better.
Wow, there's a lot to do here. Am I the problem?
You just might be. It's possible that they don't trust the company or leadership. If you're in management, it's critical to identify this. So many times this comes as a result of the leadership messages not matching the leadership actions. Often it's just the perception of disrespect that comes with the separation in information.
- Be as honest and transparent as you can with your folks.
- Leadership needs to maintain a cohesive and consolidated message.
- Management needs to respect their individual contributions and do what it takes to lift them.
Servant leadership has always worked for me. If your individual contributors believe that management's work is done for the benefit of them, they will lift mountains. It takes honesty. It takes belief. If people are expected to behave to a higher standard, their leaders must exemplify that standard. If you want your individual contributors to be respectful and empathetic, then you must be respectful and empathetic. If you want them to work hard, you must work hard. You will cultivate the culture you deserve, not the culture that you want.
Until the culture is fixed, people will continue to leave and the turnover will continue to be at epic levels.