New year, new job.
January is the most popular month for employees to look for new opportunities. But that doesn’t have to mean starting the year with an epidemic of departures.
People leave their jobs for all sorts of reasons.
Any thriving business will want to see a healthy level of turnover in its staff. But what if your people are leaving simply because their colleagues are leaving?
We call this the Turnover Contagion Effect (TCE) and it’s something that every business should care about.
You may have experienced Turnover Contagion yourself. It’s that growing sense that “everyone” in your team is job hunting, and it’s been around for as long as people have worked together.
Your colleagues may not have told you directly that they’re searching. But when there’s a sudden spate of funerals, urgent repair visits or caring for holidaying parents’ goats (all true stories) you may get a sense that something’s up.
Then there are the colleagues who are cagey about letting you see their screens. And of course the ones who quite blatantly tell the rest of the team that it’s only a matter of time before they leave.
However confident and secure you may feel in your role and the organisation, it’s only natural to begin to question your position.
Have your colleagues spotted some major flaw in the business that you’ve overlooked? Do they know something you don’t? Should you put some feelers out there, just in case?
But if you’re observing that disintegrating team from the Human Resources department, you’re probably asking rather different questions.
How did TCE start? Can you stop it spreading further? And how can you prevent it from happening in the first place?
Turnover contagion stems from co-workers sharing how they’re feeling and how they’re valued at work. When it’s positive it contributes to more productive working environments and more engaged workers. But when workers are looking around it breeds unrest – it becomes contagious. And once TCE starts it can be hard to stop.
And it seems to be getting worse nowadays, for a variety of reasons;
Add these together and you may also experience a fifth factor.
When your business starts to suffer from TCE you might think there’s an upside. A long-awaited clear out of rotten wood. A way to make savings on employee costs. A chance for re-organising a dysfunctional department. And yes, all those can be somewhat true.
But whenever you lose a team member there are costs, apart from the obvious ones of losing their production and having to recruit and train a replacement. And these costs far outweigh the benefits.
And as you lose more and more from a team you also risk the engagement and morale of all of their former colleagues. In fact, that’s the greatest risk of the Turnover Contagion Effect – that it spreads further.
As our recent White Paper says (2), “… failing to monitor and moderate turnover can result in leaver behaviour becoming a cultural mainstay of a particular role type, or an accepted norm in the business as a whole.”
Like most infectious diseases, TCE is easier to prevent than it is to cure. But if you do find that you’re already suffering from TCE, there are a few dos and don’ts.
Reduce Social Communication
It’s certainly NOT effective to apply one commentator’s suggestion of trying to “…combat the social environment that stimulates turnover”.
That social side of work may be spreading the contagion, but it’s also the foundation of the strong sense of belonging to a business and a community that encourages people to stay.
Trying to move desks further apart, ban Tweets and Facebook posts or prevent canteen gossip will cause more problems than it solves.
Instead, it may be more productive to consider the root cause of the lack of organisational commitment.
You should be asking:
But as mentioned, it’s easier to prevent than cure, so better still is to start at the beginning.
Think about who you hire and how you look after them when they start work.
Are you hiring people who align well with your company culture and values? Are you hiring people with the personality and behavioural traits that make them more likely to stay and perform in your company?
If you’re unsure, that’s where you should start. Try to find out what makes people stay with your organisation. What do your long tenure employees have in common? With your newfound knowledge of your ideal candidate, identify the applicants that fit the bill and prioritise them in your shortlist.
This may sound like a difficult task, but nowadays there are even analytics and technology solutions that can do this for you.
Once you’ve found the right people you still need to look after them and help them commit to your organisation. Introducing each new hire to your company in a motivating induction
process, where they get to know other workers, will give them a strong start.
As they become truly embedded they’re your best hope for preventing future outbreaks of Turnover Contagion.
At PredictiveHire we help you find your shortlist of candidates who are more likely to stay in your specific business. We combine your data with our workforce and data science to scientifically screen your applicants and predict who is more likely to succeed. And that can also include how well those candidates will fit into your team, your organisation and your community.
(1) Felps et al. “TURNOVER CONTAGION: HOW COWORKERS’ JOB EMBEDDEDNESS AND JOB SEARCH BEHAVIORS INFLUENCE QUITTING” © Academy of Management Journal 2009, Vol. 52, No. 3, 545–561
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