Why your employee retention problem isn't what you think it is

“What do we do about our employee retention problem?”.

I’ve heard this a lot recently - from CEOs, Talent & Culture Leads, and Department Leads alike. Perhaps you’ve heard this question too. Perhaps you’ve asked it.

I wonder if the crux of this isn’t about finding the right answer; it’s asking the wrong question.

Meditation expert Jon Kabat Zinn was working with a man whose wife had recently left him. This husband was baffled at why she’d left so suddenly. One day it had just… happened.

Kabat-Zinn took a beat before asking: “ah - so that was the first symptom…?”.

None of us are married to our companies (although a handful of particularly unscrupulous bosses may wish otherwise) - but as with that separated couple, employee retention issues are a lagging indicator that something else is going on.

So rather than an employee retention problem, perhaps you have an employee engagement problem.

Many people are feeling boxed in and restricted at work. They’re seeking space to grow and explore. To have chances to collaborate and be part of the conversation - to become part of the process. To get to know the others, and to make a contribution that mattes.

A lot of people would simply like to feel seen and heard.

And if they’re not, they’ll leave. It may feel sudden.

But it almost definitely wasn’t the first symptom.


image via NPR