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About 18 months ago I wrote a piece for Real Business on staff turnover. I was helping a client with their recruitment and finding it challenging, not for lack of candidates, but for quality.  Good quality candidates were akin to the proverbial gold-dust.

I still look for a good work record, especially for more senior posts.  I want to find candidates whose CV demonstrates that they are making conscious, well-informed choices on their careers that are likely to stay and help my client make their growth plans reality.  Yet a cv with serious job stability is becoming a rarity.

Job hopping has become the norm.  At that point, figures report that between the ages of 18 and 48, people now have an average of 11.7 jobs, an average of two and a half years.  In reality, this is a rarity, with the majority of candidates I have been looking at averaging between six months and a year.

Part of the high staff turnover is attributed to people’s desire to acquire as many skills as possible to protect their incomes in an uncertain world.    But there are other causes.    I was seeing less appreciation for employment and getting a local job was a thing of the past.

Figures released by the office stationery giant, Staples, were showing 97% of people say they are frustrated at work.   Nearly a quarter admit to looking at job ads when they are bored and an incredible 37% say they are bored and frustrated all over again in the new job in less than six months.

HR specialists will tell you that you need to pay salary levels where the money is not an issue.  While the glitter of more money may make people job hop, money does not stop people feeling bored and frustrated and ensure you have low staff turnover.

Boredom at work, such as a major factor in staff turnover, stems from many things.  The basic employment contract is an exchange of money for time.   Selling our time may mean that our basic financial needs are taken care of, but it does not make us feel we are fulfilling any useful purpose.  We rarely see the link of what we do to final outcomes on the business or our own lives.    

For the self-employed, it is very different.  We work till the job is done and then we can stop.  If we do well, we see tangible results in happy customers and more work.  It is almost impossible to ensure a team member gets that level of satisfaction and connection to the outcome.

The next issue is that few people chose their jobs out of genuine interest in the subject.  They are attracted by salary, by title, by convenience or because their friends work there.  They may have entirely false conceptions of what the job really involves, or perhaps how glamorous it is.  So they end up disinterested and disillusioned, and you end up with the perpetuation of your staff turnover problems.

Too often, on arrival, they find themselves earning a living but not feeling what they are doing is worthwhile and they feel under-valued.  Perhaps the funding isn’t there to keep them motivated by providing learning opportunities to stimulate their engagement.  Breaks become easily filled with comparing notes of how dreadful things are with other equally bored people.

Staff turnover and low productivity

Both have the same root causes. Unfulfilled people end up feeling lost, confused, and altogether disappointed in their new jobs.  They lose their pride in their work and become stressed.  They start coming to work late, drinking more, eating more unhealthy foods.  The more bored they are, the less effort they make, and the more bored they become.  As their negativity cycle spins faster, so do the risks of mental health issues.

Psychologists argue that boredom is a normal human state and arguably a good and necessary one. It acts as a natural trigger for change, causing us to seek new stimulation.  Listening to interviews over the years, undoubtedly the common themes are frustration, neglect, stagnation, and boredom, all part of the same cycle. But how quickly does that set in? Too quick means companies with staff turnover issues.

The Staples report reports a staggering 89% saying they regularly think about switching jobs, causing employers to leap in with office makeovers, and ever higher HR spends in an attempt to keep their team happy.

When faced with dissatisfaction at work, we believe the solution lies in changing the job.   And are then amazed, that like any quick fix, the novelty wears off fast and we are back looking for a new quick fix.

A lot of change is good.  Of course, people do need to change their jobs for one reason or another as they and their needs change, or indeed the company does.  And it is great that we live in a society where most of us at least have that option.   But as our expectations of perfection, 100% of the time in every area of our lives, increases unhappiness.

As for companies, while a certain amount of a team can be short term, a nucleus needs to believe and plan to be there for the long haul, to give the continuity and stability essential for survival so high staff turnover can be a massive problem.  Finding those people, in this era of such high staff turnover, has become one of the biggest challenges for any business owner.

With COVID-19, we are seeing the biggest shift in the job market possibly ever. We have enforced staff turnover, caused by the number of redundancies that are and will happen. We have the shift towards home working which will mean that people will have to take responsibility for their productivity and their happiness whatever job they are in. Certain skills will be in demand and other people will find their talents redundant.

Will it be a wake-up call or will we see higher still staff turnover? It will be interesting to watch.


Real Business

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