(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
When a small business loses a key employee, it can be devastating. So here’s a terrifying thought: imagine losing two-thirds of your people.
That’s the warning from a new study issued by Achievers, a firm that provides an employee voice and recognition solution to aid employee performance. The annual study, which included responses from almost 1,200 employees across all genders and generations in North America – and whose largest representation (29%) was from companies under 50 employees – found that only one-third of employees surveyed planned to stay at their jobs in 2020, compared with 47% who said the same last year.
“Our data shows a substantial portion of today’s workforce already has one foot out the door,” said Natalie Baumgartner, the company’s chief workforce scientist.
Losing an employee – particularly one that provides key functions – really can be devastating to a small business. It puts stress on the remaining people and causes disruptions, particularly when trying to find a suitable replacement in this era of low unemployment and intense competition from larger organizations offering more lucrative compensation and benefits.
So what can a small business owner do? The findings from the Achievers study give a very strong hint. Most of us do a poor job of listening, engaging and giving feedback.
For example, even though 99% of the workers surveyed said they were more likely to stay at a company that takes and acts on feedback, a whopping 67% of them said that their employers were either “horrible” or just “OK” at doing so. Eight-two per cent of the employees surveyed “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that they wish they received more recognition at work, and another 30% of employees feel “not very” or “not at all” valued by superiors. These are not good numbers.
Could this be a generational thing? Perhaps.
Many of today’s younger workers – who make up almost half of the US workforce – grew up in a world of diplomas for graduating fourth grade, likes for Facebook comments, rewards for behaving well at parties and even trophies when their little league teams finished last. But that’s not their fault. It’s just the reality of how they were raised. In fact, I would argue it’s made them a better generation. But it’s also a generation that wants to be heard and wants to work for bosses that respect their feedback.
The real fault for creating this environment lies squarely at the feet of business owners. People like me who are busy, self-absorbed and stressed running businesses and who frequently forget or just don’t have the time to have a beer, shoot some hoops or even chat about TV shows with our employees, let alone talk about how they’re doing in their lives and at their jobs. Many of us are also stuck in the old-school ways of annual performance reviews (which we also sometimes conveniently “forget” to do) that are outdated for a new generation of workers that demands – and deserves – more frequent conversations.
I’m not sure that two-thirds of my employees are going to leave my firm this year and I sincerely hope not. But I do get that many workers aren’t getting the feedback they want – or deserve – from their employers. Given that this is a great labor market, it wouldn’t surprise me to see more turnover this year.
“Employers must take immediate action to reverse these feelings of underappreciation and disengagement,” Baumgartner warned. “If they don’t, the risk of turnover and underperformance in 2020 is immense.” She’s right.