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The Mass Exodus (How to not let the 17-year High Quit Rate Affect Your Business)


Summary: This article describes how to not fall prey to a strong workforce market.

The Mass Exodus (How to not let the 17-year High Quit Rate Affect Your Business)
  • Recently, U.S. job quit rates have hit a 17-year high.
  • While that can signal many things within the jobs sector, particularly during a strong employment market, the 17-year high has to make employers and business managers nervous.
  • With that said, many employers have begun to take specific actions designed to keep their employees.
  • Find out three of those most effective actions in this article.

A disturbing trend has developed within the jobs sector in the last few years in which the tables have turned on business operators to now be in favor of employees. In fact, so much influence over day-to-day work has been put in the hands of employees, that U.S. job quit rate has hit a 17-year high.

Chalk up this so-called “reversal of fortune” to a strong jobs market reflective of what some financial experts swear is a bulletproof economy where more workers have the ability to call their own shots, which can also include quitting their jobs altogether.

While this trend has had some effect on businesses across the board from small through medium to large, the doomsday events of minor and major companies shuttering their doors due to a worker shortage has not yet become commonplace.

But give it time, some economists have said, citing that depending upon their market strength some businesses may not last much longer under today’s worker-less work conditions.

Sure, more than a few businesses have cut back their production due to the worker shortage, while others have simply shut their doors. Those entities that are still open are potentially the smarter businesses who realize it is their heads – not their employees’ heads – that for once are on today’s chopping block.

And if that weren’t enough, a workplace shift is occurring in which employees have begun to quit their jobs with little more than a moment’s notice; they simply up and leave, realizing their value keenly out values their employment.

Baby Boomers must be turning in their retirement graves while millennials are simply sitting on the sidelines, slapping their knees in hilarity. The revolution in some minds has finally occurred, and now the owners are the ones kneeling on the ground, their hands tightly clasped in mercy.

Thing is, some businesses have withstood this trend. Some, to be sure, have no problem with what is now seen as a worker retention issue within American businesses.

Who are those businesses and what are they doing to keep their employees on the job are actions we will now explore.

Those Who Quit vs. Those Who Want to Stay Open

It seems as if the largest challenge to today’s business owners and managers is keeping people on staff. Granted, some employers take their employees for granted, figuring there is always someone else out in the job market that can fill the company’s latest vacancy.

But “There’s always a replacement,” as a philosophy works less on a near daily because, in all honesty, there may no longer be a replacement in the work world, and even if there is, the financial outlay to bring that person up to speed can cost exponentially more in time spent on training and possibly a salary increase as the new person may feel they are worth a higher wage.

Of course, there are implications for an employee to believe the grass is always greener at some other job; employees who do skip around from job to job should realize that this type of work behavior has a tendency to catch up with a person either through their resume revealing multiple jobs within a short period of time, or through background checks that may show the worker’s tendency to not stick with one position for very long.

But even with that, good workers who are dedicated and loyal do still exist, and it is up to you to keep them while at the same time, temper the allure of another company offering a better employment opportunity.

Steps to Take to Keep Your Employees Safe from being Lured Away

Author Ben Fanning writes in Inc. that there are three essential steps employers can take to keep their best employees happy and dedicated to their jobs.

Step 1: Identify the root cause for those who leave and also for those who stay

Why do some employees leave their jobs, and why do other employees stay? For you as a manager or employer, it is critical that you determine the root cause of employee turnover before you take any type of action.

For those employees who do leave, many businesses adopt exit interviews to determine why those employees have quit. However, it’s the employees who stay that become the real target of interest.

Ask yourself why they stay. Find out what you provide to them that makes them want to come back five-days-a-week for months or even years.

A real opportunity can be found here, which can then be applied to other new and existing employees.

An executive Fanning interviewed for his article, Jean-François Goldstyn, Chief Learning Officer at SQS Software Quality Systems who has an HR background and long tenure at Harvard Business Publishing, suggests one of the most proactive ways to execute this first step is through stay interviews, which are the polar opposite of exit interviews.

These interviews can uncover the reasons your top talent stays at your company, so you can effectively craft a strategy to retain your best and brightest.

Another bonus Goldstyn sees in stay interviews is that they allow you to do early detection of at-risk talent. That is talent that may feel underappreciated and therefore at risk to quit their job.

In the end, as Goldstyn suggests, scheduling only a few stay interviews with your best employees can go a long way in showing them you care.

For example, in a stay interview, you can use questions such as:
  1. If you were contacted by a recruiter who offers the same pay and title at a different company, what are the main factors why you would stay committed to your current job? 
  2. What elements of your job would you like to increase? What elements would you miss if you took another job? 
  3. What would you like to decrease? What factors make you sometimes dread coming into work?
Step 2: Implement a flexible approach based on the frustration of the employee

Once you identify the root causes for who leaves and who stays, you can begin to categorize and select an approach to address the biggest factors.

Doing this allows you to vary your approach based on the employees' main sources of frustration. Those can be anything from:
  1. Inadequate pay
  2. Near abusive work hours
  3. No room for worker improvement
  4. Lack of benefits
  5. Lack of a work-life balance
  6. Etc.

Although to some employers the above may seem as if employees are asking for the moon, when indeed, they aren’t requesting anything too far out of bounds.

In fact, these three possible areas of focus are recommended to employers to improve employee retention:
  1. Lack of career opportunities: Goldstyn mentions “shadowing or job rotation.” This gives employees an opportunity to learn about a different area of the company and expand their purview beyond the current job. This can reinvigorate their interest in the organization. 
  2. More money: Employers need to review how their employees are adding value in their current position, as well as if they’re ready to take things to the next level. Goldstyn suggests employers should add job sculpting and new responsibilities as well as higher targets to an employee’s day-to-day curriculum. Employers should collaborate with their employees to how they add more value today than they did previously throughout their employment. Explain to your employees that improvement, in short, can lead to higher paying opportunities within the organization. You can also look beyond money and identify other forms of compensation like a more flexible schedule or additional training in an interest area. 
  3. Don't like their boss: One of the most common reasons for quitting is that an employee doesn't like their boss. As a boss yourself, you first need to find out if this scenario is prevalent in your own business, and if so, equip your employees with strategies to deal with you in the event you become in any way unreasonable. Explain to them that not everything will always be rosy within the working environment, and that you hold the responsibility of maintaining a productive atmosphere.  Identify a different reporting structure among your newest and most senior employees. Pair the newbies with mentors. Of course, changing the reporting structure isn't always possible; but when you at least have the conversation it can generate more goodwill and prevent your best employees from taking that next call from a headhunter.
Step 3: Give Your Time to Your Most Valuable Employees

At first, this may seem counterintuitive toward your efforts to keep all your employees. But the fact is, to run a strong business, good employers and managers have to face facts that of all their employees, some are better than others. And it’s these others that can more readily be relied on than the mediocre employees. Simply put, it’s just a fact of business.

At the same time, as Fanning’s article outlines, CEOs have to be more hands on. Business owners and managers need to do more than get involved in a workplace situation once a problem (or problems) arises.

An important employee retention strategy for all business managers is to allocate a portion of their time to their best employees. Of course, who is “best” can lead to conflict, so as an initial effort to allocate time to your best employees it is wise to first meet with all of your employees to demonstrate the fairness you hold toward everyone who works for you.

As Goldstyn suggests, "Getting your senior leaders involved with coaching at-risk talent,” might at first cause some clashes, but at the same time, conflict can actively identify the so-so employees who may not be in line with your company’s best interests.

The bottom line may be that once a senior leader shows an interest in an employee, it can make a big difference to that employee. But more importantly for any business is that the most trusted and reliable employees need to stay onboard.


Good reliable employees are becoming harder to find these days. Blame the newer age generations and their increasingly ambivalent attitudes toward work, or the fact that too many, if not all business owners and managers, are looked at as unfair and dishonest. Whatever the case may be, little can be done or offered to break these trends throughout the business world.

Remain both concerned and vigilant, particularly as your best employees are bombarded by a strong job market that seems to continually present better opportunities. Demonstrate your need for them by keeping them within the loop of not just your business, its direction and goals, but your role as the business owner and/or manager.

In this fleeting working world where a strong job market can fluctuate in a very short time, you and your employees will need each other more so than ever.

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