Nearly 5.1 million Americans quit their jobs or were laid off in December, according to a U.S. News & World Report article. That made December the most significant month for American job separations since 2008. With layoffs lulled to a 13-month low, the extreme majority of those several million members of the workforce left their jobs voluntarily. They wanted out.
It’s the sign of a vivacious labor market. Economists interpret a rise in resignations as a representation of worker confidence. When this many people are quitting, it’s apparent they know they won’t be out of a job for long, if for any time at all.
The thriving job market presents a challenge to employers. When employees have so many options, any inadequacy on the part of their company can be motivation to leave it.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports American wages have risen in recent months — an indication employers are adjusting their offerings to remain competitive. But money isn’t the only thing employees are looking for.
Execu|Search’s 2016 Hiring Outlook showed a disparity between what employers thought candidates wanted out of a job and what prospective employees were actually looking for. While employers thought improved wages were the answer, the study concluded that employees are more interested in career growth. More than half of prospective candidates said opportunities for professional development were priority.
More than ever, people are aspiring to run their own enterprises. Author Melissa Llarena of Career Outcomes Matter reported that 54 percent of millennials aspire to become their own bosses. It’s a stark contrast to her reported 21 percent of baby boomers. This entrepreneurial spirit, combined with a flourishing job market is making it harder than ever to keep good employees around.
So what are employers to do? Former Forbes contributor Alan Hall suggests establishing what he calls an employee-focused culture.
Here are his top three recommendations for how your company’s leaders can ensure employees don’t call it quits any time soon:
1. Be a source of empowerment.
A recent study by Accenture found that 31 percent of employees wanting to leave their jobs were motivated by a lack of workplace empowerment. Employees want to feel they are respected and seen as competent. Allowing workers to accomplish tasks with fewer approvals and a smaller degree of intervention allows that entrepreneurial spirit to work in their company’s favor. As Forbes contributor Victor Lipman writes, “when management is persistently over-involved in unproductive ways, it can quickly become a retention issue.” Enabling employees to break the mold and address challenges in new ways is highly fulfilling, for a company, and its people, alike.
2. Be trustworthy.
Trustworthiness does not happen overnight. Leaders earn it over time based on positive personal attitudes, beliefs and behaviors toward others. Managers deserving of trust are dependable, forthright, and ethical. They exhibit an openness and transparency in interpersonal relationships and create an environment in which employees feel comfortable sharing concerns and working to improve their workplace as a whole. Conversely, employees flee and generate negative politics when managers are unfair, dishonest,and deceptive.
3. Be appreciative.
Accenture’s study found a lack of validation to be even more troubling to employees than a lack empowerment. Forty-three percent of those interviewed cited being under recognized in the workplace. An October employee retention report also noted that when employees were asked “about the amount of appreciation and recognition that they get from their peers, those citing low levels of recognition were 11 percent less likely to plan on staying put.”
Positive feedback on job performance is vital to employees. Making a point to appreciate workers when their efforts are exemplary sends a clear message they are valued and appreciated while motivating others. When employees are recognized for jobs well done, especially in front of peers, job satisfaction and engagement significantly increase. When people sense they are needed, they tend to be even more industrious. Genuine praise is a powerful motivator.
Perhaps now more than ever, people leave managers, not companies — they can afford to. Establishing a workplace environment conducive to employee creativity and advancement isn’t just good for them. It’s good for the business.
Josie Gereszek is a senior multimedia journalism major who enjoys complaining, craft beer and ‘80s pop music. She is editor-in-chief of MSUM’s student newspaper, The Advocate, which you can check out here.