Reducing employee turnover should always be a goal of a small business owner. And now more than ever. In December, Right Management, a management firm based in Philadelphia, released a survey of 1,400 North American workers citing that a whopping 84 percent of participants intended to actively seek new jobs in 2011, up from 60 percent in 2010.
“Employee satisfaction is at an all-time low,” says Jon Picoult, founder and principal at Watermark Consulting, a business advisory in Simsbury, Connecticut. “Over the last few years, if people weren’t laid off, they were afraid of being laid off. This environment has resulted in a really depressed workforce ready to find something new.”
This collective discontent is something business owners need to be aware of. A employee turnover storm is brewing, according to Daren Fristoe, president of The Fristoe Group in Kansas City, Missouri.
“The turnover storm is just about to happen,” he says. “I think the push will start in mid-March and carry through the summer. As the economy warms and the weather warms, things will happen. You are going to see a lot of people leaving their jobs.”
What can you do? First, evaluate your organization to see if you may susceptible to the incoming storm.
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This starts with a frank inspection of your turnover statistics. “If you are running a small businesses and seeing that your turnover is high or picking up, that should be a red flag,” Picoult says. “But even if your turnover hasn’t picked up, you might still have a problem brewing.”
How do you find out if there is discontent bubbling under the surface? Take a close look at your employees. “Are they exhibiting a lack of volunteerism, not waiting to take on new assignments or opportunities? They might just be biding their time until something else comes along,” Picoult notes.
Another red flag: tardiness. He says it's never a good sign if people are trying to shave off a few minutes here and there.
Also consider the number of employee referrals you’ve received in the past year. “If your people are never referring employee candidates to you, what do you think that says?” Picoult asks.
Keeping employees happy
After a careful investigation into your business, it’s a good idea to make sure your employees are happy in their current positions. Fristoe recommends cross training as a way to build morale and skill sets within an organization. Small business owners can hold in-office training seminars for free. “If you have an employee that is a master at Excel, for example, task them with teaching a course to the other members of the team,” Fristoe suggests. “They can add that activity to their resume and it creates a better product for everyone.”
Another way to increase employee satisfaction is to “open the feedback faucet,” Picoult says. “Solicit people’s input. Go to your employee and ask them what they think is the customer’s greatest annoyance, their greatest annoyance, and how we can remove those things. If people see that their opinions count and are acted upon, that is a huge positive.”
Try not to think of the impending storm as all doom and gloom. Small business owners can instead consider it an opportunity.
“While they [small business owners] are subject to a risk of a turnover spike, there has been a larger dislocation in the larger corporation arena,” Picoult says. “Bottom line? There is an opportunity for small businesses to grab talent from larger companies that they may not have had access to in the past.”