How the Best Leaders Reduce Turnover and Increase Engagement

“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” Andy Stanley

At the prospect of finding more satisfying work and/or better pay, 3.4 million people quit their jobs in April 2018. In fact, according to Gallup, 51% of employees are actively looking for new jobs or watching for new job openings. You may be saying to yourself, “Our employees are not in that percentage…or are they?”

Organizations need to anticipate the risk of losing their top talent as well as calculate the high cost of employee turnover. Recent estimates suggest that turnover costs companies 1.2 to 2 times an employee’s annual salary. Yet, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Whenever, someone quits their job, there is also a significant cost to those who must cover their workload, especially since recruiting and onboarding new employees takes time (often 9 months to have a fully functioning replacement).

Now more than ever it is important for leaders to build a highly engaged team and directly discuss opportunities for advancement. Engaged employees make the difference between a company that performs and competes well and one that does not.

What is a leader to do? Many leaders are themselves experiencing work overload caused by employee turnover and poor employee engagement. They often bristle at the request to do more than they are already doing. We need to ask the question: Are leaders focusing on what is most important? Below are three suggestions that translate into higher employee engagement and less attrition.

Listen
At the heart of employee engagement is listening…face to face. Too many companies believe that administering an employee engagement survey demonstrates that they are listening. Unfortunately, most employee surveys have the opposite effect and are attached to company metrics rather than helping employees feel heard. When topics are addressed months after the fact rather than immediately, it’s too late. The best listening leaders stay curious throughout the year about what employees are thinking and feeling. They provide ways to listen and learn regularly to gather information and help protect themselves from employee exit surprises. (Download a list of Listening Leader Behaviors to begin using today).

Demonstrate Empathy
The best listeners also have an ability to anticipate how others will experience and/or react to situations and organizational change. Yet, demonstrating empathy is more than understanding another person’s point of view and seeing the world through their eyes. The best leaders learn how to adapt their approach and messages to needs of their listeners. (Note: Many clients use our Listener Preference Profile to gain a better understanding of how to approach others who listen differently.) Consider what matters most to them, not to you, before communicating a change. For example, you may be most interested in the impact of the change on your stock options while an employee may be focused on whether or not they’ll have future growth opportunities or even a job!

Give Feedback
All generations of workers value feedback and without it become disengaged. According to Hubspot’s latest research, 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once per week. And, in those companies who offer regular employee feedback, they have 14.9% lower turnover rates. You might be wondering what this type of feedback looks like. Employees want to know how they’re doing – what is working (strengths) and what could work better (areas for improvement or to improve success). Especially for those who are new to the company or in a new role, most employees want to know if they’re on the right track. Feedback is especially important when improvement is needed, but high performers crave reinforcement, too. Leaders learn how to adapt their feedback so it can be heard and applied by their diverse workforce.

Listening leaders make the difference between engaged employees and those who leave. For more suggestions on how to build your Listening Leader capabilities, read previous listening posts, checkout our Listen Up materials or attend a Listening Leader workshop.

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