New ideas and new energy are essential for organisations to perform at their best. Small but steady turnover of employees offers the opportunity to let go of those who aren’t a good fit or are low performers, creating space for new employees with fresh thinking and skills. But it’s a fine line. Too much turnover can be disruptive – and not in a good way – with loss of revenue and profits.

It seems many organisations are finding themselves on the wrong side of the turnover ledger, with a recent report from the Australian Human Resources Institute finding that close to 60% of HR practitioners think that employee turnover in their organisations is too high.

In today’s talent market, finding suitably skilled employees is becoming more challenging and as the full effects of the talent crunch are felt, businesses need to do everything they can to retain their best employees and manage their turnover. But even in challenging conditions, turnover can be limited. By tapping into your employees’ engagement, organisations can entice their people to stay while reaping the rewards of a highly engaged workforce.

The three paths of disengagement

The reasons that lead to employees to become disengaged are many and varied, depending on the individuals themselves. In contrast, what happens next is easy to predict. Our research shows that once employees become disengaged they typically follow one of three paths:

  1. They leave the company within 12 to 24 months.
  2. They simply give up trying.
  3. They work things out with their manager and become re-engaged. 

Two of these paths clearly lead into unwanted territory. The first is a major trigger for the turnover that organisations largely want to avoid. Often it’s the organisation’s most talented people who will slip down this path – they’re the ones who are most sensitive to barriers and the most likely to easily find employment elsewhere.

Employees who take the second path may well stay, but their influence won’t be positive. These employees can become a source of negativity infecting the broader team.

It’s the third path that we want to focus on. Second only to employees remaining engaged in the first place, path number three offers a chance of redemption for the individual and the organisation.  

Five key considerations to keep your talent on the right path

The third path only becomes an option when leaders are able to spot frustrated employees and intervene before it’s too late. This can be challenging, with many employees continuing to do their jobs adequately, even well, perhaps only admitting discontent in an exit interview.

Our analysis of employee opinion data identifies the five key work environment factors that differentiate “stayers” (those committed to the company for more than two years) from “leavers” (those planning to leave in two years or less). Leaders need to be prepared to talk to their people about what these five areas mean to them individually. It’s these conversations that are critical for maintaining and, where necessary, reigniting engagement.

  •     Playing for a winner: Employees need to know that the organisation is well led and headed in the right direction.
  •     Somewhere to go if I stay: Employees – particularly millennial – need to have a positive view of their opportunities to learn and grow with the organisation.
  •     A fair exchange: Employees need to know they are valued as individuals and see a balance between rewards and contributions.
  •     A sense of control and influence: Employees want authority that matches their responsibilities and an opportunity to shape how work is done.
  •     Support for success: Employees want efficient work processes and collaborative support from co-workers to allow them to perform at their best.

To learn more about how high engagement companies enjoy outstanding talent retention and attraction, productivity, safety and customer experience outcomes, read Winning with Enthusiasm.

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About Contributor

Nadhisha Piyasena is a Client Director for Korn Ferry Advisory, Australia. He works with clients to solve people challenges that get in the way of business performance. He focuses on thinking broadly, commercially, and critically to provide evidence-based and practical solutions that add noticeable value to organisations in the areas of leadership development, employee engagement and talent management.