Last year, Gallup published the third iteration of its State of the American Workplace report, an in-depth study created to help business leaders optimize their hiring, engagement, and performance strategies.
Collecting data from more than 195,000 U.S. employees, Gallup scientists asked employees to indicate the top reasons they would consider leaving their firms for a different organization. What floated to the top can be summarized in one distinct sentence:
Their work doesn’t have meaning and purpose.
To give managers some lucid insight, when your employees don’t get to do what they do best regularly, they exit early; having work with purpose is what workers value most.
Couple that with the fact that only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace right now, and it should come as no surprise that, according to Gallup’s report, 51 percent of American workers are actively looking for a different job or watching for openings right now.
“Employees feel rather indifferent about their job and the work they are being asked to do. Organizations are not giving them compelling reasons to stay,” states the report.
Fixing the problem today.
Steve Taylor, writing for Psychology Today, states, “The need for purpose is one the defining characteristics of human beings. Human beings crave purpose, and suffer serious psychological difficulties when we don’t have it. Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.”
That’s an alarming quote, since most of us spend the majority of our awake time at work. To close the wide gap between work and lack of purpose, Gallup says employees will do their best by integrating their biggest strengths: talent (the natural capacity for excellence); skills (what they can do); and knowledge (what they know).
People love to use their unique talents, skills, and knowledge, but conventional managers typically lack the capacity to know how to create the environment for this to take place.
Let’s practically illustrate what truly engaging and human-centered leaders do differently to keep their employees from jumping ship.
1. They get to know their people to discover their strengths.
This is the most obvious first step for all managers, whatever their level: finding out the talents, skills, and knowledge of their employees. Great leaders will leverage close relationships with employees by finding out what their strengths are and bringing out the best in their employees. Once they truly understand their employees’ God-given talents, they’ll begin to craft and assign meaningful work that goes beyond a static job description.
2. They match their employees’ roles to their strengths.
To get employees to “do what I do best” along with a sense of purpose, managers must match the right person with the right role. Gallup states that “when employees are a mismatch for their role and organization, they often struggle to succeed or become bored and restless.” Workers want roles that allow them to make the most of their strengths.
3. They help them find another job inside the company.
4. They practice the “stay interview” method.
We’ve all heard of the traditional exit-interview questions once an employee quits. Research found that what is shared in these exit interviews is seldom used to improve the organization–it’s an obsolete formality. Great leaders, on the other hand, ask stay-interview questions like: What do you like about your job? What don’t you like about your job? What work are you interested in doing? Do you feel your strengths are being used to their full potential? What would give you more purpose in your role? These are the types of future-focused questions that will spark discussions about engaging and retaining your top performers before they emotionally check out and start looking for other opportunities.