Workplace Trends

As “quits” increase, time to revisit and revitalize engagement strategies

By Kristen Leverone on September 11, 2012

In July the “quits” rate—a measure of an employee’s ability to voluntarily change jobs—rose in the private sector, up from June and up over last year.  Is this the beginning of a trend? Are more employees developing the confidence needed to take risks and change jobs?

Experience indicates that when the economy is faltering, most employed workers hold on to their jobs even though they could be less-than-ideal fits, making calculated decisions to keep their heads down and plug away until the economy bounces back. Now, as the economy continues to slowly improve, employees may begin to feel they’ve weathered the storm and can begin to put out feelers for something new. This is especially true for younger employees who may not have as much invested in an organization and/or position as a more experienced worker.

The latest Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey—or JOLTS—from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a quits rate of 2.1% in the private sector in July 2012, up from 1.9% in June. The number of quits rose to 2.3 million in July 2012 from 2.1 million in June, and up from 1.8 million at the end of the recession in June 2009.  However, it still remains far below the 2.9 million recorded at the beginning of the recession in December 2007.

Two regions—the South and West—experienced an increase in the quits rate over the month (the South increased from 2.0% in June 2012 to 2.3% in July 2012 and the West  increased from 1.6% in June 2012 to 1.9% in July 2012).  The Northwest and Midwest reported no change in quits rate.  Industries reporting increases in quits over the month include professional and business services, real estate, construction, and leisure and hospitality.

We anticipate the number of quits will continue to rise as the economy improves. Consequently, now is the time to examine your company’s engagement initiatives. What is your organization doing to retain your key talent—your best and brightest? Here are some suggestions on where to start:

  • Educate managers on why individuals leave organizations, the cost of this lost talent, and the critical role that managers play in developing and retaining key employees. If you’re not monitoring and evaluating turnover statistics, you’ll find it difficult to develop strategies to counteract an exodus of employees.
  • Invest in career development. This is especially critical to retain your younger employees. According to the BLS, on average, Gen Y employees only remain employed at a company for a year-and-a-half.   There is a perception that younger workers are more impatient so organizations must offer career development opportunities to keep them interested, challenged and engaged. Employees without career options may become complacent and look elsewhere for advancement
  • Train managers on how to coach team members to keep them motivated and aligned with the mission and strategies of the organization. Help managers learn and develop the skills and confidence to identify, develop and retain talent. Institute a process to assist managers in the development of action plans for retaining critical team members.
  • Recognize and reward performance. Acknowledge efforts and success. Today’s employees seek advancement, so reward high performers with new projects that expand their skills and play to their strengths.
  • Offer competitive salaries and benefits packages. Research your competitors and salary/benefits in your region to see how your organization stacks up. Competitive salaries and benefits will not only help retain high performers, but it will aid in attracting the market’s best talent.
  • Foster a company culture with values, beliefs and norms that promote innovation, transparency and development. Make your employees feel valued and connected to the larger mission and strategy of the organization.

Prepare your organization now to weather the wave of “quits” anticipated as economic conditions strengthen. Don’t let your company’s productivity, innovation and future fall victim to the recovery.

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