I grabbed a bag of pretzels, ran a block down the street with tears streaming down my face and took refuge under a neighbor’s tree. Most kids try to run away at some point when things get too stressful. Fortunately for their development, most kids end up having to stick around and learn how to deal with their problems instead of running from them. Adults, on the other hand, actually can run away.
When work is overwhelming, relationships with coworkers are strained, or a lame office policy is making people seethe quietly, employees can just pack up and run away. And they do. In fact, 40 percent of employees say that burnout leads them to job hunt—and that’s not great for your employee retention. You’ve got to be proactive about letting employees know that the company is willing to help when things are getting to be too much. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Frequent Check-Ins: I’m not talking about traditional performance reviews—only 4 percent of employees say that’s the best way to motivate and engage them. I’m talking about managing people. Check-in to see if employees are happy and engaged. And when you do find problems, you’ll catch them early and fix them before your employee starts throwing their belongings into a knapsack and hitchhiking to the company down the road.
Generous Vacation Policies: If employees are able to ditch the office without entirely ditching their jobs, they’ll be able to come back with more focus—45 percent of employees say they come back from vacation feeling more rested, rejuvenated and reconnected. Give enough time for employees to get away and relax for a bit. And when they’re on vacation, don’t bug them. Let them disconnect; otherwise, their vacation won’t fulfill its purpose and it won’t be long until they’re looking to take a permanent vacation from your office.
Cultural Values: People run when they feel like overcoming an obstacle is either impossible or too difficult. Have cultural values in place that give hope during difficult situations and even prevent them. But don’t just have values; refer to them often so they are a large part of your employees’ experience. For example, BambooHR’s values include: Be Open and Assume the Best. Employees are encouraged to be open with their managers about any issues they’re encountering as well as any suggestions they have for their positions and the company. This enables HR and managers to overcome problems before they become deal breakers. Assuming the Best is a great value for keeping drama between coworkers down. I’ve been reminded to do it, and I’ve reminded others to do it too. We’re all on the same team doing the best we can, and our company value reminds us of that. Have values that will remind your employees what your company stands for. The culture created by values keeps work from becoming toxic, which keeps your employees from getting sick of their job.
Development: Have you ever seen a dog chained to a post? The poor pup is pulling hard, trying to get loose, but he’s stuck. What do you think will happen the minute Sparky is able to break the chain or get loose? He’ll be long gone. Your employees are the same way: Chain them somewhere they don’t want to be and they’ll bolt the first chance they get (and research supports this hypothesis). Instead, train and develop your employees so they can get to where they want to be without straying from your company.
Mediation: There are a few outcomes when relationships at work are hurt: people shove it under the rug and secretly (or not so secretly) loathe each other, people work it out or people leave. You want them to work it out, but sometimes they won’t do it on their own. Enter: Mediation. Sometimes all it takes to have a productive outcome from an argument is an objective HR person sit down with the feuding coworkers to help them figure stuff out. In fact, 82 percent of managers who have used mediation to resolve workplace conflict said it resolved the issues either completely or partially. Giving employees a good option for working things out can keep coworker wars from making one employee exile themselves from the company.
I trudged back to my parents’ house after about 45 minutes of being a runaway. I figured my parents had learned their lesson, and my pretzels had run out. Your runaway employees won’t be so forgiving. Once they decide to pack up, they probably won’t be back. Keep them around by checking in with them frequently, letting them take some time off, having values that keep your culture positive, providing mediation when necessary and development to keep them happy in their role.