How to Create Collaboration and Prepare for a Turnover Tsunami

TeamStrength member companies will find competition for team members even tougher post-covid. Most members are currently facing recruiting challenges, and higher turnover is coming. Your midsize companies compete against large corporations with a focus on culture, and as we emerge from the pandemic it is time to get strategic about designing your company for the next phase of the infinite game. Connection and collaboration may be the key ingredients.

According to SHRM, more than half of employees surveyed in North America plan to look for a new job in 2021, and a quarter of workers plan to quit their jobs once the pandemic subsides and recruiting efforts ramp up. Employers were experiencing high rates of turnover in early 2020, but since the start of the pandemic quit rates reached their lowest levels in nine years. Job-leaving will increase significantly in 2021 as employees resume the job searches they put off for the past year.

At the same time as you’re combatting the turnover tsunami, companies need to retrench and think strategically about how you structure your organization and compete for business. Some advice:

1. Double down on strategy first. Before you can make choices about how to design your company, you need to consider if and how the way you serve your markets must shift. Will your customers buy your product or service differently? Do they have new or changing needs you can meet? Have your competitors made adjustments you must follow, or have they fallen behind in ways you can take advantage of? Reassess whether the things that differentiated you before still hold true.

2. Accept that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Now that you’ve prioritized your strategy, you can consider questions of where and how to locate activities. Key factors to consider include the impact the work has on customers, how much collaboration the work requires (both within teams and cross functionally), and what kind of talent is needed to do the work with excellence. Avoid short-sighted, binary choices here — for example, remote or onsite. The optimal answers will likely vary across departments or regions.

Activities that are done by individual contributors, like analytics and reporting, claims processing, and call center work can be successfully transitioned to remote work. Project-based activities, like product development, client service delivery, and strategic planning may need a blend. New policies will be needed to find what works best with a focus on consistency and performance requirements.

4. Design for the social connection you need. Many midsize companies pride themselves on their tight-knit cultures. And the fear of losing that culture in remote work is real. Many talented employees choose smaller companies over large, corporate jobs precisely because of that closeness. Once you’ve determined the degree of collaboration and social cohesion each body of work needs, you can determine how to create that connectivity. This is a great place to engage employees in the work. Get your employees’ input and ask tough questions – there may be other factors straining cohesion that the pandemic revealed but didn’t create.

5. Pay down your technical debt. Technology has enabled deeper connection among teams, but many midsize companies are carrying significant technical debt, having failed to upgrade technology systems during periods of intense growth. This is the perfect opportunity to get serious about bringing your technology up to speed as fast as your budget will allow.

6. Make real-estate decisions last. Rather than using lease renewals or cost-saving opportunities to drive your real estate decisions, use the organization design choices to rethink your facilities’ needs. To stem turnover, consider these timeless approaches:

1. Review compensation, development and benefits. In a February 2021 study, better compensation and benefits (35%) and better work/life balance (25 %) are the top two reasons why employees would leave their current job. The historic career reasons for turnover—higher pay, a promotion, more development, a career pivot—are still the top reasons for leaving.

2. Keep top performers engaged. Identify and engage high performers first. Companies should focus on their career growth, offer exclusive training, and be transparent about progression. CEOs and Key Executives – start with your A players and invest some extra time with them. Then send a clear message to your managers to put their arms around their best people to keep them!

3. Recognize employees. Train managers on recognition and hold them accountable for implementing it for engagement. This starts with leaders, recognize your direct reports consistently.

Connection & Collaboration. The SHRM study also found that 46% feel less connected to their company, and 42% say culture has diminished. Some strategies for right now:

1. Listen to employees and provide opportunities to talk. Your team needs connection – to you, each other and the company. To get it started, create a task force or several to address current issues. A few ideas: strategy shifts in the post-Covid world, elevating customer service, new customer communication ideas, employee recognition strategies, cost control, innovation in product/service offerings, and for some, best ways to manage the new hybrid workforce strategies. Create clear goals for a task force (top three ideas with six-month action plans). Set parameters on time and meeting cadence, timeframe for recommendations, and budget. Select cross-functional teams as often as possible. Assign a champion to each and turn them loose!

2. Conduct stay interviews to better understand turnover risk. Consider using some (but not all!) of these recommended question from Monster:

– What about your job makes you want to jump out of bed?
– What about your job makes you want to hit the snooze button?
– What are you passionate about? What’s your dream job?
– If you changed your role completely, what would you miss the most?
– If you won the lottery and didn’t have to work, what would you miss?
– What did you love in your last position that you’re not doing now?
– What makes for a great day at work?
– If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change about your work, your role and your responsibilities?
– What do you think about on your way to work?
– What’s bothering you most about your job?

3. Make their jobs better. We’ve heard people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss – or is it that simple? An HBR article from 2018 about Facebook found people left when their job wasn’t enjoyable, their strengths weren’t used, and they weren’t growing. If you want to keep your people, pay attention to how you design their work. Most companies design jobs and then slot people into them. The best managers do the opposite: When they find talented people, they create jobs around them. The three keys: enable them to do work they enjoy, help them play to their strengths, and carve a path for career development that accommodates personal priorities. Managers play a major role – people leave jobs, and it’s up to managers to design jobs that are too good to leave. Making jobs better is another great task force idea – maybe for senior leaders.