Just pursuing Harvard Business Review before 8am local time on a Sunday morning, because that’s what normal human beings do (#VirtueSignaling) and I came across some article where a bunch of guys applied complex machine learning algorithms to employee turnover. I’m all for AI and machine learning helping society, i.e. going through medical journals, trials, and diagnoses in two seconds to help a family that just got cancer news. Totally cool with that. Do we really need to apply advanced tech to something as relatively common sense as employee turnover?
These are the reasons people leave jobs
The basic list:
- They are fired, which is likely the biggest reason, and usually happens because of a process drop, a revenue drop, or a manager not liking them and wanting them out.
- They have a growing family or aging parents and they need more money, so they hop for that.
- They have a bad relationship with their boss, and/or their boss is a total micromanager.
- They want more opportunities for growth (which admittedly means “money” to a lot of people).
- They don’t feel like they’re treated well // they’re not part of “the culture,” really.
Some people call that last job bullet “embedednes,” which is usually a fancy way of saying “Most of the office is 27 year-old women, and somehow I was hired as a 49 year-old male and damn I feel very confused and alone in here. I think I’ll start looking.” That was facetious and there are other ways you can feel “not embedded” in a job, usually around poor job role being what hired you, but …
… broadly speaking, this list above is why people leave jobs. I would guess that in 60 percent of situations, someone is either fired for revenue or personal reasons and/or they wanted more money (although companies would not admit this openly, I know of 2–3 situations in my ecosystem where someone had a kid, approached management about possibly making more money, and was fired within six months). Remember: companies do not like to compensate well. Compensation is seen as something you achieve once you slog your way up the ladder, not something available to all ranks. “We’re not a bank,” goes the familiar refrain from executives. I wonder if they say that at banks. Maybe they do.
So why do we over-complicate these discussions so much?
Because we over-complicate almost every discussion about work. First of all, we spend a lot of time there — so it’s a natural topic for most people. At a happy hour, the leading question is usually “What do you do?” In such a world, well, we want to talk about work, but very few of us actually have control over work — someone else, or some entity, does. When you need to discuss something but you lack control over it, you’re usually going to over-complicate the discussion. That’s how a lot of high school romances work too.
Secondly, there’s a market in there somewhere — because most organizations have no grasp, even remotely, on data around hiring, firing, turnover, etc. Most of them rooted this stuff in “engagement surveys” — which are jokes — or “exit interviews,” at which point a person has been checked out for months. They might have a spreadsheet somewhere with voluntary turnover statistics, but I’d virtually guarantee you they don’t have any info about salary at their company vs. salary at the job the person left for, because what executive wants to be told a future strategy needs to be “above-market compensation?” Most executives would slice your throat to the bone for bringing that into a meeting. That’s money out of their children’s pockets, in most of their eyes.
The problem with the “turnover market” and trying to find “solutions” for “companies” (ha) around turnover is that most executives don’t give a shit. People down the chain are interchangeable. Let them leave. They are peons. If one of their direct lieutenants leaves, assuming they liked that person, there will be some chaos — but ultimately they will bring in a friend or referral for that role and the chaos will calm down. People that run businesses don’t think the same way people who work in businesses do. We think of our jobs as important, which is why “candidate experience” and stuff seems relevant to us. They don’t think of our jobs as important; we are interchangeable to them. It’s not like this everywhere, no, but it’s like this at many places.
Some more stuff on turnover
I have actually hit this up before:
- The curiosity and innovation problem of turnover
- When the “customer is always right,” turnover is often high
- Is there science to lessening employee turnover? (Yes.)
- Stop creating dead end jobs if you want to reduce turnover
- What in the heck is The Hawthorne Effect?
- Good management also creates turnover (ha!)
What else would you add on these discussions?