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Keep Your Employees Away from the Nearest Exit
Wednesday, July 22, 2015 6:25 AM

By Keith Hughey, Senior Consultant, JMFA

Over the past several years, I have watched the trends of workplace satisfaction with a great deal of interest. Throughout the Great Recession, various studies consistently indicated that roughly two-thirds – plus or minus a percentage point or two – of U.S. workers were dissatisfied with their job.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), during the depths of the Recession, when employment opportunities were scarce, about 1.3 percent of the labor force was voluntarily electing to take the nearest exit from their place of employment each and every month.

Outlook Changing with Improved Job Market

More recently, however, the trend seems to be changing according to a report released by the Society for Human Resource Management. Results of this study found that 86 percent of U. S. employees reported overall satisfaction with their jobs. 

And while this sounds great at first glance, one of the primary reason workers are more satisfied in their jobs is the fact that the improving labor market is providing new opportunities to find situations that are a better fit for their workplace and personal needs. This trend is supported by the BLS information that shows the number of employees choosing to leave their jobs is up to 2 percent each month.

The reasons for changing jobs can be varied and complex, but multiple employment satisfaction surveys point out that one of the main issues that causes employees to leave is they don’t feel valued or respected by their employer or supervisor. In a number of studies that have examined why employees are unhappy, the following issues appear time after time:

  • The boss is a micro-manager.
  • The boss is never around/never available.
  • There is no sense of opportunity for career advancement or personal or professional growth.
  • There is no sense of direction or vision.
  • There is no feedback about one’s job performance.
  • Management seems to care more about themselves than their people.
  • There is no sense of team or teamwork.
  • There is scant opportunity to use the best of one’s skills and abilities.
  • There is no recognition of the employees’ contribution (or value).
  • The culture conveys a message of a lack of caring and concern for the employees.

And no matter how you spin who has responsibility for creating a work environment where employees are respected and their work valued, an organizational leader or immediate supervisor should ultimately be held accountable for setting the policies, procedures, and practices that define an organization’s culture and values.

The Cost of Overlooking Employee Value

Space doesn’t permit me to examine the costs of turnover to an organization, but suffice it to say that the direct expenses tied to separation costs, vacancy costs, hiring costs, and training costs are sizeable. Yet they can and often do pale in comparison to the indirect costs associated with the decline in service that occurs when an experienced employee is replaced with one who lacks the same level of expertise or abilities and those all-important business and personal relationships.

But just to put it into perspective, it is routinely estimated that the cost to replace a non-exempt employee averages between 33 percent and 50 percent of his or her total annual salary and benefits. What’s more, replacing an exempt employee costs anywhere from 100 percent to 200 percent of that employee’s total annual salary and benefits.

Add it up and we’re talking real money. Unfortunately, most organizations pay insufficient attention to the impact of turnover because it isn’t captured in a line item on the income statement. Nor is there a practical means to reflect the value of human capital on the balance sheet.

So what should an organization and its leaders do? The answer depends in part upon your turnover rate. If it is relatively low, then I would keep doing what you’re doing—for now anyway.

However, if your turnover is high or increasing, then some significant changes in your leadership philosophy, your corporate culture, and your policies and practices could be necessary. Or, quite possibly, you may need urgent changes in your strategies for identifying, selecting, and developing future generations of leadership. Either way, taking care of your people is integral to taking care of your members, your organization, and its future.

Effective Leadership is the Key to Satisfied Employees

In order to build an effective organization and leverage the skills and talents that existing employees possess, an effective leader must be committed to modeling the type of behavior he or she desires the staff to emulate on a daily basis. This includes willingness to:

  • communicate the organization’s vision to all employees;
  • provide the tools and training necessary to empower employees to do their jobs effectively;
  • involve staff in making decisions that will ultimately impact them;
  • delegate responsibility to encourage professional growth for all employees; and
  • listen to employee input in order to create a true sense of workplace teamwork.

If implemented effectively, this behavior will help establish a partnership with employees where everyone is working together with a shared commitment to reaching the organization’s strategic objectives and goals. And, perhaps more important, it will result in fewer employees looking for the exit door.

About JMFA

JMFA, an endorsed business partner of Credit Union Resources, is a leading provider of profitability and performance-improvement consulting. For more than 35 years, JMFA has been recognized as one of the most trusted names in the industry for earnings enhancement and expense control programs, training and development, as well as product, service, pricing and technology-improvement consulting. JMFA is proud to be a preferred provider among many industry groups. To learn more about JMFA, please visit  or call (800) 809-2307.