7 Steps to Employee Retention: Why Employee Satisfaction is Just Not Enough

If your employees are satisfied, that should be enough, right? Not really. A recent survey by Jobvite found that 45% of U.S. job seekers across all ages, education levels and industries are satisfied in their current positions but are still open to new opportunities. Satisfied employees leave their current employers all the time. Why is that?

Often, marketers use the terms satisfaction and engagement interchangeably. However, in practice they are very different – and have very different outcomes:

  • Employee Satisfaction is the extent to which employees are happy or content with their work environment, including such things as compensation, workload, perceptions of management, flexibility, teamwork, resources, and so forth.
  • Employee Engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work and are willing to go the extra mile.

It’s easy to see the difference in the level of commitment and passion an engaged employee brings to their work. And the research bears this out. A Fortune 100 manufacturing company reduced turnover from 14.5% to 4.1%, while absenteeism dropped from 8% to 4.8%. Additionally, a study from the Corporate Leadership Council found that employees with lower engagement are four times more likely to leave their jobs than those who are highly engaged.

In her book, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, Louise Branham writes, “Employee turnover is not an event – it is a process of disengagement that can take days, weeks, months or even years until the actual decision to leave occurs.” Further, she notes two distinct phases in the decision process to leave a job: first phase is between the employee’s first thoughts of quitting and the actual decision to leave. The second phase is between the decision to leave and leaving. Over these two periods, disappointment and even bitterness may make it nearly impossible to re-engage the employee. That’s why managers must stay aware of the signs of employee disengagement.

Here are Branham’s seven reasons for employee attrition:

  1. The Job or Workplace Was Not as Expected. Managers must create realistic expectations about the job responsibilities and the workplace environment.
  2. Mismatch Between Job and Person. Putting the right people in the right jobs to allow them to use their skills and strengths.
  3. Insufficient Coaching and Feedback. Employees must be able to answer four critical questions: Where are we going as a company? How are we going to get there? How do you expect me to contribute? and How am I doing?
  4. Too Few Growth and Advancement Opportunities. Employees must understand how they can manage their growth and careers in the organization.
  5. Employee Feels Devalued and Unrecognized. Human beings want to be recognized and feel important, yet many organizations fail to understand and fill this need.
  6. Stress from Overwork and Work-Life Imbalance. Managers must guard against the corporate culture becoming toxic.
  7. Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leadership. All leaders must behave with integrity and in a way to inspire trust. 

These seven reasons for attrition are closely linked to a lack of employee engaging tactics and initiatives on the part of management. When employees disengage, they can create situations that undermine the engagement levels of other employees. To avoid an epidemic of disengagement, managers must be vigilant in identifying which employees are disengaging, and when to step in with corrective actions.

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