What You’ve Been Doing to Retain Employees Isn’t Working – Here’s Why

Leaders need to rethink the labor force

What You’ve Been Doing to Retain Employees Isn’t Working – Here’s Why

Leaders need to rethink the labor force


Many employees in the U.S. appear to be in a crisis, with a LinkedIn article that reads, “Worker burnout at a pandemic high: Poll.” Even in the HR function, where leaders send their “people issues,” there’s a burnout crisis.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report (2022) quantifies the rise of negative emotions at work, which have been climbing since 2009.  “Stress” and “Worry” have increased significantly in the past four years, which may be why we read so much about burnout. It’s these emotions that lead to “quiet quitting,” “rage applying,” and other outlets for employee frustration.


What’s not been working

How have we been dealing with this in the workplace? We’ve been ignoring it, for the most part. Our HR departments have been focusing on triage, and every employee problem has been thrown at HR without giving them adequate ways to fix it. Which has caused their burnout, too.

What’s not working is also the insulting bones that have been thrown to stressed out workers. These have ranged from pizza parties to “teambuilding activities” and work “outings.” In fact, these events create more stress by shortening the amount of time available to actually get work done, and extending hours spent “at work.”

On top of that, there’s the resentment employees feel, looking at the spend. They’re not thinking “wow, this is nice of them to do for us;” instead, they’re thinking, “why didn’t they give us the money they spent on this, instead of making us attend it?”

Now, we’re looking at employee turnover in huge numbers, and at a huge cost. It’s estimated that “losing an employee can cost a company 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. Depending on the individual’s level of seniority, the financial burden fluctuates. For hourly workers, it costs an average of $1,500 per employee. For technical positions, the cost jumps to 100-150 percent of salary.”

Can you afford to lose employees at this rate?


What should we be doing instead?

Drastic times call for drastic measures. It’s time we re-thought the labor force. They’re human beings with feelings, financial obligations, and sometimes families. The truly great leaders focus on their people because they know that it’s the human capital that runs the organization.

One great example is Larry Mendelson, the President and CEO of Heico Corporation. As Forbes interviewed him (and his sons) in January 2020, “The 47,500% Return: Meet the Billionaire Family Behind the Hottest Stock of the Past 30 Years.” Heico’s stock is a direct result of the work that the company does to keep its employees.

When interviewed at a Columbia Business School event in 2023, Larry said that the company didn’t let people go during COVID; they kept them on furlough, instead. This meant everyone kept their benefits, including health insurance. And it meant that the company could scale up quickly when the restrictions lifted.

In addition, Heico matches “up to 5% of what workers sock away in their 401(k)s—not in cash but in Heico stock. So, put in $5,000, get $5,000 worth of Heico shares, which, of course, have done nothing in the past 29 years but wildly appreciate.”  Those stocks have made long-standing employees, even at the lowest levels, into multimillionaires.


How to start focusing on your people

If you’re not sure what kind of problem you have, take a look at your employee turnover. How many employees do you lose every year? There’s a huge cost associated with having to recruit, interview, hire, and onboard every employee who walks out the door.

Start focusing on your people by finding out what they really think about you as an employer. (We have a quick survey that can help with that!) That is a data point – a measurement – for how your culture is doing.

If you’re interested in learning more, contact me. I look forward to chatting with you!

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