Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


How to Reduce Employee Turnover

Volume: March 2012

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


As the United States economy continues to pick up, many businesses will encounter an issue they have not thought about in a while: How to retain our best and brightest team members. It has been reasonably easy over the past few years to retain key employees, especially if your organization or industry has been stable. With economic growth, however, comes employment opportunity. And with that comes the threat of losing valuable talent. So aside from paying your best team members a king’s ransom, how the heck do we keep them? A salient question deserving of four actions that leaders can drive.


  1. Think strategically about the “generation” of each of your key team members. For informational purposes, let us review the title and age ranges for the three major generations populating today’s workforce. First we have the Baby Boomers, all 70 million of them. They are between the ages of 48 – 66. Next there are the 50 million Gen Xers who are between the ages of 33 – 47. Finally, there are the GenY/Millennials who range in age from 17 – 32. There are currently 44 million Millennials in, or eligible to be in, the workforce.  There are another 46 million Millennials coming soon to a workplace near you.


As you ponder various “hot buttons” for each generation you may conclude, for example, that Baby-Boomers are going to be more interested in communication. They will want to be kept in the information loop, and be lauded by positive feedback. Gen Xers, on the other hand, may place more value on being treated in a professional manner and knowing how they fit into the strategic direction of the organization. In contrast, the direct supervisor of each Millennial may serve as their lifeline to the company. If the manager of a Millennial leaves the company or moves to a different area, you may be at risk of losing a young, valued team member.


While these viewpoints may seem stereotyped, a savvy leader would be wise to consider generational viewpoints once in a while. Oh, and for The Greatest Generation (those team members over 66 years old), simply set clear expectations and help them cope with any technology challenges. They will take care of the rest.  


  1. Communication. Yes, of course you are going to communicate with your key team members. However, communicate in their preferred fashion. For example, baby-boomers will value quality face-to-face communication more than their younger peers. On the other hand, Millennials may be quite comfortable with receiving important announcements via text messaging or Twitter. Remember, the leader’s job is to make certain what they communicate sticks! Think strategically about your hierarchy of communication and choose a mix of methods that resonates with your team.


  1. Coach and develop. From a reducing employee turnover standpoint, the most important generation to train and develop are the Millennials. As was detailed in an article I published entitled, Attention Boomers: GenY Rising, many of the GenY/Millennial generation are looking to gain skills at your organization so they can get a better job with another company. Counter-intuitively, by spending time and money to train and develop Millennials, these team members end up staying longer (so as to develop even more skills for the next job). Here is my advice: If you have a talented young team member that you want to keep, create a detailed plan pertaining to how they will continually grow their skills. Then communicate the plan to them in a manner that sticks.  


  1. Tailor your leadership style to your team members. Good leaders balance their generational knowledge and management abilities by effectively wielding leadership style. Yes, leadership style matters. And each one of your team members may thirst for a different style. There are six core styles, you know. Therefore, think strategically about the kind of leadership style you embrace, and then make certain that you connect the right style with the appropriate high-value team member.


Bottom Line: It has never been more important to reduce employee turnover and retain key team members. People drive our organizations. As the economy improves, there will be more outside influences that will be eying your best people. As such, build a retention wall around your top performers by communicating, coaching, and matching your leadership style to appropriate situations. The results will be a lower turnover rate, steady productivity, and less heartburn.


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