Use Job Design to Reduce Staff Attrition

BY C. Lee Smith
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Remember that really great employee you onboarded a few months ago? If they came into your office and gave their notice next week, would you blame it on the Great Resignation? Or would you accept some responsibility for the problem and promise to stop that from happening again? If you answered yes to the second question, you might be willing to use job design to reduce staff attrition.

Reduce Staff Attrition

Several studies point to employee lack of engagement when it comes to work. That lack of engagement can lead to an exodus, and after an initial panic, managers usually take action such “updating the employee handbook, tweaking the vacation policy, or sending propaganda-​style emails from the corner office,” says John Connors. Unfortunately, these tactics don’t work. What’s really needed in the battle to reduce staff attrition is an analysis of the people who excel in your organization and what they love about their work. Research shows that these loyal employees will work harder and smarter, satisfying themselves and delivering what you need. The best way replicate the satisfaction and engagement of loyal employees and to reduce staff attrition is to focus on job fit, job design and professional development.

Job Fit

In his article for the Harvard Business Review, Marcus Buckingham reminds us that “[t]o attract and retain the best people, we must redesign jobs around a simple but powerful concept: love for the content of the work itself.” What exactly does that mean?  Most of today’s highly skilled workers are not sitting in front of a machine in a factory, repeating the same task over and over again. But many employees are working in jobs that don’t suit their skills or interests. If you’ve got an employee who’s a numbers person and wants to create Excel worksheets, they won’t have much patience for customers who are calling to report a problem with your product. If this employee never gets near a worksheet during the regular workweek, their job satisfaction will plummet.

How do you know where a person will do well organizationally? This answer to this question is crucial but not always obvious. During the interview process candidates will tell you what they think you want to hear in order to get the job. To avoid a poor fit between and candidate and the job, ask them to take a pre-​hire psychometric assessment. The insights from these kinds of assessment will help you understand where a candidate will best fit in an organization.

Job Design

Managers can also reduce attrition by checking in frequently with current employees to determine what they like and don’t like about their jobs. Not every organization can afford to reclassify 100% of employee jobs. But it is certainly worth looking into whether automation can improve a process an employee has been doing forever. You might also find a way to affordably outsource some of the tasks employees don’t like. Then you can reassign them to higher profile or interesting projects. Regular check-​ins serve another purpose too. Employees realize that someone cares about how they are doing.

The extra attention is especially important in a hybrid or remote-​work environment. And managers learn more about how to improve efficiency and create jobs that contain at least some tasks employees will find interesting.

Professional Development

Large organizations such as Amazon have already learned that paying for additional education and training is one way to reduce attrition. You can work with your existing team members to discuss where they see themselves in the next five to ten years. Managers who help employees plan a career path are showing empathy and treating each team member as an individual instead of another cog in the wheel that is striving to achieve quota.

To head off additional staff attrition, check out what your employees are doing on a day-​to-​day basis. Take immediate action to redesign dead-​end jobs and offer team members professional development. When they start to feel like they are on a winning team, their engagement levels will improve.

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels

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