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3 Reasons Management is Unprepared for the Oncoming Turnover Tidal Wave

By Melissa J. Anderson

Another day, another article proclaiming that the employee engagement is low, low, low. But this one is different.

According to Conrad Schmidt, Executive Director and Chief Research Officer of the Human Resources Practice of the Corporate Executive Board, employee engagement is suffering because of the jobs uncertainty coming out of the recession. He writes in the Washington Post:

“Our most recent data clearly show that employee distraction, demoralization and disengagement are at an all-time high. In fact, the statistics for high performers — the best and brightest talent — are equally alarming, with nearly a third planning to leave their current jobs within the next 12 months.”

Employees, including high performers, he writes, are considering leaving their jobs as soon as they can – which could be sooner or later, depending on your industry.

But the most alarming information contained in this survey? Management has no idea what they’re facing. Senior execs have been largely “disconnected from these strongly held employee sentiments,” he writes.

To bolster your defenses against the wave of attrition heading your way, Schmidt gives a few tips to improve employee engagement – he suggests redefining roles and responsibilities based on manager-employee conversation, providing a sense of opportunity, rebuilding peer networks and affinity groups, and recognizing and rewarding employee contributions.

As we’ve seen before, the best way to fend off attrition is to treat each employee as an invaluable part of the team – taking an active interest in their development and advancement. But the study reveals a larger, more complicated issue.

Why is management so blithely unaware that their staff is so unhappy? Here are three possible answers.

1. They’re already shortstaffed and stretched to the limit themselves. Perhaps during the past few years of cutbacks and added responsibilities, they’re too busy picking up the slack to take notice of grumbling employees. In fact, they’re probably grumbling themselves.

2. They don’t trust the data. Probably not the best course of action, but plenty of people still just don’t trust these kinds of surveys. “I know my team,” they might say. Are you sure?

3. They lack training or experience in management during crisis. It’s likely that many managers or executives have never dealt with issues as large as the recent economic crisis. They don’t know the warning signs, or are too focused on keeping their own heads above water to know how to handle employee dissatisfaction during down times – or to think ahead to the next step.

Whatever the reason, executives and management had better wake up to the “distraction, demoralization and disengagement” that Schmidt describes. Otherwise they are likely to face further turmoil moving forward, as productivity and innovation are trampled by the wave of employees heading out the door.

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