It seemed nonchalant. One of the YPs in the audience came up to me after my presentation and asked, “Could we just have a couple minutes of your time? We’d like to talk to you about something.”
It had that cryptic, keep-this-on-the-DL tone to it. I was intrigued.
We sat down. There were six of them, elbows on the table, leaning in like the eager, committed YPs they are. Then it started.
“In the last two years, half of our employees have left.”
“Since I’ve been here, everyone in my department is gone.”
“We have the potential to be so great, but this turnover is a problem.”
I put on my researcher hat and asked, “Why are people leaving? Have you done a survey?”
Turns out, they’d recommended a survey, but the CEO was concerned it would be too negative.
I smelled a familiar, pungent scent: CEO-denial.
“How much is this turnover costing you?” I asked.
They didn’t know, so we did the math on a scrap of paper. Seventeen employees had left in the last two years. Their average salary was $32K. To calculate the cost of turnover:
- Take the total number of employees who’ve left;
- Multiply it by 6 months of a new hire’s salary (because it takes six months to get them up to speed.)
- Total cost to their organization: $534,000.
“Save this paper,” one of them said, “this will be valuable.”
As the conversation wore on, my hopefulness waned. Here were six committed young professionals who wanted - badly - for their organization to become a great place to work. But they were in a tender situation because their CEO was using every excuse in the book, ranging from, “We can’t do these things, because we don’t operate like that,” (the infamous “We’re different” excuse) to that old chestnut, “If people want to work someplace better, let ‘em go.”
But their CEO is missing the point: these YPs don’t want to go someplace else. They wanted to make their current workplace better.
We laid out a 3-pronged strategy, including building a case for what needed to change, and how it could be done to save the organization money and improve its effectiveness.
I don’t know if the plan will work. But I hope it does. I hope one well-meaning CEO can get out of his own way long enough to realize that he doesn’t have to love their ideas, and he doesn’t have to understand them…he just needs to be open to the fact that the next generation wants more from work than he’s currently offering - and give it to them. Ironically, this CEO’s organization provides great service to his clients by (a) understanding what they want, (b) developing it, and then (c) selling it to them. All he needs to do is apply this same discipline to a different breed of customers - his talent.
Now let’s talk about you. Your YPs walk out your door each night, with no guarantee that they’ll be back. What are you doing to listen to them, engage them, and use their insights to build a better place to work? The alternative is to leave their laments to cryptic, back-of-the room discussions between your employees and outsiders - who may be their future employers.