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6 Surprising Reasons Why Your Employees May Leave Even When They Seem Happy

Employees may leave because of a difficult work environment, a bad boss, or a work-life balance that is no longer sustainable. Why do employees leave when there are no clear reasons to do so, however?

It can take some work to discover why such unforeseen resignations occur. If you can spot such trouble when it appears on the horizon, you may be able to act pre-emptively. Here are five reasons why employees sometimes want to leave when everything seems right.

They hope to find a better life elsewhere

It used to be that being happy and satisfied with your job was good enough. Today, however, jobs need to be far more than simply satisfactory; they need to help employees feel that they are making a difference. Workers need their job to help them feel proud of who they are. When an employee leaves the job even when they have no apparent reason to complain, it usually means that something made them want to reevaluate everything. Maybe they went through a personal crisis, or maybe they saw how someone quit their job to start their own business.

You can find out what is going on by conducting employee reviews. These should be carefully aimed at uncovering not just what your employees have done at work, but also uncover how fulfilled they feel.

Employees look at who else gets recognition

The absence of recognition isn’t always the problem. Sometimes employees may be recognized adequately, but not in the way that they hope for. For instance, many employees do not want applause. They want quiet recognition. You can only know this by asking at your employee reviews.

Employees also want to be recognized in well-defined ways. They do not want recognition for vague achievements.

Some research has uncovered that as much as employees care about finding recognition for themselves, they care deeply about who else is recognized. Context helps them learn how much value their own recognition carries. Recognition needs to be consistent and meaningful.

Employees need flexibility

Flexible working formats are being offered everywhere. People work from home far more than ever before. When employees see other companies offer better work-from-home arrangements, they would like to find a better deal for themselves. Offering flexibility at work is vital.

Inflexible job definitions can be unacceptable

The average worker has worked at a dozen different jobs by the time he turns fifty. As much as people change jobs, however, they often chafe at the inflexible nature of the job descriptions that they function under. While well-defined job descriptions are a good thing, inflexible ones are not. Employees hope to start with specific job descriptions, but then to be able to mold them to suit their needs. Such freedom is important to employees.

Employees dislike red tape

Employees today want to see their workplaces function nimbly, and without too much process or too many rules. Things that slow down work can have a detrimental effect on employee satisfaction. Employees need autonomy and freedom. If they aren’t trusted to do things on their own, they feel they should look elsewhere.

Work isn’t a two-way street

Employees quickly recognize when a job is just about serving the company. They rarely see that the company is as eager to serve them. They can begin to feel like they are simply cogs in the wheel serving the larger good but never paid attention to themselves. While it can be difficult to change the way a company operates, it’s important to move in the direction of helping employees be their best.

While these insights can be hard to implement it is important to try. If you don’t act quickly, it’s possible that your employees will.

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Using Workplace Flexibility as an Employee Perk

Using workplace flexibility as an employee perk is one of the strategies that can be used to motivate employees at no financial cost to the company. Quite a number of strategies exist for introducing a flexible workday into a place of employment. These scenarios include telecommuting from home daily, telecommuting from home on a partial weekly basis, a four-day work week, and staggered starting and ending hours.

The strategy that any company implements needs to be one that will work well for them while encouraging the growth and expansion of the company. This type of strategy won’t be appropriate for all companies or even for all departments within a company. No matter which specific type of workplace flexibility you incorporate into the company, certain advantages and disadvantages will be attached to your decision.

The Advantages of Workplace Flexibility

Several advantages are attached to the implementation of a flexible work week or schedule. Each of these advantages can lead to a renewed growth in the company along with enhanced profitability.

Workplace Flexibility: Morale

Perhaps the greatest impact it has is to increases the morale of the employees who are able to partake of this plan. A higher level of morale equates to increased productivity.

Workplace Flexibility: Team Management

The introduction of workplace flexibility offers company managers an opportunity to utilize their team members according to their skill set rather than relying strictly on the number of hours that they clock in. If everyone is staggered according to the hours they work, managers can then assign tasks according to an employee’s ability to perform the task. Rather than assigning a task simply because everything else is already farmed out to other employees who are working the same schedule, managers will experience flexibility with assignment scheduling.

Workplace Flexibility: Focus on Task

Due to a streamlined employee workforce in which some staff members are working from home and others are coming in at a different hour, attention to task should be increased. Employees should readily be able to focus on an assigned task since fewer distractions should present themselves. The manager or supervisor should also be able to tell more clearly whether an employee is actually working or not.

Workplace Flexibility: Employee Turnover

Employee turnover typically decreases once workplace flexibility enters into the company’s picture. Employees do not need to leave the company if they develop a need for scheduling flexibility due to family obligations. Plus, Absenteeism is usually reduced as well since employees have the opportunity to be flexible when scheduling doctor and dental appointments along with other necessary meetings.

The Disadvantages of Workplace Flexibility

Several disadvantages are associated with workplace flexibility. However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Nonetheless, employers who are considering incorporating a flexible work schedule should be aware of them in order to safeguard against them.

Workplace Flexibility: Productivity

Some companies might discover that a flexible work week leads to an inconsistency in productivity. Employees might not be able to coordinate with the employees they need due to a varied work schedule. Additionally, workers at home might experience a tendency to ease up on their productivity under the mentality “while the cat is away, the mice will play.”

Workplace Flexibility: Trust

It’s important for an employee to have earned the trust of the owner or manager prior to being given the opportunity to participate in this type of experience. If the employee is chosen based upon his desire to participate rather than on his trustworthiness, he might exercise a bit too much flexibility. This employee might not come into work at the assigned time each day because he is under the belief that times are now flexible.

Workplace Flexibility: Training and Preparation

Unfortunately, some level of new training must be incorporated in order for a business change such as a flexible workplace schedule to be successful. Managers and supervisors will need to learn how to assimilate these changes into the work day so that productivity continues seamlessly. This training will take time and money to implement and therefore, some businesses might not find it to be cost effective.

Overview of Workplace Flexibility

In general, introducing workplace flexibility into a business leads to a greater level of involvement by the employees who are experiencing a higher level of workplace contentment. Additionally, the profitability of the company surges with renewed growth as a direct result of increased productivity. Plus, an increase in the quality of the work is generally experienced.

Intro: Incorporating a number of workplace perks into a business can lead to enhanced productivity and profitability. Does the use of workplace flexibility as an employee perk provide these facets?

By Susan M. Keenan ©2009

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Create Better Teams by Casting Roles with Different Skill Sets

Imagine a movie where every character acts the same and agrees on everything. There would be no conflict and no new ideas for two hours, leaving audiences unsatisfied and unenlightened.

There’s more to building a great team than putting together great individuals. To bring the right creative and innovative energy to your company, you have to mix different skill sets and personalities.

If these personalities conflict, that’s all the better, assuming you manage it properly by creating an environment where people are safe to present and discuss diverse ideas. Nothing creative and innovative was ever born out of placid acceptance of the norms. Create your team to be interesting, not easy to manage, and creativity and innovation will flow from a conflict of ideas.

Everyone Has Their Own Role to Play

In a 2018 talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Jeffrey Katzenberg, the co-founder and former CEO of Dreamworks, explained how he treats team building as a casting process. Every person has their own role to play, and their own character to add to the innovative story of your team. Katzenberg says that teams really can be more than the sum of their parts, and that if you get the mix of human capital right, “one plus one is going to equal eleven.” (youtu.be/rP-dB6f96gA)

Startups with too many coders might be able to program their way through big problems, but they often end up tackling problems that no one cares about. Startups with too many designers might have great ideas for solving real-world problems, but they won’t be able to implement them without the right coding skills. And startups with too many accountants and MBAs might have a realistic view of what business is really like, but no ideas beyond copying what’s worked for others.

Innovation researcher Greg Satell writes in the Harvard Business Review that, “you don’t need the best people–you need the best teams.” (hbr.org/2018/02/4-ways-to-build-an-innovative-team) The smartest individuals often flounder in the wrong team. They might not offer anything that other team members don’t already offer. They might not have the perspective to try anything new. They might be too smart for their own good, making them pretentious and uncooperative.

Don’t get lost in the aura of high-energy actors who won’t play well with the team. Start from skills first. What is your team missing? Who is overloaded already? Who could expand into other roles? Like a casting director has to balance the demands of talent with roles and characters, you have to balance individual skills and personalities with the larger creative needs of your team.

Think of yourself as a “knowledge broker,” as Robert Sutton of the Stanford Engineering School calls it. (hbr.org/2000/05/building-an-innovation-factory-2) Your role is not to pick the best people, but to pick people with the right selection of skills that you can guide and combine into something greater.

Fermenting Constructive Conflict with Psychological Safety

When building your team, don’t be afraid of a little conflict. Different ways of doing things and different ideals push creativity–if managed well. When ideas conflict, it’s a good sign that neither idea is fully formed and that something better is out there. Creativity is often waiting in the synthesis of existing ideas.

The key is that no idea should be off limits, especially in initial discussions and brainstorming. Google, after doing a massive internal study, found that the best indicator of team success wasn’t personalities, skill sets or intelligence but simply “psychological safety,” meaning team members felt safe in expressing any and all opinions. (nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html?_r=0)

Psychological safety is not the same as the “safe spaces” popular in some academic institutions. Whereas safe spaces shut down discussion by limiting opinions on controversial topics, teams promoting psychological safety have to be open to all ideas, no matter how opposed they might be to the usual way of thinking. To get the most out of your team, no team member should have to worry about being ostracized for holding the “wrong” opinion.

According to creativity researcher and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the best creative ideas come from people questioning the basic assumptions of their “domain,” by which Csikszentmihalyi means the accepted, “set of symbolic rules and procedures” in a creative person’s field. (books.google.com/books?id=aci_Ea4c6woC) You and your team have to be willing to question standard industry practices and ideals. No great idea ever came from doing things the same way over and over again.

How to Manage Conflicting Personalities

Make sure everyone on your team knows their role, and set clear goals for your team to work toward. Try to keep your goals relatively open-ended. Goals should be about the problems your team needs to solve, rather than how exactly they should be solved.

When finding solutions to problems, your team will inevitably conflict over the best solutions, and they will encounter new problems. In your role as a leader and knowledge broker, you will have to act as a mediator. Instead of letting coders, designers and marketers double down, it’s your job to force them into constructive discussions, compromises and new syntheses.

Encourage conflict, but step in to interrogate your team members’ entrenched ideas. Drill down into their beliefs to uncover the assumptions that lie beneath their particular way of doing things. Keep asking them “why” until they can’t answer anymore.

For example, imagine a coder who absolutely refuses to try a designers idea. First, ask them why the idea won’t work. Maybe there isn’t enough memory, but why isn’t there enough memory? Maybe some other process is hogging memory, but should it be? Maybe there’s some way to shift memory usage. Perhaps another team member has a better way of organizing this memory-hogging process, or they might have an alternative idea that wouldn’t hog so much memory in the first place.

If you’ve cast your team well, there should be conflict. Different people with different backgrounds and skill sets will have different ideas. They will want to solve different problems in different ways. They will have strong opinions about how things “should” be done.

No conflict is a bad sign. It means no one is trying anything new, and that no one is questioning the standard way of doing things. Innovation comes from solving problems, and those problems won’t reveal themselves if everyone is ignoring them.

Your job is to put together a team full of different skill sets and ideas and then to manage and broker those conflicting ideas. If you lead your team of non-conformists well, you can push their knowledge into a new synthesis of ideas and valuable solutions.

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