With 1 in 4 working professionals looking to leave their current job, it’s no wonder that those in the c-suite are losing sleep.

The Great Migration. A Turnover Tsunami. Whatever the phrase du jour, it’s seriously ominous. We tapped our very own Sheila Buechel for advice surrounding our curious question: How do businesses weather the storm?

As a Business Goals Coach at MACKEY, Sheila is passionate about supporting business owners and their teams in pursuing prosperity. She may be new to the MACKEY team, but Sheila’s a seasoned mentor. She brings ample coaching experience and fourteen years as an instructor in business leadership at Marquette University to her role.

Sheila reminds us that it’s a lot easier (and more cost-effective) to retain talent than find and onboard new employees. She outlines three things you can do to ride the turnover tsunami wave and keep your best players invested and committed to your company.

And for the (hopefully) rare instances where you find yourself needing to hire, Sheila shares tips and tricks for creating a candidate experience that will put you ahead of the game.

1. Keep the conversation open

What do we all want in our heart of hearts? To feel seen. To feel heard. To feel valued.

Unfortunately, our society hasn’t historically put a lot of value on the importance of conversations in the workplace. “We’ve done the leadership modules, the retreats, the team building activities, but what we’ve forgotten is that we really just need to have conversations,” explains Sheila.

In fact, she believes keeping the conversation open is the most important thing you can do to retain talent and create a positive and healthy work environment. The researchers at Businessolver agree. They published a recent report revealing that “92% of employees said they’d be more likely to stay with their job if their managers showed more empathy.”

“You’ve got to talk to your team,” Sheila emphasizes.

She’s not talking about scheduling more one-on-ones. Sheila advises to keep it simple. “Ask the people who report to you how they’re doing — how they’re feeling. It shows them that you care,” she explains. “Doing that on a regular basis will make a remarkable difference.”

These quick check-ins don’t have to be complicated, or even in-person:

  • Send a quick message on Slack
  • Shoot a funny gif via text
  • Drop a card in your team member’s mailbox
  • Swing by their desk
  • Forward a newsletter article that spoke to you and include a quick, “This made me think of you. By the way, how’s it going?”

What matters most is that you develop strategies that work for you and for your team. Some people love a friendly in-person “Hello”. For others, that same strategy is going to feel like the painfully uncomfortable manager scenes from the comedy classic, Office Space.

Your daily check-ins are a lot less about assessing your team’s productivity and a lot more about sending the message that you care about the people you lead. They should know that you think about them and that you genuinely want them to enjoy their work lives. “That way, when a team member has a need, they’re going to come to you,” says Sheila.

This sort of communication often falls on middle management, an overlooked segment of the population. Sheila says you need to be direct with your managers. “They need to be taught and told to have these conversations with their direct reports,” she urges. “These are the people who perpetuate your work culture. Make sure they’re talking 20% of the time and listening 80%.”

2. Cultivate career paths

The tide is turning. Money isn’t the main reason employees leave these days.

Ask yourself: Do I have defined career paths and trajectories for my talented team members to follow?

When we invest in our employees, we’re sending a strong message that they matter. Committing to helping your employees grow, improve, and reach their professional goals is a powerful action. It says, “I believe in you.

But Sheila warns of a common pitfall that can factor into growth scenarios:

“When your employee meets all the skills and requirements listed in a job description, there’s no room for growth. That’s only going to lead to a dissatisfied employee.”

Instead, Sheila suggests intentionally hiring individuals who only possess a partial mastery of the required skills for the job. “Hire for 80%,” suggests Sheila. “Then let them know that you’re going to help them get there with the rest.”

“Again, it comes back to conversations,” says Sheila. “You’ve got to communicate that you want to invest in the individual. But you also have to know where they see their career taking them. Don’t make assumptions.”

Intending to support employee growth and professional development is one thing, but you’ve got to invest for this strategy to work. “Develop a fund specifically for conferences, workshops, online courses,” suggests Sheila. “Make sure people know about the opportunities. Walk the walk.”

Finally, when you see growth, acknowledge it. Call out your employee’s accomplishments and congratulate them on their gains. Make sure they know you’re proud of their progress.  

3. Include your employees in the big picture

Trust your team and include them in your vision. Make sure they feel they belong. Authentically. You’ve got to go beyond throwing the occasional pizza party.

Ask your employees to be involved in strategic planning towards your big hairy audacious goals.  

Mackey weighs in, elaborating on the power of using data to engage your team in a common purpose:

“Humans by nature want to be in community. [When you include everyone in goal setting] you create a world-class rowing team. Everybody’s focused on the same goal. Everybody’s rowing in the same direction.”

When employees understand how their work contributes to the company vision, they’re more likely to view their work as worthwhile.

Bring your employees into goal planning conversations. Share the data with them. Ask them how they think they can best contribute. Record their ideas and suggestions. Remember what Sheila suggests: “80% listening.”

It’s amazing what happens when people feel heard. It’s amazing what happens when people are asked to share ideas and perspectives.

Including your employees in the big picture is all about creating buy-in.

Sheila explains, “People need to feel that they’re contributing to excellence.”

MACKEY’s Cascading Metrics Template is an easy-to-use, free, downloadable framework for how to set goals that seamlessly flow from the c-suite to your entry-level players.

Now accepting applications: hiring strategies for a crazed market

Look. Sometimes you do everything right, but you still find yourself needing to fill an open position.

But things have changed. The hiring game isn’t the same in a tsunami. Sheila believes that smart leaders need to accept and adapt to changes in the market. “If you don’t, you’re going to lose out on top talent,” warns Sheila.

 Sheila outlines three basic strategies to optimize your hiring practices:

  • Move quickly: There’s a lot of competition in the market right now, so responding to candidates sends the message that you’re organized, communicative, and that you value people’s time. If your current system for hiring includes lots of checks and balances, it’s time to make some changes. Give power to those interviewing candidates to make the hire, or block out time so that those who need to approve decisions are available during the stage that you’re actively interviewing and vetting candidates.
  • Mingle: Sheila laughs that the days of HR sitting on thrones and sifting through stacks of resumes are over. “Be with the people!” she proclaims. These days it is all about networking. “Ideally you want a stable of potential candidates should you ever need to bring someone in,” says Sheila.
  • Look for the overlooked: Sheila’s a big fan of returnship programs that target professionals with gaps in their resume. “These individuals aren’t starting from zero, rather they’re starting over from experience,” she says. Military spouses, stay-at-home parents, and retired professionals are all common characters who may be looking for employment after taking extended sabbaticals. Consider partnering with an organization that supports employers who hire people with developmental disabilities. Finally, Sheila suggests considering what she calls 9-3ers. “Some people want to work, but they also need to get their kids off the bus. Companies that can offer flexible work hours will have a competitive edge.”

It’s truth telling time. Ask yourself: “Do I walk the walk?

If you say you’re people-oriented but only talk to your team about numbers, you’re not walking the walk.

Take inventory of what you say you do and what you actually do. Identify the gaps. And either fix them or change your messaging.

False advertising (even when it’s unintentional) might get people in your door, but they’re not going to be the right people. Which means they’re unlikely to stick around.

Now. Take some deep breaths. Remind yourself that you’ve handled a lot of “hard” these past 20 months. If you can do that, you can do this, too.

Bring it on, tsunami, we’re ready for you.