Attrition!! Do we have any option other than managing it?
I have realized these days, that I am getting frustrated with every transaction whether it is HR operations, purchase request, discussing employee aspirations, or preparing for customer escalation meeting (if you are not there in one of such meetings these days then you are lucky and this blog is not for you). Somewhere I was linking everything to this new wave of attrition (looking much bigger than COVID’s second wave). Apparently, employees are asking organizations “hmmm, you folks have saved so much in this pandemic by saving travel cost, electricity, and housekeeping etc., and it’s time to share some benefits with us”. Surprisingly professionals are asking these benefits to other organizations directly and few indirectly to their own, on the retention table.
In this process, I just wanted the HR to do everything for me, raise everyone’s salary under me, commit easily without analysis and approvals, and close all the old commitments within a couple of days. But are all these things really a solution to the rising attrition management problem? Are we the only organization facing this attrition? Or are we really missing out on some fundamentals? If yes, then why it was almost half to its current level for the last five years. Moreover, the bigger question that intrigued me was whether the HR is only responsible for attrition management. Also, will this huge pressure on them possibly lead to an attrition in HR operations as well.
Let me share a different dimension to this situation. I feel it is time to introspect - leaders like us have always asked our organizations to challenge us, in different forums we crib about that our organization is not creating enough challenges for us. But the fact is that the current situation of running the business with this attrition is one of the biggest challenges and in a way our test. Test to show our leadership character, leadership skills, leadership style, and get engaged with this situation and learn!! I know this might sound like me giving a “gyan” (knowledge) … it is so easy to say engage & enjoy and take learnings while the fact is that it is becoming super difficult to face red customers, more difficult to face few frustrated engineers and extremely difficult to anticipate (really!!) who is going to be the next in EMS in our pipeline . Let me share my thought process to deal with this situation:
Me myself? – It’s super important to decide if you want to onboard on this wave or will you stay back and manage this for your organization. If you are staying back, then stop thinking too much about yourself –focus on your team and your leadership is there to think about you and if really you are not in such environment than were you really waiting for this wave to exit :)
Focus vs stretch – We avoid challenges as we always feel that response to challenge is about stretching hours. However the reality it is about focus rather stretching. It is about strategy and sometime strategy plus action together as we need to fix the running machine. Focus needs prioritization, prioritization between urgent vs important, what I can do versus delegate, our insecurities versus what is needed (it is ok if you declare and skip few initiatives where your super boss is engaged and you have chance of some visibility).
Meeting more team members - Don't avoid connecting with your people. We all have this thought in mind that the team will ask about raise or tough questions, rather we must meet more and more team members. In fact, a good idea to schedule meeting with your next level about attrition reasons and how to deal with it. As leaders we are lying to ourselves if we feel talking about attrition to our next level will lead to more attrition. Don't forget folks, the way you think about your career, everyone in your team is also thinking about it and if they are not then you’ve got the wrong team, as smartness cannot be selective J.
Quantified employee roadmap - In our projects whenever we face escalations, we make crisp status reports, set targets, and show progress with more quantified data. Fact is that the current situation is bigger than any engagement escalation and is leading to multiple delivery escalations. We have three categories in our team: first, who decided to move, second, in confusion, and third, who have decided to stay. Our job is to make much quantified roadmap for the last two categories – high time to create a specific (or customer not sure which one is right term) roadmap of opportunities, benefits, and flexibilities.
Pick your fights with the system – The system is about people and they only understand when you communicate with the right data, story, and impact (rather damage). It’s time to create a quantified proposal about how you need to motivate your team and how you can create win-win situation for your team and organization. This should be a part of our regular job but there is urgency and time crunch.
Empathy – I know hot (& easy) keyword and but hardest one to follow. Understanding others situation, pain point, and aspiration is the toughest thing in human relationship. At the end of the day it is business and meeting everyone’s aspiration is impossible. However the team members understand those limitations if they see empathy and attempts.
Running the show – The toughest part is how I run my show with no people, new people, less experienced people and people in pipeline with less productivity. You must consider three important aspects: a) Declare that the situation is red or amber to all stakeholders. Yes, believe me your customer is also facing the same issue and they understand your limitations b) Time to focus on activity over bigger objective - time to become super-smart program manager by thinking what’s the best that I can do versus worrying about the future c) You are not alone - ask for enablement from your leadership and enable your next level.
Creativity and taking chances – Rather than focusing 100% on retaining, think about other practical solutions as well. Like new partnerships, new locations, new incentive programs, role elevations (with perks), and saying yes to only possible and relevant opportunities.