Employers are paying the cost of tolerating bad workers
Recruiting’s hard in this economy. What’s harder? Watching your best workers walk out the door.
From engineering to insurance, employers are still toughing it out as the Great Resignation drags on. With 1.9 jobs for every unemployed worker, companies delay pushing out bad (but hard to replace) employees at their peril, according to analysts watching the quit numbers.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Dave Canel, CEO of Drift, an AI marketing firm, on the industry’s resistance to replacing poor employees.
“You’d have to be incredibly lousy” to get fired right now. “Most companies—and us, in some cases—are keeping people who wouldn’t be on the team in a looser market. The standards would be higher,” Canel said.
It’s not easy to replace employees, and layoff rates have never been lower for that very reason. But lowering the bar on performance isn’t the solution, as it incites the better employees to head out the gate for greener pastures.
“You’re showing your top performers the bottom of what you’ll tolerate,” according to Jesse Wisdom, Humu co-founder. “If I’m working really hard, but I see that management doesn’t treat me any differently than they treat someone who is doing the bare minimum, that is very demotivating.”
Business leaders warn that even temporarily lowering the bar on performance can lead to losses of top talent. Putting off pushing out bad workers only feeds the quit cycle.
Employees are quicker than ever to react to what they perceive as an unfair playing field. Seeing no difference in treatment of top performers and slackers, high performers see reason to look elsewhere.
If there’s one lesson businesses learned from the Great Resignation, it’s that employees are looking for recognition. According to Workhuman’s fall 2021 survey, employees rated communication and more employee appreciation higher than money to their workplace satisfaction.
In fact, the data showed that employees who were recognized at work in the last month were almost three times as likely to say that the culture was improving, with more connection and cohesion across teams.
Here’s how to slow your company’s quit cycle:
- Recognize top talent frequently and sincerely. The Workhuman survey showed that employees who were recently thanked were less stressed and felt more grateful.
- Don’t delay replacing subpar employees; your better employees are noticing and looking at the door.
- Welcome the good ones back. If valuable employees are already exiting, get a clear picture of exactly why they’re leaving and acknowledge their value. Express sincere regret to see them go. Communicate clearly your willingness to welcome them back if their new position doesn’t work out. If they’re feeling devalued, ask about their goals, priorities, and consider how you might make their role or conditions satisfactory with schedule, different projects, or training for other roles. And don’t forget to reach out after their departure from time to time to reinforce the “welcome back” message. (Rehiring a boomerang employee who was a good worker the first time can be low-hanging fruit).
- If your company is bleeding employees, acknowledge the emergency. Recruit replacements without delay. Bite the budget bullet, even if it means overtime for your HR staff and contracting with professional recruiters who specialize in your industry.
Waiting to hire can mean losing more hard-won talent already on your payroll.