2020 Employee Care Report: The Hidden Causes of Employee Turnover

We need to talk about employee care

No, not about the trendy perks or benefits you just introduced. No one’s going to complain about a strong 401(k) match, a fitness stipend or cold brew on tap. But those elements alone don’t offer the care and support employees want and need to thrive at work.

Today’s workplace is an always-on environment that extends beyond the physical office. New HR technology enables companies to virtually deliver the tools, resources and communications employees need to do their jobs more efficiently. But employees aren’t robots. If you ask more of them or push them harder, they’ll need additional support to maintain their personal well-being.

Employees tend to give organizations humanlike characteristics. As a result, they expect organizations to fulfill certain socioemotional needs like affiliation, esteem and emotional support. According to our survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers, employees rarely receive enough of these characteristics from their employers. And in a job market where employees have the upper hand, they’re willing to find a new job to get them.

We took a deeper look into the realities of care in the workplace and identified key problems linked to employee churn, including low levels of inclusion, high levels of burnout and the inability to address mental health issues like stress and anxiety. We also identified where employers fall short, how a lack of care manifests in the workplace and how companies can change to retain top talent.

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The biggest causes of employee churn

In 2018, 2.3% of the U.S. workforce quit their jobs. That’s an average of 3.5 million workers monthly — the highest rate since 2001. Although the current job market is robust, the promise of a strong job market itself isn’t necessarily the main factor that’s driving employees to quit. The causes of turnover are numerous.

Academic studies show that top causes of unwanted turnover include a low-quality supervisor relationship, poor team morale, lack of tangible rewards, lack of growth opportunities and lack of autonomy.

Conversely, a Limeade Institute report found that employee care can be the antidote to unwanted employee churn. When employees feel their
employers authentically care about them as individuals, they’re more engaged, more likely to stay and more likely to recommend their workplace.

In this survey, Limeade explored how care takes shape in today’s workplace and found that employers are coming up short: Only 31% of employees strongly agree that their employers care about them as individuals. And some employees who feel cast aside will even encourage coworkers to leave with them — posing a double threat to employers – and proving that turnover can be “contagious.”

HOW TO ACT ON IT: Don’t rely on exit interviews

More than four in five respondents (88%) were truthful about why they left a job in an exit interview, but many still wished they had said more. This “something more” is valuable information for your organization to improve how it cares for its employees, so it’s in your best interest to dig for it.

While exit interviews are important, they happen too late in the employee lifecycle to truly understand what’s going on in an organization. Instead, leverage stay interviews and consider developing an in-depth discussion guide with questions geared toward understanding whether your business fulfills the basic, physiological and socioemotional needs of its employees.

Additionally, train HR representatives on how to create an open and safe environment where employees not only feel empowered to provide candid feedback, but also have ample time to discuss their experience throughout their job tenure.

All about burnout

Burnout happens when employees are highly engaged, but don’t (or aren’t able to) prioritize their personal well-being. It’s a real, documented occupational phenomenon — last year, the World Health Organization even added the syndrome to its International classification of Diseases.

The effects of burnout have real consequences for employees’ lives. A multi-sample study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior lists fatigue, irritability and health problems as symptoms of burnout. Our study found that of employees who consider themselves burned out, 52% had trouble sleeping at night, 34% had a disinterest in socializing and 26% consumed more alcohol than usual.

Burnout’s effects on employers aren’t pretty, either. It pushes workers to resent their employers, leave their jobs or even encourage coworkers to leave with them when their employers don’t have proper care in place to deal with the syndrome.

HOW TO ACT ON IT: Don’t brush burnout under the rug

Only 25% of employees said their employers have discussed or acknowledged the possibility of burnout at work with their employees. But burnout is common, and it’s important to remember that employers also hurt themselves when they ignore it.

Employee care should be at the core of any action. Tackling burnout is about identifying problem areas, tracking them, intervening at the group level and constantly working to resolve the issues. But it’s also about training HR and managers to spot the signs of burnout and create a safe environment to show employees you have the resources to help them recover.

Inclusion is essential

It’s an important time for inclusion in the workplace. With communication and reporting of workplace transgressions increasing alongside the rise of the #MeToo movement, it’s critical for organizations to be thoughtful and authentic in their efforts. These initiatives haven’t been overlooked; 52% of employees have noticed their company taking steps to improve their inclusion efforts since the #MeToo movement began.

And yet employees’ views about their employers’ authenticity are fairly split. Perhaps because too many employees don’t feel they work for leaders who are on their side, and the adverse effects on individual workers are clear.

Findings of the survey revealed that many employees who fall victim to workplace misconduct don’t feel they can report the issues or don’t feel the issues are handled fairly. It’s clear that many employers have yet to gain employee trust and convince their people that employee care is their main motivator.

HOW TO ACT ON IT: Sell your inclusion efforts internally, too

When employers work to improve inclusion initiatives, many prioritize external promotion of those efforts. It feels good to publicly promote policies on a website or share a social media post about anti-bias training, but effective D&I efforts go beyond external measures.

Inclusion is every employee’s responsibility, not just a top-down initiative. By promoting your inclusion efforts internally, your people are more likely to come on board and join the effort.

Start by showing employees what your D&I goals are. To help your employees rally around inclusion as a cause, your internal marketing plan should include employee-run resource groups, outside expert speakers and tangible ways to further the conversation, such as a social media hashtag or an internal forum to share daily acts of inclusion.

How mental health plays a role

Although we’ve seen improvements in recent years, our data shows that stigmas against mental health conditions — also known as emotional well-being — are alive and well in the workplace.

Employees have plenty to deal with outside of work, from caregiving to financial struggles to managing stress and anxiety. It’s impossible for employees to check their mental health burdens at the door when they come to work each morning — especially with the workplace adding to their stress. In fact, 52% of employees admit to crying at work about a work-related matter.

But disclosing a mental health condition doesn’t always feel like a safe option to employees, especially given the discrimination — both blatant and subtle — many face from colleagues. If anything shows the employee-care disparity that exists in the workplace, it’s this: Nearly half of employees who have disclosed a mental health condition say they’ve experienced a negative effect of doing so.

HOW TO ACT ON IT: Define a policy for disclosing
a mental health condition

When employees struggling with mental health issues see there is an established, transparent and fair policy for handling their situation, they are more likely to find the support needed to thrive in the workplace. Train and empower managers to not only know the policy, but to have these conversations with their people in a respectful, trusting and non-judgmental way. Too many employees suffer in silence with a mental health condition because they’re unsure how managers will receive it.

To be effective, this policy must cover all the bases. Subtle discrimination toward mental health issues cannot be swept under the rug, so holding would-be discriminators accountable requires an entrenched culture of empowerment for mental health accommodations. Leadership must prioritize policy transparency so that everyone in the company follows suit.

Committing to employee care

As workplaces continue to ask more of their employees, employers need to reciprocate by providing care and fostering engagement.

In renewing your commitment to offering top-tier employee care, focus your efforts on burnout, inclusion, mental health and emotional well-being. When you do, employees are more engaged, more likely to stay at the company and more likely to recommend the company as a great place to work. In short, more care means better business results — and it starts with you.

About Limeade

Limeade is an employee experience software company that helps build great places to work. The Limeade platform unifies employee well-being, engagement and inclusion solutions with industry-leading communications capabilities. Recognized for its own award-winning culture, Limeade helps every employee know their company cares.

About the Author

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Henry Albrecht, Limeade CEO

Henry founded Limeade in 2006, and has led the company from an idea in his basement to a high-growth, industry-leading SaaS employee experience company, serving some of the smartest companies in the world.