You know the old adage the grass is greener on the other side -until you have been sitting there a while, and another plot of grass seems better than where you are even though it was new and shiny once and appeared better than where you were before.
It’s cyclic. Most people get complacent and want more/better/etc. This is true in lifestyle and career.
So I’ve got a two part theory on how to retain employees who have gotten comfortable and looking to move on. Part one: give them more work and/or work that is more meaningful/difficult than they are currently doing. Part two: let them interview elsewhere.
Personally I have found that when one has reached that comfort zone and they are unhappy they want a challenge. They most likely rock out the metrics of the job and would enjoy more scope and/or depth to what they are doing. Let’s face it, the workforce is not made up of robots who are just cogs in a machine – and no one enjoys feeling as if they are! (And don’t talk to me about how they should be grateful to have jobs – that scare tactic doesn’t work, even in a down economy because we are still people with hopes, dreams, fears, and lives outside of work and what we do for work.)
Now, a caveat to the first part – be sure that you give your people the time, tools, resources, etc to handle the additional or more difficult work. Just because they are efficient and productive doesn’t mean that they will easily be able to add this extra into what they do now.
I’m sure you are most curious about my wild part two. I have found that most employees when they see the reality of what is “out there” be it internally or externally they develop a better appreciation for where they are or clarification as to what they want/need. To hedge your bets on the side of retaining your employees, don’t place stigma on this so that they will chat with their HR rep or manager and train them. Train them on how to interpret job descriptions, interview questions, salary discussions, work environments, etc. Yes, it means that some of the smoke and mirror employers use will be taken away from your organization too – but in this day and age with social media and increased methods to find information it’s better to play it straight.
Knowledge is power. Knowing what really is out there will empower employees to make decisions. And if you are worried that your culture/pay/etc isn’t up to snuff to retain? Maybe that is something that can be worked on. Sure there will always be desperate people out there who need a job – any job – but once they get it and grow comfortable, then what? Think long term both for your business goals and for the human resources to achieve them.