We are in the human capital era (Burke & Cooper, 2008; Fitz-enz, 2000). A growing body of research shows that in today’s business environment, where technology and global economies can level the playing field, employees represent one of the few unique competitive advantages that companies have (Pfeffer, 1994, 1998; Ulrich & Brockbank, 2005; Ulrich & Smallwood, 2003). With this in mind, many organizations are doing everything they can to attract, engage and retain their employees.
Over the past five decades or more, we have learned much about why employees quit their jobs. For some, the decision is based on a considered analysis of inputs and outputs. For others, it comes after months of disengaging and disappointing experiences. Some employees leave because sudden changes at work cause them to re-evaluate their jobs and careers. Others experience events outside of work - the birth of a child, the onset of an illness - that pull them away.
Based on this body of research, we now have a much better understanding of the various ways that turnover decisions are made. While the turnover process is complex and multiple pathways exist, there are evidence-based strategies that leaders and managers can utilize to increase retention. By building and sustaining a positive work environment, organizations can proactively create a culture that prevents turnover. By socializing employees, fostering relationships and creating a good job fit, managers can help employees fully embed in the organization. Through supportive, fair and rewarding behaviours and actions, leaders and managers can increase employees’ job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Finally, during periods of change, leaders and managers can respond to employees’ concerns and develop adaptive strategies that discourage top talent from quitting. Through exit interviews and retention-specific linkage studies, HR analysts can identify turnover trends, concerns and root causes within their own organization.
Despite decades of progress, there is still more to learn about employee retention and turnover. We hope this chapter encourages researchers and practitioners to continue exploring new ways to prevent dysfunctional turnover and create work environments that are productive, rewarding and engaging for employees.