Article: Why do employees quit? Lessons from Facebook

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Why do employees quit? Lessons from Facebook

The Head of People at Facebook and her colleagues have a different take on the real reason employees quit. Here is what they think the answer is, and how to change it.
Why do employees quit? Lessons from Facebook

Here is a look at some of the numbers from Facebook:

Number of employees : 23,165
Total revenue (as of Q3 2017): 10,300,000,000 USD
Total profit (as of Q3 2017): 4,700,000,000 USD
Earnings Per Share (as of Q3 2017): 1.59 USD
Revenue per employee: 444,636 USD
Profit per employee: 202,892 USD

Returns like these are possible to achieve when you have an accomplished business model (which Facebook surely does), and that business model is complemented by a driven and motivated people who want to work for you. The Head of People @ Facebook, Lori Goler, along with Facebookers Janelle Gale and Brynn Harrington, and Wharton Professor Adam Grant shares the real reason behind people quitting their jobs. 

In this article, we look at the top reason behind people leaving their jobs, and the lessons that can be learnt from Facebook’s best practices on retaining employees. 

What do people really leave?

Do people leave managers? Mostly yes. But there are some companies which invest heavily in training, coaching and mentoring managers about managing people. Turnovers in companies that have competent managers is when people like their managers, but they leave their jobs. What we learn from Facebook though is that even when people quit their jobs, people are leaving their managers. Because the onus of designing one’s job is on the manager. A manager is responsible for what the job is like. People may sometimes get caught up in a job that doesn’t utilize their strengths, doesn’t give them a creative outlet, becomes mundane and limiting, and they end up leaving because the job isn’t self-fulfilling. At Facebook, people haven’t complained about their managers. The reason behind their exit has been their work. According to the authors, “They (Facebookers) left when their job wasn’t enjoyable, their strengths weren’t being used, and they weren’t growing in their careers.”

Top Lesson: People leave their managers. Even when they quit their jobs, they leave their managers. Because a manager is responsible for what the job is like.

How to prevent them?

The solution lies in designing and crafting jobs that people enjoy. People deliver more value to the business when they feel engaged with their work. Enjoyment leads to a sense of belonging with the work they do. The authors point out that how people have unanswered callings – careers that they could never pursue (like a writer, a musician, a pilot, or a motivational speaker). The authors give the example of Cynthia, who was leading a team of HR Business Partners. However, she enjoyed solving client problems the most, and could not do it in the managerial role. She sought support of her manager, hired someone new in the team, groomed the new person to take her job, and once ready, she went back to her individual contributor role. “Keeping Cynthia at Facebook was much more important to her manager than keeping her in a particular role,” say the authors. This highlights the mindset of the HR team at Facebook – the mindset which values its people, and crafts roles around people, instead of squeezing people into pre-decided job descriptions.

Craft roles around people; instead of squeezing them into pre-decided job descriptions

Following are lessons from Facebook of how one can craft jobs:

Entry interviews

People’s interests and what they enjoy working on often emerge during exit interviews. Employers offer new roles and positions but that is a little too late however, because the employee already has a foot out the door and has decided to leave. Facebook is proactive in its approach. They do entry interviews. Managers are tasked with having a conversation with their new hires within the first week of joining. The conversations are around ‘their favourite projects’, ‘their most energetic moments’, ‘the times when they’ve found themselves totally immersed in a state of flow’, and ‘the passions they have outside their jobs.’ With all the information about the individual available, managers can craft their roles from the start.

Create non-existent roles if required

“Smart managers create opportunities for people to use their strengths,” the authors opine. Sometimes, a talent’s skills may not fit into any of the existing roles in the company. More so, it is sometimes the narrow job descriptions that limit a company’s chances to fully utilize an employee’s skills. Goler and her co-authors give the example of Chase, an employee who was allowed to try a new role crafted for him for a “hackamonth.” Chase was working as a software engineer with Instagram and he lead his team to introduce new tools and formats. After a thoughtful conversation with his manager, he understood that his skill was in “building prototypes to prove concepts quickly and then iterating.” Instagram didn’t have any roles for this skill set, so they created one for him. It kept Chase in Instagram and made him happy, and paved way for others with a similar skillset to join this team of collaborators. 

Create career opportunities that mesh with personal priorities

Do not create a situation where your employees have to make a choice between personal and professional lives. A promotion, a special project, a new role, should not be a trade-off with one’s personal priorities. At Facebook, “the best managers work with people to minimize these trade-offs by creating career opportunities that mesh with personal priorities,” the authors emphasise.

These efforts in crafting a job design for employees makes them value you and it is shown in the effort they put in for the business. And it is a manager’s responsibility to design jobs for her employees that are too good to leave. Design them so beautifully that it is hard for an employee to imagine working anywhere else.

Narrow job descriptions sometimes limit a company’s chances to fully utilize an employee’s skills

Quite interestingly and contrarily, despite these efforts, the average tenure of a Facebooker is only 2.02 years (Source: Paysa). These steps, hence, may not always yield to people staying in the company. A critique of the title of the article, “how to retain employees” is also warranted. Having said that, a decent substitute for the word ‘retain’ could be ‘motivate’; and that is what organizations should ideally aim at. Because employees would want to leave – the key is to make them feel fulfilled and deliver their best till the time they are with the organization. It is not about retention anymore, but about accepting the inevitable, and providing them a sense of purpose till they are with you.

As for people who eventually stayed with Facebook, found their work “enjoyable” 31% more often, used their “strengths” 33% more often, and expressed 37% more “confidence” that they were gaining the skills and experiences they need to develop their careers.

Topics: Jobs, Strategic HR

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