A recently released Gallup study found that over 48% of America’s working population is actively job searching while businesses are facing a staggeringly high resignation rate. Over 3.6 million Americans left their job in May (2021) alone. (“The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Really the ‘Great Discontent‘”, Gallup, 2021)

Rather than investigating the true causes of employee turnover rates, many companies resort to well-intended quick fixes that miss the mark and fail to strengthen the relational ties people have between their colleagues and their employers. 

Let me explain what I mean by “quick fixes” and why they are ineffective with the baby in a river analogy. I know this sounds strange, but stay with me.

Babies in the River, Analogy, man confused

Picture this: you are standing next to a river and see a baby floating along. Naturally, you immediately jump in to rescue the baby. After you recover the baby and wrap them up safely, another baby starts floating by you. Again, you jump in to save the baby. This happens multiple times, and at some point, a lightbulb clicks. You decide to go upstream to get to the root cause of this issue. 

This analogy is an example of the difference between the downstream and upstream approaches.

The downstream approach, like continuing to save the babies without identifying where the babies are coming from, is immediate and tangible, but not always the most effective long-term.

 The upstream approach is uncovering where the issue is stemming from and making the necessary changes.  Generally, upstream thinking is hazier, making it more challenging to see the benefits right away; however, in the long run, discovering the root cause will be the most beneficial.

What Does This Have To Do With The Workplace?

  1. Not seeing opportunities for growth and development
  2. Not feeling connected or engaged  to the company’s purpose
  3. Not having solid relationships at work

If leaders do not investigate the issue of employee turnover and instead turn to downstream thinking and quick, band-aid solutions they put their company’s success at risk and leave their company open to financial, cultural and productivity loss.



Man running to the door, exit, leaving work

What Do These Losses Look Like in The Workplace?

Financial Loss

When we rush to hire a new employee and do not take the time and energy to find a suitable candidate, it hurts the company’s bottom line. The United States Department of Labor puts the cost of a bad hire at up to 30% of the employee’s wages for the first year. If you take an employee with a yearly pay of $80,000, the expense to the employer could be as high as $24,000 per year. Don’t settle until you find someone who truly suits the role you are trying to fill. 

Cultural Loss

Establishing a healthy work culture takes trust, commitment, and time. When employees work alongside each other for long periods of time there are special bonds and trust that form, resulting in enjoyable work culture. This relationship is difficult to establish when there is a high turnover rate.

Productivity Loss

When an employee leaves the company, it impacts the entire company, including the employees that stay. The remaining employees usually have to take on new roles and responsibilities to replace the loss, which results in them being taken away from their work, thus decreasing their productivity.

Disengaged Employees Are More Likely to Seek Other Opportunities

Employing an upstream solution-based approach to engaging your team will ensure that they feel empowered and recognized in their roles. Upstream solutions include asking your employees thought-provoking questions that allow them the space to open up and share their insights, informing them of growth opportunities in their departments, and reconnecting them with the value their work brings to the company. 

Remember, this process will take time, dedication and leading with emotional intelligence. Spend time with your employees and discover their wants and needs in the workplace to implement these changes. The sooner you begin engaging and focusing on empowerment and autonomy, the sooner you will start to notice improvements in your company’s productivity, performance and profitability.

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