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Much has been written about employee motivation and retention. It’s written by folks who actively use words like motivation and retention and generally don’t have a clue about the daily necessity of keeping your team professionally content because they’ve either never done the work or have forgotten how it’s done. These are the people who show up when your single best engineer casually and unexpectedly announces, “I’m quitting. I’m joining my good friend to found a start-up. This is my two weeks’ notice.”
You call on the motivation and retention police because you believe they can perform the legendary “diving save”. Whether it’s HR or a well-intentioned manager with a distinguished title, these people scurry impressively. Meetings that go long into the evening are instantly scheduled with the disenfranchised employee.
It’s an impressive show of force, and it sometimes works, but even if they stay, the damage has been done. They’ve quit, and when someone quits they are effectively saying, “I no longer believe in this company”. What’s worse is that what they were originally thinking was, “I’m bored”.
Boredom is easier to fix than an absence of belief.
There are many reasons other than boredom that someone will quit. Your company might suck or be headed towards suck. This person might randomly get an offer that fulfills their life’s dream. There is a bevy of unpredictable reasons that someone will leave, but boredom is an aspect of their daily professional life you can not only easily assess, but also fix. More importantly, boredom is not initially catastrophic. Boredom shows up quietly and appears to pose no immediate threat. This makes it both easy to address and easy to ignore.
My three techniques for detecting boredom:
Any noticeable change in daily routine. A decrease in productivity is a great early sign that something’s up, but what...