You are out surfing. It is a relatively quiet day with light winds and the waves are strong but manageable after some offshore weather last night. Then, from nowhere, the seventh wave hits. It was birthed way out in the wide ocean in a strong wind. From a distance it looks much like any other waves. It grew up under much the same conditions as all the other waves that come ashore, but somehow the confluence of a number of events leads to the development of a monster. If you are ready for it, the seventh wave can be the ride of a lifetime. If not, it can drag you under. The seventh wave can either be a very good thing or very bad thing for a surfer, and the same is true for a company working to ensure strong employee retention.
As the economy has improved over the last two years we have had waves of employment and job creation, but each was mild and on their own; unimpressive. None have seemed to make a significant impact on the economy or the workforce. Each seemed to rise up as a sector of the economy saw some forward motion and then settle into the new normal without fundamentally changing the landscape of employment or the way employees saw their situation. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report for November 2016 highlights that the number of employees voluntarily leaving jobs is running near an 8-year high, but the statistic has been relatively stable for the last six months.
This is quietly beginning to change. As a recent Carnegie study underlined; 41% of US employees are now actively looking to leave their current jobs. The average tenure of employees in the US is now reported to be less than 2 years. The combination of an accelerating recovery from the recession (at long last), the prospect of increasing government spending on infrastructure and defense, as well as the potential for an improved regulatory environment for business in the US is encouraging optimism in major sections of the technical workforce. This is causing employees to reflect on their current employment conditions and the clear potential for “greener pastures” as major portions of the economy begin to expand. This is going to trigger a “seventh wave” type of attrition for companies that are unprepared.
Smartest Employees Leave First
If history is any teacher (and it is) the first employees who could leave your company under this seventh wave will be those with the greatest insight, solid experience, a strong predisposition for strategic thought and the most marketable talents. They will not only be the first to see the potential of the new environment, they are the ones who will be actively pursued by the competitor companies who win early in this cycle.