An Obscure Turnover Cause Is Now Ranked #1 – And “A Company’s Projected Business Outlook” Is That Turnover Cause 

Higher uncertainty has made “communicating a positive company outlook” an essential retention tool.

Yes, a combination of uncertainty-creating factors, including large layoffs, a volatile economy, and the fear that a lack of AI capability will make some companies noncompetitive almost overnight. And this sudden high level of uncertainty has created significant turnover issues. Among the many employees that now desire to work only at the most stable and growing employers. But unfortunately, most managers and HR leaders have yet to become fully aware of this previously low-rated turnover factor. Has now rocketed to the top slot among all turnover causes. So if your team requires high retention rates. You must realize that new turnover data indicates that you now need to convince your cynical employees about your company’s strong business outlook and future viability. Because that action will have the highest positive impact (of any turnover factor) in preventing your employees from even entering job search mode.

Data Reveals That The Causes Of Turnover Have Recently Shifted

Recent online survey research has provided us with a current list of the top 5 turnover causes. Those top five factors are:

  1. 39% – My company doesn’t have a bright future 
  2. 27% – A perception of unfair pay 
  3. 22% – A poor workplace culture 
  4. 21% – A weak manager/employee relationship 
  5.   1% – Insufficient pay transparency

These turnover cause rankings have only shifted recently. So it’s important to realize that this “bright company future” factor has, in the past, seldom appeared anywhere on lists of the top 5 turnover causes (Note: for example, it is completely absent from this SHRM list of causes). And because the prominence of this factor is so new, it will be much more difficult to resolve.

This New Data Reveals That Our New Focus Should Shift Toward Communicating A Positive Business Outlook

Because our employees now desire to work at an organization with a more stable, growing, and brighter future. Employees have now elevated “failing to communicate a strong business outlook” into first place among the drivers for beginning a job search. And at 39%, this factor is a whopping 12 points ahead of the second-placed factor, the perception of unfair compensation. And also, note that this company outlook factor is 18 points higher than the leading cause for a number of years, the employee/manager relationship. So overall, this data should drive smart talent managers to increase their ability to effectively communicate their bright business outlook to other employees and potential recruits. While at the same time slightly reducing their focus on improving the employee/manager relationship.


The “How-To’s” Of Effective Outlook Messaging

If you decide to implement even a limited form of company outlook messaging. You will find that the remainder of this article highlights both action steps to take and some specific advice on the implementation of this tool. This complete “how-to” information has been separated into four parts.

Part I – The Why’s – The Many Benefits From Providing A Positive Company Outlook Message To Your Employees

There are many positive benefits that you get from providing your employees with company outlook information. They include:

  • Improved retention – obviously, minimizing this #1 negative factor that drives employees to begin a job search will eventually reduce your turnover (especially among those that may be seeking more stability). And it will likely work especially well among your top performers, innovators, and diverse employees. that have many more stable job choices than the average worker.
  • Higher productivity due to improved motivation, commitment, and purpose – once your employees see that their team and the company both have a bright future. Everyone’s commitment and motivation levels will eventually go up (even among employees that weren’t thinking of leaving).  And that will cause productivity and work quality levels to increase. And for those employees that “work for purpose and to make a difference.” They will, as a result of your outlook message, more clearly see that the company’s contribution to society, the community, and the environment will continue to be strong.
  • Improved recruiting and brand image – once employees see that their company has a bright future, they are more likely to make more and higher quality referrals. And having your employees frequently talk about the stability and growth of their company on social media and employer comments sites like That should also strengthen your employer brand image, which will improve your recruiting over the long term.
  • Innovation will increase – employees that are uncertain about staying will almost always hold back on any innovations that they may be planning to implement. So after deciding to stay for the long term, almost everyone will be more willing to facilitate new innovations.
  • Teamwork will improve – because team members who are unsure about their future commitment to the company are less likely to remain strong team players. Showing them that the team and the company both have a future to look forward to will also improve teamwork and team production. 
  • Upskilling will increase – once individual employees have made the mental commitment to stay. They will be more likely to proactively move forward within their own upskilling plan. And those enhanced skills will contribute to an increase in both the capabilities and the productivity of the team.
  • Cooperation and attendance will improve – once an employee sees that the company has a strong future outlook. Their increase in commitment and desire to do their part will likely lead to more cooperation, team cohesion, and lower absenteeism levels.


Part II – The What – Information Areas To Include In Your Outlook Messaging

Your outlook messaging will have its highest impact when you cover each of the areas where your employees desire future projections. So obviously, it first makes sense to survey them to precisely identify their outlook information priorities. And after several months of messaging, it’s essential that you follow up. In order to identify what they liked about your messages and what can be improved. Some of the common information areas to cover include:

  • Sales/revenue projections – because sales growth means bigger budgets all around. Sales growth should be covered. Fortunately, internally almost every company already produces sales projections. And because they are often a bit rosy, they can help to show a positive future for the company
  • Product forecasts – projections about the likely success of your major new products or service can be powerful. And so can positive initial product reviews. Employees should also be made aware of any potential problems with the new products that are coming to your major competitors. 
  • Your 10–K annual financial report also lists future risks – employees should be given easy access to this mostly financial 10-K report covering the last year. They are powerful not because of their finances. But because the report also includes a list of the future risks that the company is likely to face. And a short list of those indicates future stability.
  • Include key HR data – many of your employees will be encouraged when HR projects positive trends in areas that are especially pertinent to individual employees. Like projecting lower levels of turnover. Or projections in a plan that includes an increase in headcount, money for promotions, larger salary budgets, and higher hiring goals. 
  • Include analyst reviews – outside opinions about the likely future of your company from external industry analysts are likely to be viewed as less biased by your employees. However, be careful about picking and choosing to the point where only positive reviews are being presented.
  • Add projections from industry groups and experts – positive projections covering the future of your industry will make many of your current employees want to stay. So any positive projections that come from major consultants or industry associations should be included. Once again, be balanced, and also include at least a few negative projections.
  • Be extremely careful with stock projections – because of potential SEC issues. Don’t include any stock price projections without first consulting with your lawyer.
  • Be careful if you rely on your standard quarterly reports to alleviate stability concerns – almost every company produces standard quarterly reports. However, I recommend that you be extremely cautious when relying on them to lower future stability concerns. Because most of these reports are not written so that employees can understand them. And these reports literally contain no “sell,” so don’t expect them to build any employee’s confidence in the stability of the company.
  • Provide continuous trends when there are no projections – there are many information areas that contain no projections. However, there is an alternative way of showing long-term stability in most information areas. And that is showing a steady historical pattern, which consistently improves each and every year. This approach can be convincing if employees see a consistently strong pattern as an indication of a continuing pattern in the future. 
  • Be sure and also provide positive information covering the remaining turnover causes – remember in your outlook messaging to also include positive information that will minimize any employee concerns about each of the other separate causes of turnover. Those other causes should include perception of unfair pay, perceptions about your culture, and perceptions about how your managers treat your employees.


Part III – The Who – Your Outlook Information Should Be Targeted At These Groups Of Employees

Rather than shotgunning the same information to all of your employees. Instead, if you have the time and the resources. Realize that your company outlook messaging will be much more effective. If you target it towards the interests and concerns of the following selected groups of employees. That has the highest negative business impact when they quit.

  • Flight risks most need targeted information – obviously, when possible, most of the information in your messaging should be tailored to employees that are likely to be short-term flight risks (and especially those flight risks that are seeking more stability). And when you are deciding which groups need extra strong messaging. In most cases, it makes sense to target a smaller percentage of your messaging materials towards groups of employees that are near retirement and groups of employees that are 100% satisfied.
  • Information needs to be focused on top performers and innovators – two groups, those containing top-performing and those made up of innovative employees. Both obviously create large business impacts. However, it’s important to note that these employees often have less interest in job security. So instead, focus the outlook information that you direct towards them. Primarily on the new opportunities that steady company growth will provide for them.
  • Target the managers of high-priority teams – although individual managers can’t do much to impact the future of the entire company. These impactful managers can and should be used as conduits. For communicating essential business outlook information to their employees that may be considering leaving.
  • Formal and informal team leaders can be a conduit for passing on information – because these individuals are influencers that frequently interact with so many other employees. They should also be used as a conduit for passing on outlook information and for encouraging the best to stay. 
  • Recent hires also need targeted outlook information – because of the high cost of providing them with their onboarding and initial training. It makes sense to formally reinforce a new-hire’s decision to stay long-term. By providing them with targeted long-term outlook information. During their onboarding. 
  • There must be a focus on all employees working in critical positions or hard-to-fill jobs – outlook information should be targeted to all of your employees that work in high-priority jobs (e.g., AI, product development, and sales). In the same light, information should also be tailored to all employees working in “hard-to-fill jobs.”


Part IV – The When – Times When You Should Quickly Increase Your Outlook Messaging

Although messaging about the future outlook of your company should be continual. There are many specific times when the volume or the type of messaging should be increased.

  • Provide outlook information during stay interviews – the most effective turnover prevention tool is “stay interviews.” So it is essential that managers periodically hold these one-on-one meetings periodically with your “at-risk employees.” And it’s important that each one of these interviews include time to disseminate information about the future stability and growth of your company. 
  • Provide information whenever a key person quits – some employees are so impactful that their departure almost always triggers others to consider following them out the door. So develop an outlook information packet that is specifically targeted at those that will likely consider following them. And disseminate it immediately after the influencer announces their departure. 
  • Increase the information flow after a major negative company event – after an event that is powerful enough to damage a company’s reputation or future stability. For example, a negative company event could be when an executive quits, a product fails, a painful company rumor spreads, or after significant amounts of bad press. This negative event list might also include the loss of a major customer, major litigation, or when your stock crashes. During or immediately after this event, you should immediately increase your outlook messaging to offset the bad event. And to make everyone once again comfortable with the future stability of the company.
  • Provide outlook information during performance appraisals – because they are already scheduled periodically. And this event often makes each employee rethink their future. It makes sense to repeat your messaging at the end of this process.
  • Make it a standard component of most regularly scheduled meetings – it makes sense to periodically put out parts of your outlook message during regularly scheduled meetings with your team. As well as during quarterly and annual meetings. 
  • There are additional times when you should be sharing outlook information – it makes sense to have a permanent internal website that is available to all employees. The website should cover every element of your outlook messaging. In addition, you should also ask your CEO and every business unit director to include at least parts of that message during their “all hands” presentations (including those with key customers). And finally, communicate the stability of your company immediately after one of your competitors has a major public stumble or catastrophe that will limit its future stability.
If you only do one thing – personally call a sample of your regrettable turnovers two months after their departure from your company (When there is almost no pressure on them to mislead you). And then ask them to list their “real reasons” for leaving. You should be concerned whenever one of those reasons was their continuing uncertainty about the future stability of your company.

Final Thoughts 

Obviously, under the hard-to-predict current VUCA environment, as well as the quantum rate of change that the upcoming AI dominated world will bring to every organization. Every company and manager must realize that they are likely to face a major reduction in the level of company stability. 

So rather than standing by idly, it’s time to realize if you must have higher retention. You need to immediately begin putting together a plan to counter each of your top five high-probability turnover causes. However, you should especially focus on the new #1 factor, employee confidence in the outlook of their company. But before you begin, realize that because very few have made a concerted effort to tackle this previously hidden problem. There will be few benchmarks to follow. Next, realize that every new retention effort must be 100% data-driven (most fail because they rely on intuition). And next, after implementation, in order to continuously improve. You must collect data and develop metrics in order to determine if your plan is actually reaching its goals. And finally, be prepared to walk the fine line. Between the open disclosure to your employees of facts related to the company’s future. And the equally important executive concern for maintaining company confidentiality with the same information.

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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