Most people at the large, southern manufacturing plant were tired of seeing green shirts.
Green shirts were the uniform of new hires. The color signified the wearer was new and needed extra direction from their supervisors. The problem was, green shirts had begun to mean “just another person who will waste your time before quitting in a week or so” to weary supervisors.
Although this plant was both nationally and internationally respected and offered top-of-the-market pay rates and benefits, its employee turnover rate remained stubbornly high, and it was creating chaos at the plant, especially for exhausted supervisors. As frustrations mounted, overwhelmed new employees increasingly clashed with fatigued supervisors, perpetuating the cycle of high employee turnover.
As this company’s staffing partner, we needed to get to the bottom of this conundrum. We conducted an extensive exit interview and data collection process to find the problem, but there was no easy answer. The exiting employees conceded they wanted financial stability and a long-term career with opportunities to grow — all things this job opportunity offered — but they just couldn’t see themselves sticking it out at this job. Coming into work every day made them feel challenged and stressed in a way they couldn’t quite articulate. Ultimately, quitting felt like the easiest thing for them to do, so they quit.
The thing was — this plant’s problem wasn’t unique. Many of the clients we partnered with were dealing with variations of the same employee turnover problem, and when we looked at national data, the trend matched up exactly: quit rates and employee turnover rates were escalating across the U.S., and they were only projected to increase in the coming years. Something needed to be done, and sooner rather than later.
The Success Mindset Divide
From an employer’s perspective, the current employee turnover situation feels frustrating, to say the least. “Why can’t workers just act right?” we may wonder. “Why won’t they just make responsible decisions, show up to work, stay the course, and make everyone’s life easier?”
We can ask those questions all day long, but it won’t resolve America’s employee turnover crisis.
The more we talked with exiting workers, the more we realized a bigger psychological phenomenon was playing out in the workforce. More than not having the right job history — the “modern worker” is struggling to navigate the ups, downs and daily fluctuations of work and life to find long-term success. In other words, many don’t have a success mindset.
It turns out that mindset is everything. It allows us to tell ourselves a story about our present and future that helps us either rise to challenges or believe that giving up is the only answer. If our story is “I have the power to build the life I want if I work hard and make responsible decisions,” we’ll probably find it easier to succeed at work than if we believe the story that, “Feeling challenged means a job is a bad fit for me and an indicator that I should give up.”
Today’s workers come from a spectrum of different life circumstances, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. They likewise have a wide variety of strengths, temperaments — and mindsets. Some of these backgrounds and personalities are more equipped with an empowered, success mindset, while other life circumstances and temperaments leave individuals feeling unable to overcome frustrations and see backs.
Likewise, we realized many of the new employees were struggling to contextualize the opportunity great jobs represented. They knew working for a while would help them pay rent, but beyond that, they weren’t sure what was “in it for them” if they stuck with a job. The new employees needed help understanding how changing their mindset toward work could help them get the things they wanted in life.
By equipping workers with an empowered mindset, we realized employers could help level the playing field and help everyone — employees and employers — build success. From that idea, Nurture the Green was born.
The Culture Problem
Unfortunately, there was another related problem at stake: the employees and their supervisors often weren’t on the same mindset page, resulting in a culture clash that was contributing to high employee turnover.
Unlike many of the new employees, most of the supervisors already had a success mindset. These supervisors had started out as entry-level employees, worked hard, and made sacrifices to climb the career ladder. The supervisors knew what it took to win at work, and they struggled to understand or respect new workers who lacked a success mindset. The attitudes of these workers were frustrating, if not downright irritating, to the supervisors, but the exasperated supervisors were only making struggling new employees feel more alienated and leave faster.
We realized that, if Nurture the Green was going to succeed, we needed to help supervisors bridge the mindset gap and learn how to coach struggling new employees to success.
A Big-Picture Solution for a Big Problem
All of this leads us to Nurture the Green, a big-picture concept that companies who partner with Ōnin can utilize to address today’s workforce issues comprehensively.
At its core, Nurture the Green is a dual communication campaign. The first part of the campaign uses Ōnin’s communication platforms to directly provide Teammates with content that will help them build a success mindset. Ultimately, the content re-frames the job as a pathway to personal success so the new employees understand how their new mindset can help them build a new life.
The second part of the campaign equips supervisors to mentor individuals using the success mindset concepts that we are already providing the employees. Each month, the supervisor reads through the employee’s Nurture the Green content.
Then, each week, the supervisor talks through the designated content segment with workers at a group meeting. This creates an ongoing dialogue around success, and since the supervisors and Teammates can now speak the same language, positive coaching relationships between supervisors and new employees have become easier to foster. Consequently, it is easier to improve the company culture and improve employee retention organically.
Nurture the Green is just in its beginning stages, and its rollout depends on each client’s unique capabilities — size, organizational structure and ability to use content at startup meetings. So far though, the feedback from workers, supervisors and company leaders has been powerful.
Ultimately, Nurture the Green brings an intentional focus to each individual’s development. We need empowered individuals to create empowered teams that help companies succeed.
Right now, the hiring climate is uniquely challenging, and high employee turnover is a huge part of that challenge. The reality is, many workers don’t understand that performing their jobs empowers them to build successful lives. We have to meet new workers where they are right now, not where we wish they were.
There is no easy fix for today’s workforce instability, but one thing is certain: a multi-faceted approach is essential to creating a sustainable solution, and helping workers build strong mindsets is a key part of the answer.