Invest Hamilton County

Memos From Mike

Quits Aren’t Slowing Down… and That’s Why Every Job Should Have a DRS Zone
May 1, 2022

Quits Aren’t Slowing Down… and That’s Why Every Job Should Have a DRS Zone

Living in the Indy region in May it is hard to not have motorsports on the brain… at the same time the latest JOLTS data showed a record 4.5 Million Americans quit their jobs in March. 

I’ll admit it… Drive to Survive got me, and I am now an avid Formula 1 fan. I watch most races, my two year old daughter loves watching “cars go fast,” and it has become a part of our weekends throughout much of the year. 

In Formula 1 they have a concept called the “Drag Reduction System” or DRS. In my very 101-level understanding these are zones where if you are close enough to the car in front (in simple terms) you’re able to open up the tail of the car to allow more overtakes (ie… passing). I like that the sport emphasizes passing other drivers when you’re the quicker car and makes that more entertaining. 

This also got me musing about jobs… I got to thinking about how in my own life, and in the lives of many people I know, moments have existed where someone at work gave me a shot and let me reach a bit above my weight class at a project, promotion or opportunity of some kind. 

Sometimes this doesn’t work out and you’re not able to move up the grid, but these moments inspire loyalty, empowered career mobility, and instilled a sense of importance (which is still the #1 component of an engaged professional). 

I think it is also important to emphasize that similar to the detection zones in F1, every professional has those moments where they feel they’re not being adequately challenged and are going faster than the pace that is being set for them. It is these moments (often accompanied by a supervisor whose primary desire it to keep a person where they are) that can lead to someone looking for opportunity elsewhere. 

Low pay, lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected are the primary reasons people quit their jobs according to multiple sources. 

How does your office help people know where the DRS zone is and pro-actively have conversations that boost them forward instead of hold them back? Are your supervisors evaluated based on how long they trap someone in a single position or how well they prepare people for the passing lane?

In my own small non-profits or teams, I tell every entry-mid career level person I hire that, “in year one we’ll train you to be great at this job, in year two we’ll help you find out what you want to do next and then give you training and experience to help with that.”

Here are some practical tools you can use to implement this type of culture:

  • Encourage supervisors to understand and encourage employees’ professional ambitions. Part of their position should be to know what position someone who works for them wants next, even if that is not with your own company. If you know the opportunity is external, it should still be encouraged and you’re better off setting a timeline and knowing when a transition will occur than being hit blind.
  • Some positions are meant to be moved through. Evaluate the pay vs experience value proposition for a job. At what point would that person become qualified for another position at your company? Know that at this point they’ve also become qualified for that same position elsewhere. 
  • Stop asking people, “how long do you see yourself staying in this job.” To throw in a May the 4th reference… “IT’S A TRAP!”… and that is how most people see it. If you truly need a person in a role for 3-4 years say that in the interview, articulate why, and state what opportunities will be available at that 3-4 year mark (and that if at that time they decide to go elsewhere you’ll provide a glowing reference and assist with their search). If you do not have a timeline then change the question to, “how do you want this job to prepare you for your career’s next step? And how could we as an employer help build a meaningful experience?”
  • Make. A. Plan…. Work is busy and flexible schedules and hybrid work necessitate us needing to check in on a planned schedule regarding these items. Also people’s desires and plans change. Put this as an expectation on supervisors of teams rather than the employees. The expectation shouldn’t be that the plan doesn’t change, but rather just that it is known and communicated. 

This type of mentality will not eliminate quits, but it will help pace them out (so HR professionals can plan and breathe, rather than just react), instill greater loyalty, allow more retention of high-performers, and help your “bosses” feel more like mentors. You also will set yourself up for more Boomerang hires (where past high-performers come back to your environment for a new role). 

We all move at different paces and have different goals. We all want to feel that what we do matters, that we have value, and have the security to know our professional ambition is not a disloyal impulse. 

As always… if you’re a Hamilton County employer and want help we are here for you.