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Ways to combat the grass is greener syndrome

Ways to combat the grass is greener syndrome

Every recruiter, hiring manager, and employer understands the high cost of employee turnover. And as millennials — the “job-hopping generation” — take over the workforce, the grass is greener syndrome is even more of a concern.

Additionally, organizations are changing through mergers, new leadership, change in strategic directions, and by outsourcing products and services. All of these elements threaten employee retention and put a strain on human resources.

To drive retention, managers and leaders need useful strategies to address issues of dissatisfaction. They can begin by exploring potential retention risks before their top talent explores external options. This means researching your industry, competitors, and internal organization, as well as engaging your talent in meaningful, honest, and proactive conversations.

The grass is greener syndrome

American executives are worried about their most skilled talent walking out the door, and with good reason. According to a Gallup poll, 60% of millennials said they were open to a different job opportunity, and 21% said they’d changed jobs within the past year. These numbers are startling, especially when you consider it costs a company 20-40% of a worker’s salary to replace them.

When you combine this job-hopping tendency with a vibrant and growing economy, it’s no surprise that more and more American workers are suffering from the grass is greener syndrome. A stronger economy means your employees have more options and may be looking to sell their skills and talents to other organizations and competitors that will address and fill their needs and requirements.

Why do top performers leave?

In good times and bad, employees weigh their current work situation against what other opportunities might provide. These concerns include health care, work culture, economic security, challenging work and learning opportunities, housing needs, support for community involvement, and work life balance through telecommuting and flextime. Before your best and brightest jump ship, your organization needs to do a better job addressing these issues. Attractive competitors are addressing these concerns. How does your organization compare?

But making smart career changes also requires a deep knowledge of the world of work — industry relationships and interrelationships, organizations, professions, and jobs. Many competent managers have that knowledge from working in the industry for years, and can provide workers with a perspective that allows them to make a smart comparison between their current work and other choices. These career conversations can provide a “reality check” for top performers before they start shopping for a change.

Comparing your pasture to your competitors’

The grass is greener syndrome is related to the vitality of the industries, organizations, and professions in which we work. Leaders and managers need to focus on the big picture in order to anticipate jobs that will be more in demand and flourish. To see and anticipate where the jobs will be, employers and managers need to do some research on the questions below as preparation for powerful career conversations with their employees.

Questions for research in the broader workplace:

  • What industries are currently going through the greatest changes and will need the professional expertise of your direct reports?
    • Financial
    • Healthcare
    • Education
    • Automotive
    • Energy
    • Security
    • Transportation
    • Your current industry
  • What are the issues/breakdowns driving these changes?
  • Which professions are most in need?
  • What new jobs will emerge or increase because of these issues/breakdowns?
  • What jobs might disappear or shrink?
  • What competencies and skills will be in the greatest demand to handle these issues?

Questions for research in your current organization:

  • Based on your organization mission and strategies, what professions will be most important in the next 2-3 years?
  • What competencies and skills will equip a professional to handles those needs?
  • Which of your talented people are most needed to address changes?

Leading Career Indicators

Understanding how you stack up on the leading career indicators and engaging your talent in meaningful, honest, and proactive career conversations are vital to retaining top employees.

If you can answer yes to most of the statements below, your chances of attracting and keeping great people are probably pretty good. Research has shown these are the indicators of vital industries, professions, and organizations. How does your company stack up?


  • Demonstrates high growth potential
  • Is a successful competitor in global markets
  • Serves a basic human need that will exist for many years
  • Keeps up with changing technologies
  • Continues to expand products and services


  • Professions you supervise are essential for fulfilling the mission
  • Has a clear path for attaining mastery
  • Offers a high degree of personal and financial compensation
  • Has professional or trade associations
  • Requires people to work with and communicate with colleagues outside the organization


  • Has a clear, powerful, and inspiring mission
  • Has leaders from the core professions of the industry
  • Has access to the latest technology and telecom tools
  • Conducts on-going R&D; is a leader in the industry
  • Has well-respected managers

These leading career indicators are the factors that talented employees are assessing. If you have more negative answers than positive, you may be at risk of losing key people. Do your homework and learn to speak effectively with your direct reports about the leading career indicators that are present or missing in your organization. The objective is to be in a vital industry, profession, and organization. How much greener can that get?

Recruiting and the grass is greener syndrome

High turnover affects your budget, employee morale, productivity, and quality of work. But employee retention begins with good, strategic recruitment. Get help building a stronger, more cohesive and loyal team by signing up for Monster Hiring Solutions, where you’ll receive expert recruiting advice, the latest hiring trends, and more.