Work-Life Blend

As part of the AgCareers HR Roundtable in Kansas City, Missouri this morning I shared breakfast with HR managers from 7 organizations. Our assigned table topic was retention. For this group, they saw the greatest risk of employee departure at about 2 years after their hire. To compound the impact, the first two years tend to require the greatest amount of company investment for the employee return. (New employees tend to be very excited, but not very effective.)


The conversation started with generational differences of the “Generation Z”, but more experienced individuals reminded us that the early-career flight risk was not something new. It has always been there. There was also some conversation that employees leave because they are making other life decisions like marriage and home buying, which causes them to rethink where they want to live or where their spouse will work. On this topic, a number of stories were shared about employees giving two-week notice because they wanted to move “closer to home”. (I wouldn’t have minded that myself.)

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be closer to your parents or in a familiar location to raise a family. The common theme in the shared stories was the employees’ managers didn’t know about the employee’s life situation (where they were from, if they were married or not, or making arrangements to do so.)

When we talk about work/life balance we think of the scales of justice where work is one side, and life is on the other. However, the reality of work and life is that it’s a work-life blend. It has become the norm that we take work home, but it is still not the norm to bring home to work. Not that children should be brought to the factory, but managers should know about the big life decisions that employees are making and contemplating so that the employer can support both work and life of their employees. This requires that managers and their team members have a relationship that is more than just assigning tasks and measuring performance.  

Many managers have gotten comfortable at understanding what drives each person at work in order to the right role and even to give career guidance. However, none of us, including your team members are making decisions in a vacuum. It is important to know what else is going on in their life that might affect their workplace performance—including a sick child, a child going to college, or looking for a lifestyle change.  Only if you know what’s going on with your team do you have the capacity to help such as assisting the employee to find a different role in the same company closer to home; making it more appealing to stay longer, or setting up a different working arrangement.  

Coming back around to the age of the new employees –21-25 years old, they might do well to have a more experienced person in their life to help them make the decision. In this way, the manager has the opportunity to be a mentor for their younger team members as they make these major life-work decisions.