CHICAGO — The turnover rate for food manufacturing has been steadily increasing since 2010 and reached 23% in 2019, according to data from Retensa, a research firm specializing in workforce retention. Chason Hecht, chief executive officer, Retensa, spoke March 2 at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTECH in Chicago about turnover and how baking companies can actually predict when someone is going to quit.

The education session was hosted by BEMA-U and was one of three sessions focused on the topic of workforce management. Mr. Hecht argued that in order to understand, or predict, when and why someone will quit, companies need to better understand the motivations of their employees. Some may be seeking a career in baking, others may not. Whatever the motivation, bakers need to analyze the reasons to better address the growing workforce gap in the industry.

“There are people who join your organization that have no interest in staying,” he said. “That’s a reality.”

In short, he said, companies need to understand why someone joined their company, why they want to stay, and why they may want to leave. This, he said, is the key to employee retention.

The Top 5 reasons people are attracted to a job, Retensa surveys show, are: coworkers/peers, benefits/perks, supervisor/manager, location/commute and industry field. These are also many of the top reasons why people stay at their jobs.

“When I have friends at work and I like the people I work with, I stay at work,” Mr. Hecht said. “I also perform better.”

On the flip side, it’s equally important to learn why people want to leave jobs. The Top 5 detractors for US workers are compensation/salary, communication, career advancement, bonuses/commission and work life balance.

Mr. Hecht said compensation is not an effective retention strategy. As long as workers are paid similarly to others in the field, compensation isn’t a leading factor in why people quit. Those reasons vary widely from personal motivations to bad managers.

“There are elements of your organization that pull people in, but there’s also repellants and detractors,” he said. “Understand those will help you unlock opportunities to improve.”

However, he said baking companies can improve their turnover rates by understanding the experiences, relationships and culture built in their organization. He said exit interviews are key to gaining this insight. Additionally, asking employees why they joined, why they’ve stayed, and why they would leave can shed light on potential causes for turnover.

By considering the personal motivating factors of the individual, the experiences employees have at all levels of an organization, and by simply asking employees about their motivations to leave or stay, it’s possible to potentially predict when and why people quit.

Mr. Hecht said managers can improve by offering more feedback, provide clear direction and offer recognition. But managers should also think themselves about reasons why they would quit. Often those answers, though difficult to share in some circumstances, are driving others to leave a company, Mr. Hecht argued.

“Why would you leave?” he asked the attendees. “That’s a reason someone else is going to.”

In baking where competition for skilled workers is at an all-time high, it benefits managers to be in tune with employees to avoid the costs of high turnover. Retensa figures show 8 out of 10 managers are unaware that their last departing employee was seeking another job. Mr. Hecht said these employees didn’t quit the day they handed in their resignation, they quit the day they started looking for that alternate job.

Importantly, he argued, is that it’s just as costly to keep employees who have disengaged from the company without officially quitting.

“There are people who quit and leave, but the worst are those who quit and stay,” he said.