How to Address Employee Turnover through Climate Engagement

How to Address Employee Turnover through Climate Engagement

My father is 78 years old and this is the first year he has not worked

since he began working for his dad in junior high at the family dry cleaning business in west Oklahoma. Upon completing his PhD in Electrical Engineering, my dad took a job as a professor at Clemson, where he remained for over 50 years. One job, fifty years. A Human Resources unicorn.

Today, the typical employee stays at a job for just over four years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2021, according to the same Bureau, the overall turnover rate was 57.3%!  That statistic lowers to 25% when only voluntary turnover is measured. That’s still a lot.

Why is everyone leaving? 

According to, the four primary causes of turnover are:

  • lack of growth and progression,
  • inefficient management,
  • inadequate compensation,
  • poor workplace culture.

Having taught at Vanderbilt for the past 14 years, I have seen almost an entire generation of students come through the doors. If you include my own time at the school as an MBA student in 2004/5, that’s a full generational shift. From these two decades of observation, my assessment is that the fourth cause — poor workplace culture — is the main reason for non-hourly employment turnover today.

Optimally, people want to work for a company that aligns with their values and beliefs. No one wants to have to check their personalities and belief systems at the door when they come to work. Humans want alignment, connection, and community. And if the current job doesn’t have it, it is now pretty easy to “move on”.

But this moving on is costly for companies. For non-hourly work, according to, the cost per employee turnover is 1.5 – 2 times the employee’s salary. Which brings into question the third cause — inadequate compensation — why would an employer risk paying essentially double or more when paying 10-15% more now for the current employee is very doable? Run the math, it works.

Culture and compensation. Seems pretty simple.

These two components are critical for keeping and recruiting new employees. And differentiation factors in, too. What are you doing uniquely as an employer to separate yourself from the competition?

One key answer, in business school terms, to the turnover problem is employee engagement. The typical components for engagement can be internal teams, outings, philanthropy and community projects. Almost every mid to large-size company has some form of these components in their employee engagement program.

Which is why I am drawn to benefyd, an employee benefit that helps companies reach their sustainability goals by engaging employees in proven, measurable, carbon-reducing actions. Full disclosure: I now serve on the Advisory Board for benefyd.

Just like with other employee benefits, you determine the annual amount provided to each team member, but in this case, they spend those dollars on sustainability actions related to home energy, waste, water, and transportation. Every employee completes a baseline assessment in their home which helps them understand and prioritize where they can save money and reduce carbon. Employees then get a personalized action plan along with DIY support, a curated marketplace, stacked market, government, and utility incentives, and integrated financing to make it easier than ever to shrink that carbon footprint.

It’s essentially a Sustainability-401K.

benefyd engages employees in a new and unique way and provides an innovative form of compensation — culture and compensation – check, check.

And then, at the macro-level, benefyd adds another component, a person-to-person solution to addressing what I consider to be the greatest problem mankind has ever faced – mitigating the negative environmental and social impacts of a warming planet.

By Jeff Gowdy, and benefyd advisor