Retention & Engagement

Why do your employees quit?

The fact is that unemployment levels are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years, making it particularly difficult to find the skilled workers you need to grow. To make things even more challenging, 76 percent of employees (probably some of yours) are either actively looking for another job or open to one — just waiting for the right opportunity.

A war for talent

The job market has turned upside down, switching the power from employer to employee. You can take solace from the 46 percent of other employers who are having the same problems you are. Everyone is in the middle of a highly competitive war for talent. But there are things you can do to win and keep the right people and grow your business in this and any market.

There are many reasons why people quit their jobs. You have no control over the personal issues that make people leave, like moving out of town or health issues. But you do have control over the kind of workplace environment you offer, and this is where small- to mid-size companies have the advantage. Take it! It’s much easier for you to add flexibility, purpose, and caring to your culture and get rid of outdated rules and practices that tie you down and turn employees off.

Start by listening

Before you develop strategies to improve your work environment, take time to understand why employees typically leave. Then, through stay interviews and other practices, you can find out, specifically, the reasons your employees choose to leave—and then do what you need to do to delight your top employees into staying with you.

Why they leave; How to entice them to stay

 “I’m not feeling appreciated and I don’t feel valued.” In taking on your most difficult work and/or responsibilities, top employees have earned your praise and deserve recognition. It’s highly important that they feel the love. Create a celebratory culture where everyone is valued and those who go the extra mile get the most appreciation and reward — not just once a year, but any day it’s deserved.

“My boss is mean and my coworkers don’t care about me.” Don’t let managers or supervisors create their own tiny cultures that make life miserable for their direct reports. Use assessments to hire for attitude, then train for the experience and skills you need whenever possible. Attitude is very difficult to change. You’re either respectful of others and empathetic to their situation, or not. Get rid of the people who aren’t positive, including managers and supervisors. They’re creating a toxic environment that talented people won’t tolerate.

“I don’t fit in here.” It’s your culture that makes you unique and it can be your strongest competitive edge—if it’s inspiring and motivating. Assess candidates for cultural fit first. Skilled people will follow, attracted by your positive culture.

“I’m bored at work.” Top talent is motivated by challenge. They like to stretch to see how far they can go. Give them your biggest challenges to solve and reward them with promotions and recognition. 

“I don’t see a career path.” Curious people want to learn. They thrive on opportunities to grow and move their careers forward. Make sure you include a strong development program for top performers and work with them to set meaningful goals.

 “I’m burned out and stressed by my workload.” Challenge and opportunity are one thing; being overworked is another. Remember that even your most motivated, most talented people have a life. Make sure your culture allows for work/life balance.

“I’m not paid what I’m worth.” It’s not a bargain to negotiate the lowest possible wage a candidate will accept. If you want to keep top people, or any good people, make fairness part of your culture in what you pay and how you treat them. Fair wages should be a core value of every company.

“I don’t find meaning in my work.” All employees, and especially younger generations in today’s workplace, want to find meaning and purpose in their work. Help them understand what their contribution is to the whole; and find a nonprofit or other organization that’s relevant to the work you do and support employees in contributing to them on company time.

“I not allowed to make decisions on my own.” If your culture allows managers to micromanage their people, restructure. Employees want to be empowered with autonomy and the ability to make meaningful contributions on their own or on a team. They cannot do that with someone constantly watching over them and judging. You hired them, you have to trust them. If you can’t, they shouldn’t be working for you.

“I have no information on the company finances.” Lack of communication from executives, especially about the financial stability of the company, breaks trust. When things are happening, especially negative things like layoffs, respect your people enough to tell the truth. Build a culture of trust, not rumor and fear.

Build or rebuild your culture into a setting people look forward to spending a third or more of their time every day and you will have no problem winning top talent. Compensation is important to all of us, but how we feel when we’re earning it is equally important. Low turnover is a sign you are doing many things right—and it can help you be on the winning side of the talent war.

More on hiring, engagement & culture: Webinar on demand — Build a Talent and Culture Road Map for 2020. 

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Kathleen Quinn About the Author: Kathleen Quinn Votaw

Kathleen is an engaging and authoritative speaker on culture, talent, and human capital strategy. With 30 years of professional experience, including 10+ years as a Vistage member and 15+ years as a CEO, Kathleen offers invaluable advice to …

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