In the employment field, one of the most difficult conversations to have for most is why an employee is leaving a company. The employee leaving usually does not want to hurt anyone’s feelings or burn any bridges on the way out the door, while some employers are unwilling to admit they could be to blame for losing top talent from their organization.
It is easy to say someone left for more money or because they could not handle the job, but if you truly want to understand why employees are leaving your organization, you need to dig deeper and pay more attention to warning signs when they first appear with your employees.
Recently on Inc.com, Elle Kaplan of Lexion Capital Management dug into “Eight Reasons Why Exceptional Employees Quit Their Jobs.” I will discuss three of these eight reasons (you can read the full article here), and why they are important for both job seekers and organizational leaders to look for on the job.
No. 1: “They Don’t Instill Purpose”
In her article, Kaplan pointed out, “Research has shown that there is a consistent relationship between a company’s profitability, productivity and how important an employee believes in the company’s mission and purpose.”
Many employers seem to think that an employee earning a steady paycheck is enough of a motivator for someone to show up every single day and give their best effort. While being able to pay the bills is an important factor for most people, they can do that working pretty much anywhere. Getting an employee to “buy in” to the overall mission and goal of your organization is huge when it comes to developing a culture employees want to thrive in each day.
How can an organization do this? From my experience at different companies, focusing less on the bottom line and more on what you are achieving as a group and how your efforts are impacting people in a positive manner goes a long way.
My co-workers used to laugh when I talked about how we were “changing lives” every single day when I worked at a local college immediately after I graduated from college. However, that was my driving factor every single day to go above and beyond. I would stay a little later if a student needed me to help, and it did not bother me one bit because of the reward of seeing them graduate and chase their own life goals one day.
My challenge for both employees and employers when it comes to purpose is to “find the why,” and then drive home that message in your organization.
No. 2: “They Don’t Provide Opportunities for Growth”
In this section, Kaplan pointed out the following. “A study in Harvard Business Review looked at why top performers are job-hunting, and they found that a lack of development opportunity is often the fuel that leads to early exits.”
Many organizations do not realize the impact that an employee growing up their corporate ladder can have on culture as a whole. Not only does it reward employees for hard work and effort, but it sets a tone within the organization that you want to retain and promote your top talent. This in turn can light a fire under your workforce without having to give any of those dreaded “do better” speeches.
From my own experience, where companies can fail with this is to pigeon-hole an employee into a certain ceiling of growth as well. For example, an old company I was part of used to promote people to “Project Managers.” There wasn’t really a true definition of what this entailed, but it was how they moved their entry-level employees up, in their eyes.
If you are going to reward employees with growth, make sure it still entails what they were thriving at before. Obviously part of getting a promotion is taking on new tasks and additional responsibility, but if you strip away the items someone is passionate about, you are playing with fire when it comes to keeping that employee happy.
No. 3: “They Micromanage”
“If you’re constantly trying to control every inch, you’ll detract from the work quality of everything, while quickly dissolving trust in your team.”
Let me preface this by saying, there are certain employees who need a level of micromanaging in their lives. Just like in sports where some athletes need a coach to stay on them to get the most out of them, some employees need a boss to make sure they are on task and to push them a little just the same.
However, not all employees are the same—and it is the job of the employer to realize this. Just because you are used to controlling every aspect of your business, does not mean you should do so—especially when in most instances you brought someone into your organization to do something you could not do or wanted to improve on.
How can an employer walk that fine line between being a manager and a micromanager?
Present expectations and goals for an employee from day one, and then measure them on a certain date. This will breed a culture of trust and personal responsibility to your employees. They will now understand it is their responsibility to complete their tasks and hit goals, and be measured on them at the end of the period. If you are over their shoulder every single day, you may suppress creativity and replace it with them needing to “look like they are working” every given moment.
Kaplan’s article had a number of great reasons why employees are quitting at a rate of more than 1 in 5 employees—I highly recommend you give it a read at the link above.
At the end of the day, you cannot force an employee to stay in your organization. Some are naturally going to outgrow positions and get to a level where your structure no longer provides them enough of a reward to feed their desire.
The goal is to create a culture and environment where employees do not want to leave for the easy reasons. Giving them a reason to show up, opportunity to grow and the space to perform their jobs and be personally responsible for their actions goes a long way in an organization.
If you can do this as an employer, you will see employees who want to perform at a higher level for your company—and likely have a more profitable company as an indirect result.