Seven Reasons Why Employees Leave

By Leigh Branham

The good news in this economy is that more people have been holding onto their jobs. The bad news is that the best performers are the ones most likely to leave. And when a top performer leaves, the impact can be disproportionate, often costing one to three times the individual’s compensation.

All things being equal, good employees do leave for small pay raises, shorter commutes and better benefits with bigger companies. So a manager’s mission is to make sure things are not equal. In other words, if you can’t match what other employers provide in the way of pay and benefits, you have to focus on what you can provide—and those things are plentiful.

According to industry research, 80 percent of managers believe pay is the main reason employees leave, but, in reality, only 12 percent of employees leave for reasons related to pay. There are seven fundamental reasons employees disengage and leave.

1. The job or workplace was not as expected.

About a third of American workers quit in the first six months because they have unrealistic expectations about the job or workplace.

What to do: Give job candidates a realistic preview by describing the demands of the job in detail. If possible, find ways to let candidates experience the job before hiring them as full-time employees.

2. There’s a mismatch between job and person.

We hire and promote hurriedly and carelessly, often putting people in jobs where their talents are underutilized or where they are in over their heads.           

What to do: Use multiple interviewers, ask behavior-based questions and use pre-hire personality assessments.

3. There’s too little coaching and feedback.

More than 60 percent of employees say they don’t get enough feedback.           

What to do: Train supervisors on how to give constructive feedback. Training should call for frequent, specific feedback, careful listening, and forming adult-to-adult partnerships, not parent-child relationships.

4. There are too few growth and advancement opportunities.

While 85 percent of employees say career growth is a key reward, less than 50 percent say their employers are providing it. Employees at larger companies often complain about being blocked by their managers from moving laterally and across functions.

What to do: Allow employees to try out new roles, take on new projects and have more contact with customers, thus using and developing a broader range of abilities. Ask employees about their career aspirations and what they would like to learn.

5. Employees feel devalued and unrecognized.

 There are many ways workers feel devalued besides low pay. These include not being acknowledged for a job well done, not being treated with respect, not receiving the right resources and having to work in unacceptable physical environments.

What to do: Ask your employees what they need to help them do their jobs more effectively and what would improve the workplace. Listen carefully to their ideas and implement as many of their suggestions as possible.

6. Employees are stressed from overwork and work/life imbalance.

More than 40 percent of Americans say their jobs are extremely stressful. Another 70 percent say they don’t have a healthy balance between their work and their personal lives.           

What to do: Meet with employees to find out about the challenges they face outside work. Provide more scheduling flexibility to those who need it and more staffing support, if possible, to those who are overworked.

7. There’s a loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.

Employers with high trust levels outperform those with low trust levels by 186 percent. Yet only 39 percent of American workers trust their senior leaders.

What to do: Give the gift of time and availability by interacting daily in a positive way with employees at all levels. Build trust by being open with information, and by listening and acting on their concerns.

The most powerful solution to employee turnover revolves around the simple intangibles of everyday good management and healthy cultures. Focus on these basics and watch your retention rate rise.                                             

Leigh Branham is founder and CEO of Keeping the People, a management consulting firm that helps organizations analyze the causes of employee disengagement and turnover, and develop strategies for changing these. He is the author of two books: The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late and Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business: 24 Ways to Hang on to Your Most Valued Talent.