Person trying to understand why employees leave and how to keep them

Why employees leave and how to keep them

Sometimes when employees leave, the reasons are obvious. But what about when you lose great workers out of the blue?

Sometimes when employees leave, the reasons are obvious. But what about when you lose great workers out of the blue? We take a look at why employees leave companies – and how to keep them.

Why employees leave

Talent is a huge company asset, so when you lose a great worker it can leave management scrambling. If you’re experiencing an employee attrition spike, here are some of the leading reasons good employees leave:

  • Bad management: We’ve all heard that people quit managers, not jobs. A trait contributing to poor management is micromanagement, which is listed as one of the top three reasons employees resign. Micromanagement leaves employees feeling undervalued and affects overall performance.
  • Lack of appreciation: In a similar vein, 79 per cent of people who quit their jobs cite “lack of appreciation” as the reason they leave.
  • No opportunities to grow: It’s only natural for people to want to feel like they are growing and progressing along their career path. If they feel there is an artificial ceiling, they may seek challenges elsewhere.
  • External factors: Sometimes employees leave companies for reasons completely separate from the company itself. They may move to another country, take a sabbatical, be experiencing a personal crisis or simply opt to pursue another lifelong passion.

External factors can be a reason why employees leave

What can you do to keep them?

Knowing the reasons why employees leave can help you keep them. Here are a few ways you can retain your top talent:

  1. Review your post-resignation process

An exit interview is the best way to identify issues (particularly managerial) and learn from them. Hearing from the affected party directly removes the guesswork, however, this relies on the employee being forthcoming with information.

If the employee doesn’t mention any issues during the exit interview but the resignation was perfunctory, do a little more investigation to identify the root of the problem. Ask colleagues close to the employee if they were aware of any problems, but assure them this is motivation to change, not challenge. At this point, you need to show your team you are willing to make changes to the organisation to learn from this experience.

  1. Observe performance and engagement

Monitoring employee engagement is a good way to track their commitment to the company. But it’s not their work performance that is most telling.

Are your extroverted employees suddenly withdrawing? Are they calling in sick or opting to work from home? Are they holding back their opinions in company-wide discussions? These are tell-tale signs that your employee is disengaged. Once employees reach this level of dissatisfaction, they are much more likely to move to another company for just a marginally better offer.

In the short term, consider adding company perks or running team bonding activities. In the long term, you need to radically invest in re-engaging your team and creating a supported environment.

A manager puts a plan in place to address why employees leave

  1. Create support

If an employee is disengaged or you’ve identified a cultural problem, it’s no longer enough to offer support. You need to create support.

Express your gratitude and touch base early and often. Be forthcoming with ideas on how issues can be addressed, don’t leave this to the employee to solve. Show interest in making your employee feel valued. Great bosses make employees feel safe enough to request what they need or express different ideas. If you come away from your meetings with lists of to-dos, take this as a positive sign.

  1. Build career paths, especially non-managerial ones

Not every worker wants to be a manager. In fact, the assumption that an exceptional employee will also be a great manager is a problematic assumption. Instead, invest in creating alternative career pathways within your company. These could help employees diversify, move across departments, or engage in further formal education.

And remember, not all opportunities need to be job-focused. Some great companies have implemented sabbatical leave programs (tackling those external factors) or volunteer opportunities.


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