Regrettable Losses: Why the Best People Leave Your Company … and What To Do About It

How many did your company regret?

Why the Best People Leave Your Company .. and 5 Reasons They’ll Stay.

We all know the “regrettable loss” feeling. The star performer in Sales, Operations, Marketing or IT gives the Speech: “I couldn’t say No to an amazing opportunity. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

When you ask what they offered (that their current job doesn’t) you hear generic answers “more opportunity for challenges, work more suited to me, a financial package that helps my family.”

Regrettable Losses, Magnified

This situation is becoming more common by the day, and will continue to do so. (based on Millennial expectations of job tenure, on top of shortages in technical talent and leadership succession in many industries.

  • According to Jeanne Meister of Future Workplace, in a survey entitled “Multiple Generations @ Work,” 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay at a job for less than three years. This would result in working between 15 and 20 jobs throughout their careers.
  • Theaverage raise an employee can expect to receive from his or her employer is three percent each year. Regardless of the employee’s performance, most companies put a cap on raises based on a percentage of the employee’s salary due to budget constraints.
  • The Consumer Price Index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the current inflation rate at 2.1 percent, which means an employee’s yearly raise equates to less than one percent.
  • An employee who accepts a new job at a new company, can expect anaverage salary increase of between 10 and 20 percent. Employers are often willing to pay more in order to recruit new talent.

What the employee usually will not tell you, are the REAL reasons they left.  Many of those reasons are predictable and controllable, if you understand what’s behind the curtain.

Here are the top 16 reasons people really leave their job or company:

1) No respect – Mainly for people’s time – eg, leaders schedule business mandatory activities and work functions at 7:30 AM on Monday or Happy Hours at 4:30 PM on Friday.

2) No Future – “If I can’t see it here, I’m going to find it somewhere else.”

3) No Fun – All work and no play cultures make sure Jack is a target to leave!

4) No Feedback – #1 predictor of high performance is a feedback culture.

5) No Connection to Purpose – Humans are creatures of purpose more than habit.

6) Manager Doesn’t Care – No interest in the people or team he or she is leading.

7) Overworked – See #14

8) No Appreciation – See #4

9) Not Motivating – No effort to learn individuals’ motivations and support their expression.

10) No Challenge – “I’ve outgrown this boring job” and nothing new in sight.

11) No Vision – Company’s leadership is overly transactional. “Make-the-numbers only” workplaces are a big turn-off.

12) No Company Growth – “How fast can I jump this sinking ship?”

13) No Personal Growth or Connection to Passion – “If leaders don’t care about anything but money, why should I?”

14) Hire and Promote the Wrong People – Top performers are the dumping ground for incompetent and mediocre employee workloads.

Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement survey asks the following question: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” Their extensive research shows that there is a direct correlation between how employees rate that one question and employee retention, customer metrics, productivity, and profitability.

Gallup concludes that “The best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose, help them feel they belong, and enable them to make a difference.”

Building challenging and rewarding career paths in an organization that are well communicated and understood by employees is not common. Even in the best-case scenario (managers are holding regular performance reviews with their employee), employees often don’t receive effective guidance on how to move horizontally or vertically in their company. The process is often left to chance, and only the most assertive or pushy candidates receive promotions.

Creating career paths these days, should be more like stepping stones (versus a one-way ladder to the top). Not every employee is on a rise to the top, or even wants C-level jobs. Further, technical savants (or employees who are solid individual contributors but don’t shine at managing people) should be given opportunities to rise to new challenges – and pay levels – on a separate track from the traditional leadership ladder.

For any employee worth retaining, a manager’s accountability should be to support their career path within THIS company.

Pre-Empting Regret

1) Transparency Shows Respect.  The best people leave when recruiters and job offers land at the moment they are slightly angry, bored or dissatisfied.  Perhaps the hours are wearing on them or their spouse is on their case because they’re never home.  A good manager will create transparency on their team, by asking employees “What makes it hard for you to work here?” on a regular basis. ASSUME your best employees are being sought out by recruiters. Use open, honest conversations to solve their pain points and help make your organization’s culture “stick-proof” for top talent. This emanates from the tone at the top: A good CEO realizes people have lives outside of work, and wants to provide balance as long as the work gets done. This is the number one way to prevent people from wanting to be elsewhere.

2)  The Appreciation Habit.  Where people feel wanted, they want to be. Make sure your best people know much they are appreciated. Sincere, honest accolades should become a required habit if you’re managing people. Spread it around to all team members who are making sincere effort to raise their game and do good work. Consider it like a professional sports team – not all positions get the glory but every player is extremely valuable in their position and that should be recognized publicly.

3) Raise the Bar.  While we all differ in personality, motivation, and work ethic – most people want to win and do great things. Creating a winning culture happens through clear vision, challenging but achievable goals, and constant feedback, coaching, accolades, and celebration. If you are seeing a lot of people leaving a company, consider “Who’s holding the bar”?  Chances are, a few super-stars do this, while most employees are not fully engaged in understanding what it means to “raise the bar” or what their role in that will be.

4) Managers: Pressure or Pride? If one of your best people leaves because of their boss, it could be seen as a failure in the company’s hiring process; ie, an employee and manager did not get enough exposure to one another before hiring.  If several people leave (and you vetted this manager and believe in him or her) it may be too much pressure on the manager for unrealistic performance, the stress of unachievable targets, or a manager who is too proud to say what’s really going on with his department or team.  Whatever the case, immediate coaching for that person should be a requirement, to help them succeed or move into another role.

5) Avoid “Grass is Greener” Syndrome.  Most of us would rather spend our spare time having dinner with friends, play-time with family, or enjoy our hobbies. (Not take the time to look for a new job.) If an employee is dissatisfied, they will make up stories about how it’s better somewhere else, even if the reality is it will be worse. When a company creates a culture of green pastures with plenty of room to roam, it offsets this dynamic.  One client we worked with had a “Greener Pastures” culture team who randomly assembled and asked people “What grass is greener stories are you hearing about other companies you might be interested to work for?  How can we help to ensure our company has the greenest grass?”  Simply asking is a magic! remedy to creating greener pastures.

Even when you are working on your culture, the best people leave.  Accept it.  Pre-empt surprises and regrets. And above all, be gracious and leave the door open to stay in touch. An “Alumni Network” on Facebook or Linked In can be a round-about that will steer them right back your way when the green grass turns brown somewhere else.




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