Why Do Great Employees Quit?

Are "personal reasons" ever really the whole reason?

Probably not. Despite the contents of their resignation letter, the reality is most people quit because of something their employer either did, or failed to do. And it's time to start paying attention.

Unemployment is the lowest it's been in years and the open talent economy is no longer a prediction, but a reality. Your best people have a wealth of job options at their fingertips. (That's right. Get ready to see "war for talent" cliches back on HR conference agendas.)

You already know employee retention is expensive and of course you want to hang on to your best performers. But apart from investing in high-tech meditation pods or doling out raises you can't afford, how can you retain your best people?

We're going to tell you what many of your former employees wouldn't, so you can focus on what really matters to your top performers.

Employees Quit Because They Just Don’t Care Anymore

According to Gallup, 87% of employees worldwide are disengaged at work—and that's not entirely their fault.

It's important to understand there's a fine line between burnout and apathy—and top performers don't just "get bored" or stop caring. Most of the time the real problem is simply an imbalance in workload or a lack of vision and motivation, both of which can be easily rectified with the right conversations and coaching.

Get the feeling your best people are starting to switch off? Meet with them immediately to find out why. What's stressing them out? Is there a part of the job that's just not working for them anymore? When was the last time they felt awesome about coming into work?

Be open to their feedback and consider whether a change in role or responsibilities would do the trick. And if you're worried about a pay raise, don't be. According to a survey from executive search firm Korn Ferry, 63% of employees would rather get a promotion than a raise.

For now, focus on coming up with a creative, collaborative way to work on in-person or virtual team building and commit to working the math out later.

Employees Quit When They Don’t See a Way Forward

Think back to your very first interview with your employee. You probably discussed the company mission and their individual career path as an important driver of that vision.

When was the last time you had a conversation like that?

People need to be reminded why they're coming into work every day. What is the big-picture point of even the smallest mundane tasks they're responsible for? Where does their time and effort actually lead? Better opportunities and a stronger career path is probably why they came to you in the first place. Have you delivered?

If your top performers are looking a little uninspired, meet with them to discuss the things they've done that have directly impacted the company in a positive way. Work together to create a defined development plan that aligns with the overarching vision.

As with starting a new diet or learning a new language, seeing your progress is what keeps you motivated to stick with it. And we do our best work when we're excited about what's next. Your performance tracking tool should make it easy for your people to visualize their progress and feel excited about the future.

Employees Leave Because They Don’t Trust You

According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, 63% of survey respondents said CEOs are only somewhat or not at all credible. Ouch.

There's a lot of manager-bashing on the topic of why people quit, but managers and CEOs probably deserve more credit. Most of them care deeply about the happiness and work satisfaction of their employees—and they absolutely want to keep their best people.

But they're busy. Really busy. They don't always have time to give employees the feedback and attention they deserve. More importantly, they don't always make time to follow up on the feedback they get.

For leaders to effectively bridge the trust gap, they need to prove their commitment by following up on the conversations they have with their employees. Even if that's just to say, "I need more time on this. Let's discuss it again at the beginning of Q2."

Set the date. Prepare for the meeting and act on the feedback you receive. Or, explain why you didn't. At least you'll be letting them know you value them enough to keep the conversation going.

What Can You Do about It?

Many recruiters and HR vendors will advise leaders to conduct a 'stay interview' with the goal of course, being to uncover some key insight you can act on to prevent them from leaving.

That's not a bad idea, but it's really only one step up from the dreaded exit interview. A truly preventative approach is one that goes straight to the heart of your employee's biggest motivations and is always focused on retaining your best people.

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