7 Reasons Why Employees Leave: 4 You Can Control and 3 You Can’t

Employee-QuitsIn a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 30% of employees said they were likely to look for work outside of their organization in 2010. Experts expected job satisfaction rates would be even lower this year due to company layoffs and pay cuts many employees faced during the recession. But, job satisfaction is still dropping. Of those surveyed, 28% indicated they were less satisfied with their jobs given the economic climate in 2010, up a drastic 6% from 2009.

Whether it’s 10% of your workforce, 30%, or more, employee turnover can be costly. With training expenses, replacement hiring costs, and lost productivity, turnover can cost anywhere from one to three times the cost of an employee’s salary. But when employees leave, there are bigger issues to consider than controlling costs. When you lose an employee, you lose the experience, skills, and knowledge they bring to the table. And since change can be hard to adjust to, it can also impact team dynamics and even job satisfaction, engagement, and stress levels of co-workers and staff – especially if they have to pick up the slack when an employee quits.

When an employee you value resigns, it can be hard for you, your team, and your entire company. Knowing why they leave can help you expand the reasons for your employees to stay. You’ve invested in your employees. Keep your workforce strong and retain your most valuable assets – your people – by making it hard for them to want to leave.

4 Reasons Employees Leave that You Can Control

1. You
A supervisor’s relationship with his or her employees plays an integral part in an employee’s happiness at work. It takes time and effort to build the trust and loyalty you share with your staff. But, with the hours of meetings and projects you have to deal with every day, it can be hard to find time for your employees. Just remember, you may have even less time if you have to train a new employee. Make it a priority to spend time with your team. Schedule weekly or bi-monthly meetings with each member of your team to keep abreast of their workloads and provide direction and understanding for the issues they’re facing. Keep the lines of communication open, and be sure to recognize the achievements of your employees through private and public praise. People need to know they’re appreciated and valued, so acknowledging your employees’ accomplishments is an easy and cost-effective way to increase employee morale, engagement, and productivity.

2. The Work
Given that most of our adult lives are spent at work, it’s important to understand and feel that the work you do is meaningful. When you spend eight hours a day, five days a week, month after month, year in and year out at work, your sense of purpose and accomplishment in life is often tied to what you do. Whether you work on an assembly line or in an executive suite, you need your work to be meaningful and valuable, so it can add meaning and purpose to your entire life. Employees surveyed by SHRM ranked work itself as one of the top five contributors to job satisfaction. So, when employees are unsatisfied with their work, it could mean retention issues for you.

If your employees aren’t satisfied with their work, find out why. Make sure you communicate how important their job actually is and help them understand why it matters. Be sure to encourage them in their day-to-day activities and show them they’re making a difference. Find ways to challenge them. Ask for their input to make work more exciting and relevant. You may not be able to eliminate every tedious task, but you can help balance their current tasks with new ones to minimize the monotony they may be experiencing and eliminate the risk of losing your employee. Find ways to utilize other skills sets they have that aren’t being used. And, if your worker’s knowledge exceeds his or her current position, consider promoting them to a new job. The more valued and effective your employees feel, the more engaged, motivated, and happy they’ll be.

3. Compensation
It may surprise some employers to know that compensation is not the number one reason employees leave a job. Not even close. In fact, compensation was ranked as less important than job-specific training on SHRM’s job satisfaction survey. But, while it may not be the biggest reason employees leave, noncompetitive compensation can be a deal breaker for your employees.

To prevent your workforce from leaving for compensation reasons, start by restoring pay or merit increases to pre-recession levels as soon as possible if you cut or froze compensation in the last two years. Also, be aware that as the economy continues to bounce back, companies are looking for top talent. So, make sure you’re offering competitive salaries by researching the market in your area to keep competitors from wooing away your most gifted employees.

4. Greener Pastures
If an employee feels the company they work for doesn’t have room for growth, they may move on to greener pastures. So, make sure your employees have career paths they can work toward. Nearly six out of 10 employees rated opportunities to use their skills and abilities as the third most important contributor to their job satisfaction, according to SHRM. Find ways to utilize the skills and abilities your employees have to increase their satisfaction at work. And, offer training to help expand their knowledge and expertise.

Advancement opportunities are important to your workers. They are looking for ways to improve their abilities and skills. Encourage them in their endeavors. Guide and teach them what you can. And, if they do get to a point where they can’t grow in your company any more, be willing to provide them with the support they need to look elsewhere. You’ll demonstrate to all your employees how much you truly care about them as individuals, not just company assets.

3 Reasons You Can’t Control when Employees Leave

1. Health Issues
Health related issues for an employee, his or her spouse, or another family member is another reason employees resign. You probably can’t do anything about an employee quitting for health reasons, but you can help keep your workforce healthy and strong by developing a health incentive program that works for your company. Also, make sure your team is following the safety procedures in place to protect them from injury. Your workers need to know they’re more than just employees to you. So, if you have an employee leave for health reasons, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their hard work before they go. Check in on them from time to time, and if you can, offer some assistance like a home-cooked meal or a run to the grocery store to let them know you care.

2. Relocation
When employees leave to be closer to their family or to follow a spouse relocating for a job, there’s usually not a lot you can do about it. If they’re an employee you can’t live without and their job allows them to work from home, look into telecommuting options. And think about going above and beyond the extra mile by offering to help load the moving truck or giving them your empty packing boxes. You’ll show your entire team how much you care about each of them, when you show care and consideration to employees who leave. Your actions will go a long way to becoming the company that employees are willing to invest their time and talents in.

3. Early Retirement and Personal Reasons
Some workers resign for personal reasons like staying home to raise children, early retirement, going back to school or fulfilling a life’s dream. You can’t control personal reasons employees have for leaving, but you can respect their decisions and wish them well in every endeavor. You never know, they may decide to come back to work when their kids go to school or find that early retirement is just not for them. The respect and understanding you provide will help keep even the employees who quit loyal to you and your company.

You can’t control every reason why employees leave. But, knowing why they leave can help you change the things you can do to keep your employees happy, engaged, and satisfied in their jobs and your workforce strong, productive, and thriving.

16 Responses to 7 Reasons Why Employees Leave: 4 You Can Control and 3 You Can’t

  1. Doug Goodman August 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Good article.

  2. Linda August 3, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    Great article Brie. You nailed it. 96% of teammates leave due to the poor leadership within the company. Leaders must realize that if they are experiencing turnover in a certain department that they must look at the management of that area.

    Turnover caused by the work or the compensation is still a reflection of weak leadership. I’ve seen people actually leave for less pay to work in an environment where better leadership resides.

    This is a great topic for company leaders to address before their employees address it first… by leaving. and once employees see that their teammates are surviving and enjoying new employment… everybody starts to look for other opportunities. Turnover becomes a snowball that is hard to stop. We can’t demand employees to serve unless we are good stewards of the team.

    As John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” even turnover. 🙂

    Thanks for your article.

  3. Lindsey August 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    As someone who recently left a job due to poor leadership, I thought this article was awesome! I’ve said it for years – an employee’s relationship with their supervisor is the biggest reason for leaving a job. But I hadn’t actually lived that until recently. Of course, there are a lot of other reasons too, primarily the ones you covered. I think there’s going to be a lot of job hopping as the economy recovers, and it’s good for employers to make efforts to retain employees now.

  4. Helen Merkis August 3, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Great article and very timely. I think companies need to value employees more than they do. Treat them as if they are important (and aren’t we all really?!) and pay them well. While money is not the entire reason people should stay at a job, we all have bills to pay. Companies needs to appreciate their employees more by showing them, in words, actions and in the payslip.

  5. Carolyn August 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Great article! “Good Leadership and Compensation” are definately key to employee retention. Employers need to realize in this economy they need to show appreciation and appropriate compensation in order to retain hard working, dedicated employees happy, othewise they may loose them.

  6. Karen S August 3, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Good article, and rather timely. I’m finishing up knowledge transfer after 9+ years in one organization. I’m moving due to 3 of the 4 “controllable” factors.

  7. V.jagannathan August 4, 2010 at 2:50 am #

    Good Article.

  8. Wendy Yuen August 4, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    This information makes sense. This is a good article.

  9. Susan Crandall August 4, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    Helpful article. My view regarding compensation: I don’t think most research studies adequately sample the 25% of the workforce who earn an average of $8.00/hr. I think pay is a much larger motivator for these employees compared to higher paid professionals.

  10. Lori August 6, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Great article and very on point. As someone who has just a few different jobs, but a number of leaders throughout my career I can say that leadership is key to employee retention. However, the employees play a role in this relationship as well and leaders and HR departments should be mindful of that as well.

    When leadership changes, some employees who cannot let go of the past and move forward will sometimes leave a position even though the new leader(s) may, in fact, be considerably better than those that left. If the employee is not open to building a relationship with new leadership, then it is in the best interests of the employer that those employees leave before they bring a negative influence into the organization.

    An employee’s attitude about change is not something an employer can control. Leaders can and should attempt to positively influence his/her staff’s attitude by building those relationships as you suggest. However, good leaders also know that you cannot sacrifice the successful relationships built with other staff in order to keep one or two rotten apples from leaving. Sometimes the cost of turnover is worth it and good leaders recognize that.

  11. Roger Jones, P.Eng, SMIEEE August 9, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    Good article. There was only an indirect mention of “hygiene theory” (compensation being one of the hygiene variables.) Reminder: get the “hygiene” right. Too much costs more than its marginal utility to employees; too little and the loss of utility to employees (disincentive) is too high for the small savings to the employer.

  12. Vic September 20, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    Great list. But though health issues can be uncontrollable, managers and employers may have something to do to make their employees healthy, such as by giving them free regular check-ups, giving them the chance and time to rest, and setting schedules for sports fest and other similar activities.


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