After being in the Human Resources arena for more than twenty years (does that mean I’m officially old? Eeek!) I have seen employees quit for a variety of reasons. When the employee is a high potential, high contributing one, or a well-loved manager, it can be a devastating blow to the company. If the employee is non-performing or toxic to the culture, it’s not but shame on you for not addressing it before they resign. Here are the reasons I’ve been given for why great employees quit:
- I didn’t see any opportunity for growth here
- My manager doesn’t care about me
- My manager doesn’t know what they’re doing (I’m not saying this is true, I’m saying this is what I’ve been told)
- The company doesn’t care about me (or the company owner doesn’t care about me)
- I haven’t received the training I was promised
- The job isn’t what I was told it would be
- I am not being compensated what I’m worth
- I’ve been here X years, and have never even gotten a review
- This is a really negative environment
- I’m expected to work so much that I never see my family anymore. I need balance
- We’re having/have had a baby/small children, and want to make a change so we can be home with them
- I thought I could stand the commute but I can’t
- My spouse accepted a transfer, so we’re moving
All of these reasons, with the exception of the last two (possibly three but I think there are some improvements to make here), are completely avoidable. The problem is, by the time someone is ready to quit over these things, there’s really nothing you can do to keep them except to desperately offer them more money, which I’ve never seen work long-term.
Retaining an engaged workforce of high-performing employees does not happen by accident. In my experience, this only occurs when you have a comprehensive performance management system in place. Some employers try to circumvent this by implementing perks without getting to the core issue. I liken this to putting beautiful buttercream frosting on a liver pate cake (or a custom paint job to a car without an engine if baking analogies don’t work for you). It looks nice and might fool people for a minute, but won’t stand the taste/drive test. Additionally, these interventions cost money without adding to the bottom line. Some examples I’ve seen are:
- Foosball or pool table in the break room
- Free food
- Unlimited PTO (that hardly anyone takes because they think it’s a trap)
- Awesome employee benefits
- High-above-market pay
- Employee BBQs (Potlucks if times are tough)
- Monthly birthday cake for employees (or cards signed by everyone in the office)
- Bring your pet to work (if you do this, please have a plan for poo patrol)
I’m not saying any of these are bad. I think they’re great. I’m just saying they don’t do anything to retain great employees if you don’t have a robust performance management system in place. So what does that look like?
- Accurate documentation of the job details as well as the knowledge, skills, and ability needed to perform the job
- Clear and accurate understanding of what behaviors lead to team and department accomplishments that lead into desired revenue and profitability goals
- Behavior-based training for employee and managers detailing HOW to perform the job and not just what is expected
- Correctly functioning equipment as appropriate to perform tasks
- Clear, articulated explanation of the company goal, mission, and how each job support that
- Accurate individual performance metrics provided weekly to employees to give them feedback on how they’re doing
- Contingent positive reinforcement for performing tasks at or above expectations
- Regular goals to promote job achievement, and growth
- Personal development plan to support employee’s and organization’s growth plan
- Ensuring struggling employees are coached and supported, and ultimately removed from jobs in which they can’t or won’t be successful
This is relatively simple, but not easy, and it’s a lot to navigate with all the other pressing business items to manage. If you’re interested in learning more about setting up a performance management system, click here to set up some time to walk through a complimentary overview of a proven performance management protocol. Or just reach out directly to email@example.com
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people. With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.
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1 reply on “Why great employees quit and what you can do about it”
Great post. Good question to consider.