It can be a shock when a good employee quits, particularly if they gave no indication that they were thinking of leaving.
As well as the loss to the team as a whole, as a manager, you now face the challenge of finding a replacement. Recruitment is expensive and time-consuming, and most companies take the approach that it is much simpler to try to retain staff than to recruit.
The Work Institute 2017 Retention Report found that more employees are leaving their jobs than ever before, and employers take the hit, with an estimated cost of $15,000 for every loss of an employee and the subsequent hiring to replace them.
A good staff retention strategy can help create a happy workforce and a strong team that grows and develops together. In many cases, understanding the reasons why good employees quit can help you take measures to address issues before they get to the point where they want to leave.
Why do talented employees quit?
1. Wellbeing & Mental Health
In a workplace that has a toxic culture, people can become increasingly worn down and fed up with worrying about what will happen next. When negativity comes from the top down, good employees spot that things are very unlikely to change and are not willing to sacrifice their mental health for a poorly managed company.
How to address it: Weed out toxic practices that have crept in. It is never worth keeping hold of a member of staff who brings the whole team down, no matter how well they perform in their role.
Listen to employees who try to tell you why things are not working. A good exit interview process can also reveal what might be driving people away.
2. Clarity, Focus & Unattainable Goals
Good employees want to feel like they are progressing and developing their skills in the workplace. Without any clarity on how they can progress or targets to aim for, they can find their work uninspiring and dull. Alternatively, if their goals are unattainable, there is little point in giving their all for a target they will never reach.
How to address it: Good employees need plenty of opportunity for growth, with suitable rewards for performance. A clear structure of how to progress in the company and how to reach for the next promotion can help them see the path ahead and have something to strive for.
Goals should be challenging, but achievable. Try introducing SMART goals.
3. Reward & Recognition
When hard work goes without acknowledgment or reward, employees can become disillusioned and demoralised. Talented and high-performing employees realise that they get very little recognition for their success, which kills their enthusiasm and has them looking elsewhere for a new job.
How to address it: Incentives and rewards can encourage and recognise achievement. Commission pay structures or pay bonuses can be very effective in rewarding employees for their hard work. You can also hold award ceremonies or even gamify work, with prizes for reaching goals.
4. Show Me the Money
Pay is a crucial factor for retaining good employees. Talented and experienced employees know that they are valuable to a company and want to be remunerated accordingly. An ambitious person is often looking to increase their salary, even if this means leaving your company.
How to address it: It's simple: pay your employees well. Ideally, to keep the very best employees, you need to be paying more than your competitors. An employee's salary must be a fair reflection of their skills, and should increase as that person develops and progresses in their role.
5. Personal Attention
Employees that never get one-on-one time with their manager can feel overlooked and unheard, with a feeling that their boss is not interested in their job satisfaction or performance. This can quickly lead to dissatisfaction.
How to address it: Spend time developing your employee, giving them the opportunity for regular one-on-one time with management to reflect on how they are managing, how they would like to develop in the role, and if there is anything they think could be improved.
Let them know they are valued and that you want them to feel happy and fulfilled in their role.
6. Their Ideas are Ignored
Good employees are in a position to see the day-to-day running of the company and will have ideas and suggestions for how to improve processes. When these ideas are ignored, they feel insignificant and undervalued. As an employer, by ignoring their ideas, you are missing out on valuable insight that a good employee has.
How to address it: Your employees can offer a perspective that you might not have thought of. After all, they are at the coalface witnessing what works or doesn't work.
You can encourage your employees to come to you with their ideas by having an open-door policy or by allocating time for the sharing of ideas at a monthly team meeting.
7. Good Employees Work with Bad Employees
No one likes to feel like they are carrying their colleagues. It is very demoralising to see someone coasting while everyone else picks up their slack; it can lead to frustration and resentment, and a good employee won't tolerate it for long.
How to address it: As an employer, it is up to you to track the progress of each member of staff and identify those not pulling their weight before it becomes a problem for the whole team. If people see that you have identified a weak link and are trying to address it, they are more likely to have patience with the situation and confidence that you will find a resolution.
Sometimes you might just have to let the employee go if things do not improve for the good of your team, company and the employee themselves.
8. They are Bad Employees (You Just Didn't Know it)
Sometimes, someone you assumed would be a good employee turns out to be not quite right for the job and leaves their post soon after being appointed. Often when this happens, there were problems with the hiring process in the first place and the person was not a good fit.
How to address it: A robust recruitment strategy is the best way to avoid hiring employees who don't work out. Pre-employment assessments tailored to the job role can help to eliminate unsuitable candidates early on in the process.
Pay attention to how a candidate might fit with your existing team. Even a top-performing employee might be wrong for the role if they disrupt the team.
9. Poor Leadership / Management
There is a saying that people don't leave a bad job, they leave a bad manager. The incompetence of a manager who lacks the skills to do their job properly impacts the whole team and can create a toxic environment that makes everyone unhappy.
How to address it: Invest in training and supporting your management staff. They should be attending regular training. It also helps to have a robust hierarchy where your senior staff can look to you for support in disciplinary or sensitive matters.
10. Lack of Work-Life Balance
You will negatively impact an employee's work-life balance by expecting them to take work home with them, calling them into work on days off, or cancelling annual leave. In many cases, these practices imply poor management skills and most employees are not prepared to sacrifice their personal life for their job.
How to address it: Respect your employees' personal time. Ensure that their workload can be realistically completed in the time that they are at work. A culture of presenteeism is not usually conducive to a happy and healthy workforce.
Extra benefits can help your staff achieve a good work-life balance, such as subsidised gym memberships or on-site exercise classes.
Building a great retention strategy
A robust retention strategy can help reduce turnover of staff and help you hold onto good employees. In many cases, it is simply a case of making small changes to ensure your team feels valued and listened to.
As the market becomes increasingly led by employees, talented individuals know they are in demand and can choose the company that gives them the best experience and opportunities.
If your company also works hard to make sure its employees are happy and fulfilled in their work, it gives you the edge against your competitors and helps improve the overall performance and success of your organisation.