Why Good Employees Leave – And how to Retain More of Them
By Gregg Gregory
left the mortgage company she worked with for several years for
competitor and a promotion. No one could blame her for leaving;
after all, she had dreams of her own to pursue. Vickie was
well-respected by her co-workers, therefore two of them contacted
her almost immediately wanting to come work for her. Vickie knew the
talent each possessed and brought them both on board.
weeks later, Vickie ran into the President of her previous company.
He was outraged, screaming across the parking lot and warning her
not to steal any more employees. While Vickie didn’t appreciate the
verbal abuse, she knew she had done nothing wrong. After all, she
could did not steal someone who didn’t want to leave in the first
place, and both employees sought her out for employment initially.
In Vickie’s case, the employees joined her because she had gained
their respect during her tenure.
employees leave for a variety of reasons, the reality is the company
simply failed to keep them. Many employers believe the ultimate
secret to retaining employees is offering more money; however,
studies continually show that while money is important – and may be
the first answer given in an exit interview – it’s rarely the number
one reason for leaving a company.
do good employees leave? Often times, it’s difficult to get a direct
answer. However, each person who moves on can tell a story, and it’s
important to build as much of the story as possible. The most
undervalued tool in determining why employees leave is the exit
interview. When someone leaves, who is the best person to conduct
this interview? If the immediate manager is responsible, the
interview will not likely result in honest answers. The interview
needs to be conducted by a neutral party, usually someone from human
are certain questions to ask, such as, “why are you leaving?” While
on the surface it seems like a simple question with a simple answer,
nothing could be further from the truth. Think of it this way; when
in a department store and the sales associate asks, “Can I help
you?” Our pre-programmed response is always, “No, I am just
the same is true for, “why are you leaving?” The preprogrammed
response is, “more money.” What is the underlying question? Is money
the reason the employee went looking in the first place; that answer
is usually no.
breakthrough the preprogrammed response, there are a series of
questions to ask. Begin with, “what is the reason you have chosen
to leave our organization?” Avoid asking “why” in the opening
statement because it sets off the defense mechanism immediately.
first reason may very well be more money. If so, proceed by thanking
the person and asking if he/she feels as though they were underpaid
in the current position. Regardless of the answer, ask how important
money is to the person. This will feel uncomfortable, but the
interviewer will begin to uncover whether money is actually the
number one motivator for leaving.
ask what other factors brought on their desire to leave? This could
result in many answers – shorter commute, nicer office, etc. –
regardless, the next question must be, “why is this important to
you?” Finally, the most important question gauges overall
importance: “which is more important, money or a shorter commute,
nicer office, etc.?”
first question will bring down the defenses and open the person up
for communication, as well as opening the interviewer up to a series
of employee needs. The second question begins the prioritizing
process. Usually money is the first answer given – as in the example
– and then when asked which is more important, that first answer may
be pushed down list. This process must be continued until the
employee says there are no other reasons for leaving.
spousal relocation, personal family issues and medical issues, why
do good employees leave? While they often tell the exit interviewer
it’s money-related, a good exit interviewer can uncover reasons,
including poor leadership, conflict
with others – including immediate supervisors – lack of potential to
advance, boredom with the responsibilities, or lack of recognition
from management. Even still, there are three main reasons why
Money: Whether it’s the first response or not, money is always a
factor in leaving a job, and often with good reason. Are employers
paying their employees fair market value in today’s market? If so,
money is a scapegoat answer because it’s likely the person will not
make significantly more in a new position. As an employer, resources
salary.com can relay accurate and appropriate information.
Managers must revaluate their employee’s salaries on a regular basis
to stay competitive.
Conflict: Behavioral or personality conflicts with coworkers or
supervisors are also common factors in leaving a job. Conflict with
projects can be healthy, yet conflict between people styles can be
deadly. Too often people try to get their point across without
understanding the other person’s point-of-view. Thus, conflict
arises on a regular basis. This can be addressed with training on
how to adapt to different behavior styles.
People Skills: A big reason why employees leave ultimately boils
down to poor people skills in management. An employer must ask, “are
my front line leaders good with people?” Many managers were
promoted to their position because they did their first job well,
but that doesn’t mean they know how to lead others in the position.
When employees are asked for the top three favorable traits in their
best boss, 90 percent are people-based skills.
Determining the underlying causes for an employee’s departure is
vital to the success and evolution of every company, large or small.
The exit interview is the most underrated yet efficient method in
gathering this information, and it needs to be continued time and
time again to build statistical information on an organization. Each
organization is different than the one across the parking lot,
therefore, the more information gathered, the more informed senior
management will be about strategic decisions down the road.
job-hopping market is about to take off and retaining good employees
will be crucial. Are you ready?
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about Gregg Gregory.
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