No one likes losing a great employee. Employees are expensive to replace, onboard, and train and there’s the uncertainty of how a new employee will work out. There’s also the hardship on the rest of the team until the position is filled.
Sometimes there’s a good reason for their departure —the person wasn’t a good fit for the team, they moved away for personal reasons, or they were offered an opportunity too great to pass up. In those cases, even if it’s a difficult transition, it feels fundamentally right.
But what about the rest of the time?
Keeping your best employees starts with understanding why people leave. Some of the top reasons may be:
Overwork: Periods of stress and feeling overwhelmed come with most jobs, but nothing burns out great employees faster than being overworked. The employees you are most likely to overload are your best employees–the most capable and committed, your most trusted. However, if they find themselves constantly taking on more and more, especially in the absence of recognition such as promotions and raises, they come to feel they’re being taken advantage of.
Stagnation: Employees want to feel that they’re moving forward and growing in their professional life. They want to have something to aspire to. If there’s no structure for advancement or growth they’re far more likely to be bored, unhappy, and resentful–things that affect performance and the entire team’s morale.
Lack of recognition: Even the most selfless employees want to be recognized and rewarded for a job well done. It is part of who we are as human beings. When you fail to recognize employees, you’re not only failing to motivate them but also missing out on the most effective way to reinforce great performance. Even if you don’t have the budget for raises or bonuses, there are lots of low-cost ways to provide recognition–and a word of appreciation is free.
Profits over people: When an organization values its bottom line more than its people, the best people go elsewhere, leaving behind those underperforming employees who lack the motivation to find a better position because they feel “stuck” in their current role. The result is a culture of underperformance, low morale, and even disciplinary issues. Of course, things like profit, output, pleasing stakeholders, and productivity are important–but success ultimately depends on the people who do the work.
Lack of trust: Your employees have a vantage point for viewing your behavior and weighing it against your commitments. If they see you dealing unethically with vendors, lying to stakeholders, cheating clients, or failing to keep your word, the best and most principled of them will leave. The rest, even worse, will stay behind and follow your lead.
Unclear company vision: There’s nothing more frustrating than a workplace filled with visions and big dreams, but no translation of those aspirations into the strategic goals that make them achievable. Without that connection, it’s all just talk. What talented person wants to spend his or her time and energy in support of something undefined? People like to know that they’re working to create something, not just spinning their wheels.
Excessive hierarchy: Every workplace needs structure and leadership, but a rigidly top-down organization makes for unhappy employees. If your best performers know they’re expected to produce without contributing their ideas, if they’re not empowered to make decisions, if they’re constantly having to defer to others on the basis of their title rather than their expertise, they will likely feel limited in how much the can contribute.
Ultimately, many people who leave their job tend to do so because of how they are managed, not the work or the organization. Ask yourself what you may be doing to drive your best people away, and start making the changes needed to keep them.