Human Resources

Why Employees Leave and What To Do About It

By EverwiseDecember 15, 2016

There is an age-old saying in business: People don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers. New research from Harvard Business Review confirms that people do leave their bosses more than they leave companies. However, it also finds that they leave good bosses just as frequently. Sometimes for different reasons, and sometimes – believe it or not – for the same reasons.

Many Employees Feel Overworked and Underappreciated

Countless reports have shown that the most common reason employees leave their jobs is because they feel their time is not being respected. As a manager, it can be tempting to work your best people hard, but it can make them feel like they are being punished for great performance.

It’s also counterproductive. According to Stanford University, productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours. It drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working employees more.

Your talented employees will gladly take on a bigger workload, but be sure that this increase comes hand-in-hand with a spot bonus, raise, promotion, or title change. Even a simple pat on the back or recognition amongst the team for their hard work and contribution can go a long way. One global workforce study found that companies that recognized their employees’ work saw up to a 28% increase in earnings per share over a 12 month period compared to those who don’t.

Talent can be Unchallenged & Under Developed

As we have mentioned before, high-potential employees value having access to opportunities for development. When managers fail to provide intellectually stimulating work or do not offer adequate opportunities for development,  employees will leave for another company that will.

That being said, even great managers can lose employees for this reason. One benefit of working for good managers is that they do a great job developing their employees and thus opening doors to better external career options. In some cases, managers could do everything right and their employees will feel they need to move on to another company – either temporarily or permanently – to grow.

In this case, the best thing companies and managers can do is to thoughtfully design and implement other retention mechanisms (e.g., high-potential leadership development opportunities, promotions, etc.) that incentivize your talented, well-developed employees to stay with them. For example, offering formal mentoring opportunities increases retention by up to 20%, according to research by the Association for Talent Development

In either case, we live in an era of constant job-hopping and multi-phased careers. Many firms have sizable populations of former employees. It is critical for these firms to proactively build and leverage relationships with alumni as a strategic constituency. Implementing an off-boarding process that signals the employees’ value will allow you to build a strong network of alumni that will refer future talent and give you the best chance of getting employees to return after they have been able to “grow up” elsewhere. If and/or when they return, these “boomerang” employees can bring cultural familiarity, require less training/onboarding the second time around, and boost employee loyalty to the company.  

Employee Are Disengaged

Talented employees are passionate and crave projects that they can sink their teeth into. According to Gallup, managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement across businesses in the US. It is imperative for managers to gauge whether their employees are happy and engaged, and the only way to do that is to listen and then to act upon what employees express.

Absentee managers who are not in touch with their employees’ day-to-days are likely to have a team that feels ignored, and, as a result, disengaged. In fact, while it might seem extremely basic, research has found that engagement is highest among employees who have some form of daily communication with their managers, whether face-to-face, phone, or digital.

With this in mind, companies that use a semi-annual feedback process to gauge employee satisfaction will likely fall short for their employees. The more frequent managers are able to gauge the pulse of their people, the better. Warby Parker uses weekly feedback reports between managers and employees to gather innovative ideas, align on progress toward team goals, and actively engaged employees in the pursuit of overall happiness throughout the company. This ensures consistently regular communication between team members and their leaders.

Managers are not Trusted

The second but equally important half of Warby Parker’s weekly feedback program is for managers to act on that feedback. Trust comes from this follow-up action. And failure to act upon this kind of commitment results in employees losing trust in both their manager and the company that manager represents.

Carly Guthrie, head of HR for New York City restaurant Per Se, warns that it is critical for managers to be aware of these kinds of undercurrents in their teams and deal with them head on. By remaining actively involved in the team’s business, maintaining consistent behavior, and perhaps most basically (and importantly), telling the truth and standing up for what you believe in, you can earn your employees’ trust and loyalty… not to mention set a great example for future potential leaders of the organization.



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