Every supervisor dreads seeing an envelope on their desk. While it might be nothing more worrisome than a purchase order or an interoffice memo, there’s always the possibility that it contains something much worse: a formal resignation letter from a prized employee.
Employee turnover does more than rattle morale and undermine esprit de corps—it’s also costly. A job listing will have to be written and posted. Résumés will have to be analyzed. And when a replacement is finally hired, he or she will have to be trained and steeped in the corporate culture.
A recent study by the Center for American Progress puts the price tag on replacing salaried employees at one-fifth of the employees’ annual salary. That can add up to tens of thousands of dollars to replace a middle manager, and even more for an executive. And those are just raw dollars that don’t include the incalculable factors, like the loss of the departing employee’s knowledge and a potentially negative impact on morale.
Because departures can be expensive and disruptive to a business, it’s important for teams to understand why good employees leave as well as what they can do to prevent a departure before it happens.
Why do good employees quit?
In many cases, costly departures can be prevented because employees are actually in need of something other than money. Most employees aren’t leaving because they aren’t getting paid enough—or, at least, that isn’t the only reason. Usually, their reasons for leaving involve factors that are entirely controllable by their managers and the company.
Here are six major reasons why valued employees eye the exit, and some suggestions on how to mitigate them.
1. There’s no outlet to voice their concerns
Lack of communication channels—either perceived or real—can cause an otherwise great employee to tender their two weeks’ notice.
It’s not good enough to have an anonymous suggestion box in the office (although there should be one). Employees need to know that someone will hear their feedback. Software like Engagedly or Qualtrics can help automate and streamline that process. That may sound counterintuitive and impersonal, but automation allows employees to submit a suggestion or complaint, see when it’s read, and follow it through the action and implementation stages.
The human touch is still needed, though. A good manager will have “open office hours” or regular one-on-one meetings during which employees can raise any concerns they may have. It’s also important to schedule regular reviews so both you and your staff know whether your needs and expectations are aligned.
2. Poor communication of company values, goals, and strategies
Communication is about more than just handling complaints. A lack of positive feedback, an ambiguous corporate agenda, or poor communication of changes can make an employee feel isolated instead of validated. It is vital to create a clear company mission that makes everyone a stakeholder—that way, the company’s success is every employees’ success, too.
One of the most overlooked ways of doing this is to spend time creating a defined corporate or organizational culture that can be evangelized and regularly referenced; a concrete, shared mission provides an easier medium for communicating performance, changes, and long-term plans. Companies can also create processes or best practices for managers that allow them to disseminate information effectively, so employees don’t feel excluded or confused about what’s going on.
3. They don’t feel valued
Sometimes an employee just doesn’t feel valued enough to stay, which often comes as a surprise to a manager.
At its most basic, demonstrating that you value an employee can be as simple as regularly recognizing their superb work or their immense effort, particularly during difficult or trying projects. However, feeling valued can also mean feeling included or receiving recognition on a larger scale. It’s also easy to take consistently good work for granted when it’s the status quo from your best staff members.
While managers can do their best to intuit their employees’ sentiments, they can also benefit greatly from using technology so that employees feel their contributions matter. Managers and human-resources staff can use AI to supplement human intelligence by creating incentivization solutions that are tailored to each individual employee. Some AI tools can even predict when an employee is ready to quit, allowing you to potentially head off an exit.
At its core, AI is data that can be mined and sorted to create the best valuation system for employees, leading to improved engagement and overall job satisfaction.
4. There’s no flexibility in employee schedules
Companies that don’t foster a work-life balance by offering employees flexibility are likely to experience higher turnover than those that do. With technology turning phones, laptops, and tablets into virtual offices, many work tasks can be accomplished remotely. Having a flexible company policy when it comes to family and extracurriculars will help to improve employee retention.
Data backs up the value of being flexible. A recent study by Zenefits showed that 73 percent of employees said flexible work arrangements increased their satisfaction at work; 77 percent consider flexible work arrangements a major consideration when evaluating job opportunities. Other studies point to flexibility contributing to lower turnover, increased employee satisfaction, and even higher profits.
Kindergarten graduation happens only once; a purchasing report is a regular event. Let the parent attend without guilt and you’re more likely to keep that employee content.
5. They’re overwhelmed by work burnout—and meeting creep
A full 95 percent of human-resource officers cite burnout as a factor in turnover. Some employees who head for the exit are tired of taking work home, staying late, or working on weekends, but there are many reasons for burnout—including repetition of tasks, deadline pressures, unsympathetic supervisors, and poor morale.
These factors might already be on your radar, but there’s another, often overlooked culprit in fueling burnout: meetings.
If meetings are part of your workplace, make sure procedures are in place to streamline and control them. Frequent, long, and ineffective meetings take significant time out of an employee’s workday, often causing them to complete essential tasks outside of regular business hours. According to Harvard Business Review, a staggering 65 percent of managers say meetings cause them to fall behind on work.
If you can control meetings for your people, keep them focused and as short as possible. Alternatively, consider promoting a company policy that forces managers to limit or reconsider the “meeting creep” on everyone’s schedule.
6. There’s no opportunity for growth
Good employees are usually ambitious people who take pride in their work and desire to learn more and develop their careers. While there are many perks and strategies that can override the desire to acquire more responsibility or attain a new title, it’s not always enough.
However, waiting for an employee to ask for a promotion might mean you’re put in a position where you can’t actually offer it. Giving raises or promotions in an “emergency” situation is often difficult for larger companies; many stick to a strict promotional schedule, and salary increases need to be budgeted before the year begins. Waiting to act until an employee has one foot out the door might be too late.
If you truly want to prevent a good employee from leaving, then consider creating a growth plan for them that maps their potential career trajectory at your company. Even before an employee is ready to level up to these new responsibilities, a good manager should be identifying potential growth candidates early on. Not only does this make it easier to convey needs to HR at the appropriate time, but it also gives you a reference for discussing how you hope to groom your employees into a role that’s befitting their talent.
Sometimes, though, there just aren’t actual growth opportunities for even the best of employees. Instead, consider what responsibilities and skills this person could own that would improve their visibility within the company or their marketability as an employee in your industry.
Good employees are valuable assets that contribute to your company’s bottom line, and everyone feels the blow when they decide to leave. Keeping their departure reasons in mind can help managers and executives improve their employee retention rate, resulting in higher morale and a committed workforce.
For more tips on recruiting and retaining happy and productive employees, explore more of our articles on Ideas by We.