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Understanding Employee Retention: What Makes a Great Employee Leave?

Kevin Kerl
Mon, Oct 7, 2019

High turnover is a nightmare to deal with from a management perspective, and once it infects a company, it can be difficult to get rid of. The constant rotation of new employees means you’re never at your best. Your staff is never fully trained. You can’t keep the best talent in-house for long. You’re constantly draining money on costly training programs. Often you don’t even fully understand why your employees are leaving, you just know they’re going. 

Fortunately, there are some easily avoidable mistakes that can help you boost your employee retention. Below, we’ll take a look at the most common mistakes that damage employee retention. 

The Most Common Reason to Quit: Lack of Opportunity

It turns out the most common reason an employee will give up on you is they feel like you’ve given up on them. A recent Gallup survey found 32% of respondents who left jobs did so because of a lack of opportunity to develop their careers. 

Global Talent Monitor’s 2Q18 Workforce Activity Report showed that 40% of departing employees reported a lack of career development as a source of dissatisfaction. And as a final, crucial blow to any doubt you may have -- in LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Report, 93% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it helped develop their careers. 

Providing career development is actually a rare asset to employees these days. Research shows that since the 2008 financial crisis, around 50% of middle-management positions have been removed, leaving less upward mobility opportunities, and most employees to stay in their positions around 50% longer than before. 

Stagnated career development is a quick way to frustrate a talented employee. It can lead to boredom or lack of engagement. (That’s the last thing you want. More on that later.) They’ll feel under-appreciated and begin to seek work elsewhere. When you provide opportunities for advancement and training internally, it shows an employee they are valued and gives them the stepping stones they need to better themselves. 

Pay Well Now, or Pay More Later

You may wince at the thought of raising wages, but take a moment to consider that 22% of those surveyed by Gallup reported quitting a job over insufficient pay and benefits. It was the second-largest response group on the survey.

It’s a major reason your employees will quit.  

Employees who feel they are underpaid, especially the good employees -- the ones who break their backs day in and out, carrying their underperforming co-workers -- will often begin to develop feelings of resentment. They’ll feel underappreciated by their management (no matter how many kind words you throw at them), and they’ll feel their teammates aren’t as committed to quality as they are. Before long they’ll be willing to jump ship at the first opportunity. 

Employers often keep wages low in order to cut expenses, but they often don’t factor in the invisible monetary penalties suffered because of the resulting high turnover. These include new hire training (an average of $702), recruitment time (often estimated to be around a thousand dollars), productivity cuts (it takes months at best to bring a new hire up to speed), and potential bad hires (which bring you back to square one). 

From all angles, raising wages to retain talent is the more fiscally responsible option in the long run. 

Put the Aces in their Places 

This may seem obvious, but critical problems occur when an employee and the job just aren’t the right match for each other (such as putting an introvert in a position that’s better suited to an extrovert). And as obvious as it may seem, it still accounted for 17% of job departures in Gallup’s survey. 

This is why it’s important to make sure your candidates psychologically fit the profile for the position during the hiring process. Many companies use personality tests to find the best matches. 

Another useful tool is to mold the position to your employee's unique skillset. Does your employee have a talent that’s currently going unused? Finding a way to utilize it creatively can go miles in increasing employee retention. 

Lack of Engagement Harms All  

We’ve talked about the most common reasons people quit, but there’s one thing that does damage across the board. According to a recent Gallup “State of the Workplace” study, no matter what reason an employee listed for quitting -- lack of engagement was one of the most common attributing factors. 

As the study notes, the most important takeaway here is this impacts both your employees who are underperforming and your employees who are exceeding performance goals. It’s important to recognize that if your most talented employees are also unengaged, they too will most likely be eyeing other options. 

“We speculate that your most talented employees are more likely to have high expectations of their workplaces,” Gallup’s Ben Weigert said in an analysis of the study. “They are also more likely to have other opportunities available to them. They seek out better opportunities where they can grow and develop their skills. Or they may just want to go where their gifts are appreciated and rewarded more often.” 

Are you concerned with employee retention? Let’s talk. Contact us today.

Read Next: What Makes a Great Employee Stay?

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