Losing your best employee is a terrible thing. There’s the expense of finding and training a replacement. And there’s always the uncertainty of how a new employee will work out. There’s the hardship on the rest of your employees until the position can be filled.
Sometimes there’s a solid reason–the person was a bad fit for the team, moved away for personal reasons or was offered an opportunity too great to pass up. In those cases, even if it’s a hard transition, it feels fundamentally right.
But what about the rest?
Keeping your best employees starts with understanding why people leave. Here are six of the top reasons:
Most of the employees don’t want to think they’re locked into a groove and will come to the same place and do the same thing every day for the next 30 years. They want to feel that they’re still moving forward and growing in their professional life. They want to have something to aspire to. If there’s no structure for advancement, they know they’ll need to seek it somewhere else. In the meantime, they’re far more likely to be unhappy, bored, and resentful–things that affect performance and the entire team’s morale.
Some stressful periods come with most of the jobs, but nothing burns out great employees faster than overwork. And often it’s the best employees, the most committed and capable. If they find themselves constantly taking on more and more, especially in the absence of recognition such as raises and promotions, they come to feel they’re being taken advantage of. And who could blame them? You’d feel the same.
Profits over people
When an organization values its bottom line more than its employees, the best people go elsewhere, leaving behind those who are too mediocre to find a better position. The result is a culture of low morale, under-performance and even disciplinary issues. Of course, things like output, profit, pleasing stakeholders, and productivity are important–but success ultimately depends on the employees who do the work.
Lack of recognition
Even the noblest people 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 your employees, you’re not only failing to motivate them but also missing out on the most compelling way to reinforce great performance. Even if you don’t have the budget for bonuses, there are lots of low-cost ways to provide recognition and a word of appreciation is always free. People won’t care if they don’t feel noticed.
Lack of trust
Your workers have a vantage point for viewing your behavior and weigh it against your commitments. If they see you dealing unethically with vendors, cheating clients, lying to stakeholders, 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.
Every organization needs structure and leadership, but a rigidly top-down organization makes for unhappy employees. If your best employees 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 don’t have much to be happy about.
Ultimately, many employees who leave their job do so because of the boss, not the work or the organization. Ask yourself what you may be doing to drive your best employees away, and start making the changes needed to keep them.