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10 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Quit

50% of new hires fail within the first year


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If it feels like you’re spending a lot of time and money on recruiting these days, you’re right. Hiring has never been so hot. Today, people are quitting at a rate equivalent to 30% turnover a year, which is not sustainable. 76% of employees are either actively looking for new job opportunities. Executives say talent is their number one business issue, and yet 50% of new hires fail within the first year. Recruiting and retention are equally crucial to growth and companies seem to be failing at both.

There are many reasons why people quit their jobs and some of them you have no control over, like moving across country or overseas, changing careers or retiring, or going back to school. But the majority of reasons people quit relate to workplace environment, which means they are under your control. In order to win the war for talent, you first need to understand why people quit and then rethink your people strategies and their unintentional consequences.

The following, in reverse order of importance, are the top 10 reasons people quit their jobs:

No. 10: Not enough knowledge about your financial stability

This is primarily a matter of trust and respect for management. When sales are down, hours are reduced, people are laid off, salaries or hiring are frozen, turnover goes up, or you’re planning for a merger or acquisition — and you say little to nothing about it, employees begin to feel unstable about their future. And when you finally speak about the issues, they don’t trust what you say. Keep them in the loop about what’s happening before it happens.

No. 9: Lack of empowerment

No one likes a micromanager. Create a work environment with high levels of autonomy and independence that enables employees to pursue and embrace contributions they can be proud of. Let them make decisions.

No. 8: The work is not meaningful

Today’s employees are looking for meaning in their work. They want to understand the specific contribution they make to your business goals and to make a difference in something bigger than themselves. Direct managers should help employees understand the relevance in what they do and how it connects to the business mission.

No. 7: Unfair compensation

It’s never all about money, although most employers think it is and use it as a retention tool. The highly talented, driven, motivated individuals you’ve hired can get a job anywhere, anytime, and they know it. What’s important is that you show you appreciate their value by paying them fairly and, if the budget doesn’t allow you to pay their full worth, provide other forms of compensation, like senior leadership mentoring, bonus vacation time or whatever seems right and feasible.

No. 6: Burnout

It’s common for employers to give extra work to your high-performing employees. They do it well, so you give them more, crossing the line from work to overworked — one of the main reasons they will eventually quit. There’s a fine line to walk here. Listen to your star employees and believe them when they say they can’t sustain the stress. If they do take on additional responsibilities, don’t take advantage of them. Promote them or give them a raise — or both.

No. 5: Lack of learning and development opportunities

Passion for work is stifled when employees’ ideas are set aside, and they’re told to focus on the tasks they’re given. Top performers thrive on new challenges and chances to learn. Offer them rich development opportunities like shadowing leaders and learning new technical skills that move them closer to advancement. Listen to their professional goals and set them on a path to reach them.

No. 4: Boredom

Talented people thrive on being pushed outside their comfort zones. They’re stimulated when they stretch themselves and work toward challenging goals. They’re quickly bored doing easily-accomplished tasks. Give them projects to resolve that aren’t going well and create opportunities to exercise their brains and skillsets. Motivate them with a path to career growth and promotion.

No. 3: Not a good fit with culture

Companies continually hire people based on skills and experience without considering alignment and fit. You can teach skills, but it’s very difficult if not impossible to change attitudes. 89% of unsuccessful hires result from a lack of coachability and irreconcilable temperament. You can save costs and prevent trauma for you and your new employees by assessing for cultural fit before you make job offers.

No. 2: Poor relationships with boss or coworkers

People usually leave managers, not companies. Bad bosses are a primary reason for turnover. You may have a positive overall culture, but the culture employees experience every day is the one created by their boss. Employees and their bosses don’t need to be friends, but they need to have a positive and respectful working relationship. Toxic relationships with bosses or coworkers impact productivity, engagement and morale and should never be glossed over. They’re costly to everyone in the organization.

No. 1: Lack of appreciation, recognition for performance

79% of employees say feeling unappreciated was a major reason why they quit.

Feeling appreciated and being recognized for their work is particularly important to top performers, who often take on higher stakes work. It doesn’t take much to make people feel good; a simple thank you, a line on a card, or mention at a team meeting can do a lot to lift the spirits. But so many managers don’t bother. Leadership should make both informal appreciation and formal recognition a priority and it should be part of every manager’s learning and development.

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Kathleen Quinn Votaw

Kathleen Quinn Votaw is CEO of TalenTrust. Her first book, Solve the People Puzzle; How High-Growth Companies Attract and Retain Top Talent, debuted in February 2016. Her firm has achieved several awards, including recognition from Inc.5000 in 2015 and 2016. She speaks frequently and advises CEOs on trends in talent and how to be strategic in developing a people strategy. Kathleen has served on several nonprofit boards including Colorado Companies to Watch and ACG-Denver. Reach Kathleen at kvotaw@talentrust.com or 303-838-3334.

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