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The Real Reasons Your Employees Leave

In the world of executive search, I am always discussing career progression with my candidates. When employees walk me through their career transitions, I can see the big picture behind their career growth and trajectory. While many of us will have to leave a job at some point in our career for reasons beyond our control (corporate restructuring, poor business performance, department-wide layoffs etc.), it’s the A+ employees who leave voluntarily that can sting if you are their manager.

Here are the most common reasons people leave their current employers:

No Room for Growth

It might sound cliché, but it’s true. When a good employee is primed and ready to take on a bigger and better role, you have to be prepared.

The first step to growing a team for longevity is knowing what your employees want in the first place, which takes two very important prerequisites. #1. CARE – you have to truly care about their career aspirations. #2. TIME – you have to dedicate time to ensure their contentment and longevity.

Taking the care and time to sit down with your employees one-on-one over coffee or lunch can be labor intensive, but it is an important trait in a good manager. Talk to your employees about where they see themselves within the company, and dare I say, outside of your organization, then work within your means to support their goals. We will visit this topic in more detail in next week’s post.

They Are Spread Too Thin

Maybe you are a lean start-up or perhaps a huge corporation that recently consolidated jobs. Some people thrive in a fast-paced environment, but the tipping point is when employees are burning the midnight oil and still feel like they are sinking. Here are the most common causes of employee burn out:

  • They are taking on the work of 3 people and they haven’t been promoted or given a raise.
  • They can’t get internal buy-in or the resources they need to feel successful.
  • They are traveling too much. Despite the hotel points and airline miles, traveling can make people feel behind on their day-to-day work and puts their personal lives on hold.
  • The Organization Has Changed Direction for the Umpteenth Time

There is not a week that goes by that I don’t hear a phrase like, “We’ve had 3 CEOs in 2 years.”

The lack of company vision can be disheartening to anyone, especially to good employees who are dedicated to the company goals and values. When everyone including the C-suite loses sight of what those values are, it affects morale. There is nothing you can usually do about this, but as a boss, you can make a micro-culture inside your own team in an effort to help them (and you) ride out the storm.

It Was An Opportunity He Couldn’t Refuse

Even perfectly content employees might get wooed by the prospect of a fancy new position. Add a title increase, a reputable company, the opportunity to put their stamp on something, increased pay, and you have the recipe for a resignation.

Maybe she ran in to her former boss at a conference and he begged her to join his team. Maybe a friend made a casual introduction. Maybe she entertained a conversation with a sharp recruiter. Whatever the catalyst, there probably is not much you could have done to prevent this from happening. If the employee was content before this new opportunity came along, you could make a quick counteroffer with a promotion and play up the comfort of staying with a company and boss she knows so well. If you are able to make this promotion counteroffer quickly and this employee really was worth it, then shame on you for not promoting her sooner. Lesson learned.

Personal Reasons

Though many people leave jobs due to personal circumstances, this reason is far less common, even though you might hear them more often during an exit interview than I might hear as a recruiter. Oftentimes employees try to keep reasons for leaving general and vague, and personal excuses are an easy way out during an uncomfortable resignation meeting.

Perhaps her husband’s job moved out of state, or maybe his commute is killing him. Maybe she is leaving to earn her MBA or he wants to take a year to travel Asia. When it comes to personal reasons, there isn’t much you can do.

Retaining top talent is important to everyone. While keeping top talent is not always within your control, there are plenty of resources to ensure the long term success of your team. Tune in next week for creative ways to show your team you care about their long term career growth.

Olivia would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, whether you are a manager or job seeker.