Your best employees are leaving your company. During the exit interview, you ask them the reason they are leaving. The answer is inevitably a vague, "for a new opportunity." Employees on their way out seldom tell the truth, but not out of malice. They simply don't want to risk creating conflict that could haunt them later on, like a less-than-flattering reference given to a new employer.
Some employees should leave because they prove to be low performing or can't get along with co-workers. Many employees who voluntarily leave are the opposite. They are high-performing, seem to enjoy their work, get along with co-workers and are great collaborators.
They also believe they are paid an equitable wage. A study of 19,700 exit interviews found that 89 percent of employers believe employees leave because they want more money. It's simply not true. Only 12 percent of employees leave for that reason.
If it's not the work, money, or co-workers, what is driving your best people away? What are the real reasons your employees are quitting? It's complicated, but research has demonstrated there are three possible and sometimes elusive reasons, and all three involve management.
1. the employee does not like the manager
This is the easiest one to explain. Most employees won't admit in an exit interview that they don't like their manager or supervisor. The manager may be a generally unlikable person or one who has poor supervisory skills. It's the kind of manager who never gives employees credit; refuses to coach them or help them advance their careers; is always too busy to listen or give feedback; and plays favorites.
2. the manager doesn't know how to maintain a positive workplace culture
There is a lot of discussion taking place in the talent field about workplace culture. The workplace culture has many elements, but they can be grouped under three main categories – systems, behaviors and practices. The categories are within the context of the organization's core values, and they must be aligned in order to create a positive supportive culture. The ideal new-hires score high on shared values culture alignment assessments and start work believing they found the preferred organizational culture.
The manager plays a crucial role in embedding the desired culture, but it works the other way around too. The manager plays an equally crucial role in sabotaging the culture through their behaviors.
For example, an employee is hired based on high assessment scores across the board – skills, abilities, personality, motivation, career goals and shared values. The person is highly collaborative and wanted to work for a company that offers opportunities for teamwork, collaborative projects and networking. Once hired, the person finds himself working for a manager who never recommends him for teamwork or never allows employees to coach one another or doesn't encourage networking. The employee soon feels trapped in a culture that is different from what the organization espouses.
Going to the effort to use pre-hire assessments to hire people who are a cultural fit has to be supported by leadership behaviors that follow through after employment starts. Organizational culture is largely determined by actual leadership behaviors and not by what is published in branding materials. Smart, talented employees soon learn the truth post-hire.
3. the manager doesn't give employees the opportunity to be creative or try new opportunities
If you want to lose your most talented employees, then don't give them new challenges or opportunities. Managers often believe that employees who are productive, do excellent work, get along with co-workers and management, and are team players are content in their jobs. Of course the manager wants to keep that person right where she is, but talented employees don't want to stay right where they are at. They want opportunities to develop their potential, learn new skills and believe they matter to the company's efforts to grow and succeed over the long-term.
Every new hire is at the low end of a learning curve, and good employees quickly move ahead. Eventually they reach a plateau. This is as true for the call center representative as it is for the department manager or executives in the C-suite.
One suggestion is to build a team of people who are on different places on the learning curve and manage them in a way that helps them jump to a new spot on the curve when they hit a plateau. A team, for example, could be made up of 15 percent at the low end, 70 percent in the engaged and productive spot, and 15 percent at the highest spot of performance.
The pre-hire assessment can provide a lot of the information needed to place new hires in roles compatible with their skills and abilities, and to identify what will motivate people as they learn and grow into their jobs. For example, you hired a person who scored high on achievement and curiosity and high on problem solving on the pre-hire assessments. This indicates the person is likely to be productive, engaged and willing to tackle challenging projects.
truth be told
If you place someone in a position and don't give them opportunities that match their abilities and personality, then eventually the employee plateaus and leaves. Don't assume employees are leaving for money or "a better opportunity." They may be leaving because of their manager.