Maximizing employee retention: why employees quit

You offered your new hire a generous salary, decent benefits, and some fun office perks (including Friday happy hours), but they left for a competitor after a few months. What went wrong?

It’s often said that good employees leave bad managers, and there’s quite a bit of truth to that statement. In a broader sense, successful employee retention depends on cultivating the right company culture, one that values honesty and encourages open communication. Other than a paycheck, workers want the opportunity to grow and contribute in a meaningful way — and be recognized for their achievements.

Understanding why you’re losing your best people is a critical part of maintaining a harmonious, high-performing workforce. The following is an overview of employee retention, with a focus on why employees leave.

Why do employees quit, anyway?

There can be any number of reasons why a good employee walks away from a job. Aside from compensation, here are a few key reasons why you may be struggling with employee retention:

  • They’re stifled: Companies have goals to meet and tasks to perform, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of stifling employees’ initiative to explore new ideas or share insights. The best ideas will be left unshared if your employees believe their contributions aren’t appreciated.
  • They’re not being challenged: As with employees who aren’t encouraged to pursue new ideas, bored workers are less productive and more likely to leave. Whether it’s work that’s assigned to, or generated by, the employee, make sure they’re adequately challenged. One idea to consider is cross-training your team. That not only provides opportunities to learn new skills, but it also helps with coverage issues when team members will be out.
  • They’re not given developmental opportunities: Managers may be inclined to have their high performers do the same task day in, day out (consider the maxim “no good deed goes unpunished”). But the most driven professionals want to expand their skill set and explore other roles within the organization.
  • They don’t feel appreciated: Even if you encourage the creativity and development of your employees — providing them challenging work — you may still lose them if you fail to recognize and appreciate their biggest achievements. A simple acknowledgment and “thank you” often is sufficient.
  • They’re discouraged by a toxic workplace: Office bullies, and the failure to respond appropriately, can make an otherwise rewarding job a daily drudgery. As the manager, it’s your job to set the tone and create a workplace culture that’s healthy and welcoming to all employees.

Learning why employees quit: exit interviews

When your best employees abruptly leave for another company, it may be too late to find out why. That is, unless you conduct an exit interview. Employees may be more candid about their reasons for leaving once they’re on their way out; however, others may be reluctant to burn any bridges. One remedy is to offer an exit interview via email after they’ve left the building.

Therefore, you’ll want to prompt them effectively. For instance, asking why they started looking around for another job may be more effective than asking why they left. The former question may elicit a more circumspect answer, whereas the latter may get them to say something positive about the new employer that your company is lacking.

Improving employee retention

The best way to improve your employee retention efforts is to understand why people leave in the first place. You may not be able to accommodate certain departing employees, such as those who are shifting careers or wanting to work for a larger corporation. But where you can, it’s vital to provide the right environment for retention.

The low-hanging fruit may be an increase in compensation (including benefits), but beyond that you’ll want to take a check-up of your company’s culture. Do you encourage innovation? Are employees challenged and provided with opportunities to grow? Do they feel appreciated?

The boss (and, in turn, the lower-level managers) are responsible to reading these cues and responding accordingly. You’re in business to succeed, which won’t happen if you can’t hold onto your talent.

Get help keeping your best employees

Employees come and go, often for reasons that are well beyond your control. But in order to maximize employee retention, it’s important to understand why they leave and what steps you can take to keep them. Is your company leaking talent? If so, sign up for Monster Hiring Solutions and we’ll send you the latest tips on management strategies, hiring trends, and even great Monster deals.