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Why good employees leave

Employees are the backbone of any organisation, playing a pivotal role in its success. However, it’s not uncommon for organisations to witness the departure of talented individuals. The sudden exit of valuable employees can be a significant setback for global corporations and of course the questions that are left in their wake. As leaders, it is your responsibility to understand why good employees leave and how you can address this issue effectively.

In order to digest the written stream of consciousness below you must first accept a few things. Firstly, that this is not a case of bad eggs, secondly that your data will likely hold more insight than you think, thirdly that if you aren’t already having exit interviews you should and fourth, everything genuinely happens for a reason. This isn’t about playing the blame game, this is about understanding the gap between your intention and impact as a leader, taking responsibility and resisting the urge to sweep things under the rug. If you do enough of that you’ll tuck your whole organisation under there without realising and metaphorically, it’s a dark dark place to go.

Lack of Growth Opportunities: the Silent Assassin

Surprise surprise! You stood in a town hall and mentioned freezes, or better yet you rolled out an uneccessarily complex assault-course of a process to gain promotion or recognition. In once fell swoop you confirmed the lack of growth opportunities that are the sole desire and motivator for your most ambitious folks. Talented individuals aspire to advance their careers and continuously learn new skills. When they feel stagnant or realise limited career prospects, they may explore other options (immediately). This is why it’s important to provide clear career paths and encourage professional development. By fostering an environment of growth, you can help retain your most impactful employees who are motivated by said growth.

Poor Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for employee satisfaction and overall well-being. On the contrary, many organisations often demand long working hours, tight deadlines and expect constant availability with Slack notifications at all hours of the day and night. This can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. To prevent good employees from leaving, managers must prioritise work-life balance initiatives. Flexible working arrangements, wellness programs, and encouraging time off are essential to promote a healthy work environment.

Not only to policies be put in place, but they need to be lived out by leadership; having a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do approach here will be seen as disingenuous and create a culture of distrust in wellbeing initiatives.

If you can’t take any significant kind of holiday without being online, how are they ever to do so? It’s important to lead from the front here.

Ineffective Leadership

Leadership plays a vital role in shaping an employee’s organisational experience.

It is often said and proven true that people don’t leave bad companies; they leave bad managers. Now, what is a good manager? If you want to know, ask your team.

Good managers inspire, motivate, and provide guidance. On the other hand, ineffective leadership can demoralise employees and push them towards the exit door. There’s nothing like not having a clear strategy, not having a vision, witnessing a leader bluff their way through important decisions or worse-yet let their insecurities run the show.

We end up with these folks in management because folks overlook the competencies required and a warm-body is sought instead. Leaders are the linchpins and catalysts in an organisation and the most high-achieving and therefore high-impact employees will not carry the weight of an inadequate leader. They will just leave because it’s easier.

Ambitious companies must invest in leadership development programs to ensure managers possess the necessary skills to lead and engage their teams effectively; leaders must commit to management and leadership as respective skills to be developed and not just wield their power with no accountability or humility. There must also be clarity on the differences between leadership and management. The former is what folks desperately need in 2023. By fostering strong leadership practices, you can build a culture that retains top talent.

Lack of Recognition

Recognition is a powerful motivator that drives employee engagement and I’m not just talking about the Slack or teams automation you have set up, I mean genuine recognition that comes with work, specific feedback, genuine communication and yes, when it is equitable to do so – money. When employees feel their efforts go unnoticed, they may become disengaged and seek validation elsewhere. All too often, I encourage disengaged employees to network, to interview and put themselves in a space where they can see their skills and work in an appreciative light. This exercise is often chicken soup for their souls as they realise how starved they have been for it. Regardless of what comes of those conversations they take that appreciation and let it motivate them. To prevent the loss of valuable employees, managers need to establish recognition programs that celebrate achievements and contributions on a regular and meaningful basis. Recognising and appreciating good work not only boosts morale but also fosters loyalty and commitment. There’s no need to eat-out when there’s food at home. This is about the simple truth of meeting needs.

There’s no need to eat-out when there’s food at home.

Toxic Work Culture

A toxic work culture can be detrimental to employee retention. Negative workplace environments breed stress, demotivation, and conflict. If left unaddressed, this toxicity can drive good employees away. People managers need to prioritise creating a positive work culture by promoting open communication, fostering teamwork, and addressing conflicts promptly and transparently.

No, that person wasn’t directly involved, but they heard about it, they saw it, they felt it. Many folks in your organisation will live by the adage, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”. This is true of inappropriate conversations at the water cooler, whispers at the bar and mysterious disappearances of colleagues. Your high-achievers won’t wait to be mistreated, they won’t turn a blind eye, and they won’t abide by your PR-version of transparency.

In conclusion, understanding why good employees leave is vital for people managers everywhere, you can’t just bury your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening. By addressing the lack of growth opportunities, promoting work-life balance, investing in effective leadership, recognising achievements, and fostering a positive work culture, we can significantly reduce and address attrition rates.

Remember, retaining top talent is as crucial as hiring them!

If this is a challenge for your team or organisation, I can help. Book a call today.

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