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Why Do Employees Leave? (Money Isn’t Always Everything)

When it comes to voluntary turnover, there’s a common misconception among employers that employees primarily quit because of finances. According to the Saratoga Institute, this myth is as ubiquitous as it is untrue. In its survey of over 20,000 individuals, the Saratoga Institute found that 89% of employers believe that their employees quit because of money—and in reality 88% of employees who quit left for something other than money.

So where does this disconnect come from? The answer lies in how employers view their employees: as individuals with varied skills and assets, or as replaceable entities engaged in a purely financial transaction. Employees (and people in general) don’t like to be lumped together and made to feel anonymous. When an employer assumes money is paramount to their employees’ happiness above all else, they show that they aren’t trying to empathize with their staff on a deeper level or understand their needs. Employers who put money first draw a line in the sand, which suggests that the employee-employer relationship is purely transactional, nothing more. And really, who wants that?

Let’s forget about money for a second. What’s really at the heart of voluntary turnover? The lack of break room amenities? That meeting you scheduled on a Saturday? Or maybe it’s because you always shut your office door. If you’re the kind of employer who spends time guessing the answer to this question rather than discussing it with your employees, you’ll never reach your retention goals. Employees who quit for reasons other than money are often at the end of their rope—they’ve put up with a lot. The fact is, unless they quit for truly unavoidable or purely financial reasons, you as an employer may have been able to keep them on board by checking in with them from time to time. Short, but frequent meetings with your staff may help you familiarize yourself with their wants and needs, and address any concerns they may have about their responsibilities, the work environment, and maybe even their salaries. The most important tool you have to retain employees is thoughtful conversation—before an issue worsens. Exit interviews with employees that have quit are valuable too, but they won’t save you a good employee.

So, if you find yourself scratching your head when employees quit, here are the top four reasons (not including financial ones), as determined by the Saratoga Institute. Think of these as mediation points—if you think it’s possible that your employees are feeling some of these feelings, consider how to broach the subject. If you don’t think it’s possible—well, think again.

  1. Limited career opportunities (16%): Not everyone is looking for a job with the potential for unlimited growth. But most of the time, if employees can’t see how they fit in to the future of the company they work for, they’ll end up seeking greener pastures.  Employers need to be clear from the get-go exactly what they can offer in terms of growth so that they can attract the right employee for the right job. For example, an individual with multiple commitments outside of work may be OK with a static position; a young go-getter won’t be.
  2. Lack of respect/support from supervisor (13%): This encompasses a lot of ideas. It can mean that the employee hasn’t received enough feedback; it can mean the right resources aren’t made available to them; it can mean that their thoughts and needs are being undermined or ignored. Gone are the days when employees kept their heads down and considered no news to be good news. Employers today need to treat their employees as adults in partnership, not children in need of scolding. An employee who doesn’t feel like a valued member of a team is much more likely to take their skills elsewhere.
  3. Lack of interesting/challenging job duties (11%): People need to feel like what they are doing is important and fits in with larger company goals in order to thrive at their jobs. If an employee isn’t being challenged, they will stagnate, and it will become harder for them to do their work efficiently and well.
  4. Lack of leadership from supervisor (9%): If an employee feels like they haven’t been trained enough, and is consistently receiving criticism despite earnest attempts to do their job correctly, they may feel like they’re at a loss for improvement and leave the company. Today, a cut-throat, sink-or-swim mentality is an ineffective means of training and retaining staff.  A supervisor must support his or her employees so that they can do the jobs they were hired for well and understand the importance of what they do.

While each item in this list is slightly different than the last, one common thread pervades: communication. Employers need to communicate with their staff, as opposed to making shallow generalizations and assumptions about what their employees need to thrive. If you’re an employer concerned about retaining your staff, don’t wait for small problems to become all-out conflicts—check in with your employees and find out what you’re taking for granted and how you can improve.

 

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