Why employees quit—and what you can do about it

Employee turnover is costly to your organization. Reduce it by looking closely at its most common causes.

“He was the best of managers, he was the worst of managers …”

No, it’s not the start of the most boring Dickensian fanfic ever. It’s the tale of the disappearing employee. Whether you’re the world’s coolest boss or someone who conjures up thoughts of the movie “Office Space” in the minds of your employees, you’ve had people quit. About one-third of new hires quit their job within 6 months, an alarming statistic for managers. And nearly $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover.

Sometimes the signs are obvious: He was never on time, she was disengaged and unhappy, he didn’t get along well with co-workers, or she just couldn’t do the job. But sometimes the clues are less noticeable: She never spoke up in meetings, he asked for a raise he didn’t get, or she wanted something more than the job could give. In fact, 33 percent of employees say they knew whether they would stay with their organization for the long term after their first week.

But it doesn’t have to be a guessing game for co-workers or managers if you look at the most common reasons employees leave:

They’re totally stressed out

Is your workplace making your employees sick? It’s possible. Around 33 percent of employees feel they are living with extreme stress. Most organizations don’t spend the time they should training and onboarding new employees, or even asking them if they’re happy in the position. Don’t stop your onboarding process right after taking them to lunch on their first day at work. Take steps to ensure that stress isn’t eating your workforce alive.

Say bye! If new employees are unprepared for the work you have waiting for them, they will be stressed. Combat this with … drum roll please … a better onboarding and training process. Onboarding can begin before you even send an offer letter by being honest during the interview and hiring process. If the job you are hiring for is hard, say so. If many new people find their skills are not up to the task, start using assessments to see whether your candidates are right for the job. And take a look at how you can better prepare quality candidates for working at your organization.

Your employees never see their families

Does your organization subscribe to the “work hard” philosophy while conveniently forgetting the “play hard” part? Thirty-eight percent of employees have reported missing life events because of a poor work/life balance. Today’s employees want to see their families, focus on their friends and pursue a life beyond spreadsheets and WPM. If new employees realize they may never escape the cubicle confines of your office, their risk of leaving in the first few months is sky high.

Say bye! Introduce flexible hours, generous vacation policies and job sharing. You can’t change the workload, but you can give employees options when about how and when they work. Can’t do that? Try giving them more options about how they dress, how long their lunches can be or how they might work from home. Unexpected vacation days as a bonus are also always appreciated.

Your workers are broke

Your employees could be ready to leave because of salary issues. Some 35 percent of employees say they will start looking for a new job if they don’t receive a pay raise in the next 12 months. It’s imperative that leaders ensure their compensation is in line with what other organizations in the industry are offering. Although pay won’t always determine whether an employee stays or goes, your organization will spend a lot of money to replace people if and when they leave.

Say bye! Controlling the pay when you don’t control the purse strings is tough. If you’ve already done what you can to advocate for your employees, try alternatives to pay. Rewards and recognition make a huge difference to employees, as do more relaxed working conditions. If you can’t get even a small increase approved, do the math to show your higher-ups what losing this person (or people) could do to productivity, morale and the bottom line. For your employees, share salary data so they know they are being paid fairly. Update them regularly about salary trends. When offering raises or discussing salary, emphasize their total compensation, including vacation, PTO, benefits and more so your employees get the full picture.

Your people hate you

That may sound too strong, but it’s actually the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs. For many of us, this is a tale as old as time; we can all identify with having a terrible manager. But when the shoe is on the other foot, how do we become managers people want to work hard for instead of run away from?

Say bye! First, you better recognize. Recognition is the number one driver of employee engagement. When asked what a leader could do more of to improve engagement, 58 percent of respondents said, “Give recognition.” If you refuse to recognize people’s excellent work, you will have retention issues. Just recognizing isn’t enough, though. You have to reward your people for a job well done. Recognition, communication and career development are all hallmarks of great managers, so make sure you’re doing this to keep your best people.

Your employees don’t know where they’re going

If you let your employees stagnate in the same position for years, they’re going to leave. People want to achieve new goals, take on important projects and work on exciting challenges. If they’ve never gotten a promotion, had their new ideas die in committee or are doing arduous and boring work, it’s going to show in the turnover numbers.

Say bye! This is one of the easiest issues to fix. Simply map out the career paths within your organization and make them clear to all. If you have growth, move people out of boring admin jobs into a team leadership positions or more challenging roles. Meet regularly with employees to discuss career development and offer learning opportunities. Fifty-three percent of millennials say learning new things or having access to professional development opportunities would make them stay at their job.

People want to enjoy working with their leaders, experience a positive work/life balance and advance in their careers. Whether they’re learning a new skill set, exploring new responsibilities or getting a title change, all employees have goals. Managers should be keyed in to those goals and employee’s needs.

Am I missing something important you think should be brought to light? Leave a comment and let us know!

A version of this article first appeared on Business 2 Community.

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