The costs associated with an employee leaving can be extremely damaging to an organisation. In fact, studies have shown it can equate to six to nine months of the employees’ salary, or up to two times the annual salary of a higher earner/executive level employee. These costs accumulate through initially advertising, interviewing and screening potential talent, on-boarding the new employee including training and management time, lost productivity (it may take a new employee up to 2 years to reach the productivity of an existing worker), errors made by the new employee and lost rate of productivity to learning, training costs, and cultural phenomenons such as decreased productivity while new work groups are forming and norming.
Not only is the loss of an employee a terribly financially taxing exercise, it is also an added stress for employees left behind to pick up the slack until a new individual is found to fill the position. Because of these factors, it is incredibly important to understand why good employees leave, and how sometimes it can be completely avoidable.
1. Stagnation. Employees need to feel that they have opportunities for career advancement on the horizon. It is essential to have something to work towards not only for engagement purposes (employees with no opportunities will be bored, unhappy and resentful – 3 things that affect organisational culture and performance), but plainly because people do not like to feel that they will be stuck doing the exact same tasks for the next 20-40 years. A focus on growth and continually moving forward is not only good for organisational strategy, but also good for the personal career goals of the employees within it. If there is no career ladder or system for advancement, employees will know they need to seek that advancement somewhere else.
2. Overwork. It is so tempting to rely too much on great employees, but stop yourself. There is no better way to push a great employee away than overworking them. Apart from feeling like they are being taken advantage of purely for being reliable and trustworthy, new research from Stanford suggests that productivity per hour sharply declines when the working week exceeds 50 hours.
3. No recognition of contribution. High performers, especially those who are intrinsically motivated, need to be recognised for their hard work. Giving their all to the job needs to be noticed and rewarded for it to continue on a sustained basis. Feeling appreciated goes a very long way, but managers must also learn what motivates each individual employee in order to tailor their rewards. For some it will be a monetary raise, for others it will be public praise and recognition.
4. Vague visions. No top performer wants to spend their working life in an organisation that does not have tangible, strategic goals and a strong purpose. Employees need to know that the tasks they are carrying out are working towards something meaningful.
5. Lack of care. Ensure you are balancing being professional with being human. It is very hard for an employee to give eight hours of their time a day for an organisation that is only interested in production yield. Celebrate your employees’ triumphs, emphasise during hard times, and challenge them to stretch beyond their comfort zone to grow.
6. Hiring and promotion of the wrong people. Great employees want to work with like-minded professionals that operate on the same level as themselves. When the time is not taken to carefully consider the hiring and promotion of staff, it can be incredibly demotivating for those that are required to work alongside someone that is the wrong fit or undeserving of the role.
7. Excessive levels of hierarchy. Structure and leadership is fundamental to the success of every organisation, but a culture of rigidity where employees are not empowered to make decisions but rather defer to coworkers on the basis of their title rather than expertise, your top performers will not last long.
8. Lack of intellectual engagement. A great manager challenges their employees to succeed at tasks that may seem inconceivable to the employee initially. They push them out of their comfort zones to encourage growth and skill expansion. When intellectual people find themselves in positions that entail the same tasks that become mundane over time, they seek roles at other organisations that will challenge their intellect. Continuously push for greatness and your best employees will respond with consistent high performance.
Be cognisant of how you treat your employees. Your employees’ talent is the very thing that gives them countless options in relation to where and how they utilise their skills, and at which organisation. You need to make them want to work for you.