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Anne Fisher, contributor to CNNMoney wrote a great article, “To keep employees loyal, try asking what they want” wherein she references an interview of Aflac CEO Dan Amos quoted saying: “If you want to know what would keep someone from quitting, ask.” It sounds like common sense, but not many companies really do it”. I couldn’t agree more. Not only is it a good business decision to find out what it will take for your employees to remain loyal, it is essentially the most important factor in business sustainability.
Sure, there are many reasons why people quit, such as: employee mis-match, work/life balance, co-worker conflicts, relocation, family matters, lack of good communication, micro-managers, etc. I could go on and on but here are my top four reasons why good employees leave the workplace:
1. Poor reward system. It’s not always about having a big paycheck (although it doesn’t hurt either!). Rewarding an employee can be shown in many ways, such as corporate recognition both internally and externally (company website or press release), an additional paid mini-vacation, an opportunity to take the lead on a new project, a promotion, a donation in their name to a charity they support or the most popular form of reward, a bump in pay or an unexpected bonus. While these represent some of the ways an employer can reward workers, they don’t work without one key element; communication. What money represents to one employee may be of no concern to another. The key here is to find out what your employee’s value most and work from there.
2. Management. You know the saying: “People don’t leave companies, they leave their managers”. There is truth to this! Here’s my reasoning. When there is work to be done, its management’s duty to enforce, engage, and often times implement reward systems to keep employees satisfied and loyal. Sure, the supervisor, middle manager or team leader may implement recognition on a small scale for workers who have reached goals or helped the team in some way, but that doesn’t replace the recognition and reward employees need from upper management to stay committed.
Not everyone is skilled enough to manage processes or lead people. Just because someone is good at what they do does not mean they will be a great manager, and that’s perfectly OK! When people who are not fit to lead are put into positions of leadership it can create a catastrophic circumstance in the workplace leading to high turnover and low employee morale. So please, stop slapping “Manager” on every good worker’s name and put people in those positions only if they have the characteristics necessary to influence workers to execute the company vision and those willing to work together to get the job done.
3. Hiring/Promotions. When good workers see people who do not contribute as much as they do or they see schmoozers who do little but socialize a lot land positions they don’t deserve, it’s much like a slap in the face. Especially when those workers are busting their butts, not taking vacation, rallying the team and exceeding expectations the last thing they want to see is some Joe Schmo just waltz in and take a senior position, one they are clearly not qualified to do. You have to expect good employees will leave if you decide to hire your best friends’ cousin who has no idea what the heck they are doing, and then you have the audacity to put them in a leadership position over experienced workers. Come on! Hiring and promoting for favoritism is a major way to alienate good workers.
4. Too much work! The moment employers see employees who have good work ethic or are great in performing or rallying a team of people they begin to slap on more projects, more responsibility to those who they believe can handle it. And maybe good workers can handle more work but it becomes a problem when they begin to feel that they can’t escape from work because of the amount of responsibility and attention they receive from management. Being an excellent worker can be a blessing and a curse. It’s great for a boss to recognize employees are good, but the reward for that shouldn’t always be to pour on the workload. Since good employees tend to have a higher workload, it’s important to ensure they don’t feel overwhelmed causing them to burn out.
Ultimately the culture of an organization determines the scope of employee retention efforts which requires strategic decision making and planning. But to get good employees to stay, it’s simple; ask them what it will take. If you see someone doing great work, recognize it and reward it but don’t’ forget to find out how you can empower them to continuously deliver.