Why Do Employees Most Often Quit?
A new survey offers insights and answers.
Posted Oct 16, 2015
The more companies can learn about why employees leave them, the better off they are.
Turnover, of course, is one of those management problems with a myriad of subtle costs – from lost productivity to training time to uncertainty that the new hire will work out. Total costs are often estimated from a third of annual salary to numerous multiples of salary for executive positions. And as anyone who’s ever hired employees knows, the process is seldom as simple as you expect it will be.
Which is why I read with interest the results of a new employee retention report that recently came across my desk. The study was conducted by TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm, which surveyed 400 full-time U.S. employees. Overall I’d consider the findings less “surprising” than “validating” – confirming once again the fundamental importance of the basic employee-manager relationship. Let’s review the high-level results.
The high cost of micromanagement – The study found a strong connection between employee job satisfaction and “freedom to make decisions about how to do their jobs.” On the flip side of this managerial coin, however, employees “whose hands are regularly tied are 28% more likely to think about greener pastures elsewhere.” Simply put, micromanagement matters. People leave managers, not companies, as the old saying goes, a theme I’ve written about before. When management is persistently over-involved in unproductive ways, it can quickly become a retention issue.
The study also showed other manager-related factors – burnout and employee development – near the top of the retention list. Employees who felt chronically overworked – tired and burned out – were “31% more likely to think about looking for a new job than their colleagues who feel comfortable with their workload.” Also, employees with opportunities for professional development were, the report noted, “more than 10% more likely to stay with their current employer.” This is fully consistent with other data I’ve seen on employee development, a management function that’s frequently neglected but much appreciated when it’s not. The report’s succinct conclusion? “Supervisors can make or break employee retention.” Indeed they can.
Culture counts. Beyond these more direct managerial factors, the survey indicated that the broader company culture is also a substantive piece in the retention puzzle. While not necessarily easy to define, the overall fabric of the environment one spends large amounts of time in naturally influences one’s perception of the work experience. According to the study, “employees who give their work culture low marks are nearly 15% more likely to think about a new job than their counterparts.”
Similarly, peer relationships too are difference makers. It’s only common sense to realize that positive working friendships can help make a tough job tolerable, and the survey data bears this out. When employees were asked “about the amount of appreciation and recognition that they get from their peers,” the report noted, “those citing low levels of recognition were 11% less likely to plan on staying put.”
In short, relationships of all kinds have a major impact on retention: relationships with managers, with co-workers, and with the broader company culture. While none of this is shocking, it paints a consistent picture.
Meanwhile, in this particular survey one high-profile issue was conspicuous by its absence near the top of the retention pyramid: compensation. The retention issues boiling to the top were more emotional than economic.
That’s not to say compensation never matters, for of course if someone feels severely underpaid it can fast become a dominating problem. But in this study, in the aggregate, the purse was overshadowed by the personal.
This article first appeared at Forbes.com.
Victor is author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World (Prentice Hall Press).
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