An older man holding a cardboard box filled with office accoutrements as he leaves his job.
Image: © Viacheslav Iakobchuk/

This is why your employees are leaving

6 Feb 2019

Are you beginning to worry about your company’s high turnover rate? Do your brightest stars head for greener pastures? These things could be the root of the problem.

As another resignation letter is slid across your desk, you can’t help but wonder if this is becoming an epidemic. Employees leave; people move on. This is an aspect of business that managers should anticipate. People have their own lives outside of the walls of your building, and sometimes those lives will pull them in multiple directions, leading them away.

Yet if workers seem to be moving on in their droves, you may begin to wonder if there’s something amiss. Why are people leaving?

They are underpaid

Though it should probably be self-evident, if an employee isn’t being compensated fairly, they will eventually move on. If salary isn’t reviewed regularly, the employee will eventually become dissatisfied with their compensation.

Moreover, if you know deep down that your employee’s skills are worth more than they are asking for, you should adjust their compensation. A contributing factor to gender and ethnic pay gaps can sometimes be that employees from marginalised communities are more likely to lowball during negotiations.

Sitting idly by and availing of skills at below-market prices is a ticking time bomb. In the age of Glassdoor and increased calls for salary transparency, it’s only a matter of time before employees find out. Either you should correct remuneration or provide other rewards in lieu of payment.

They are burnt out

Burnout is an issue as prevalent as it is complex. There are myriad factors that contribute to burnout, but it most commonly arises after protracted periods of overwork and resulting stress.

It may be easy to chalk burnout up to the individual but if you’re consistently finding that people leave after exhibiting burnout systems, you need to start thinking about how you as an employer could improve.

What were conditions like for your employee? Were they given the requisite training to execute their role effectively? What kind of pressure were they under? Was their department adequately staffed?

Deficits in these areas often boil down to structural issues, meaning the buck won’t stop with an individual. These issues will poison the system and create a revolving door of workers – which is what you absolutely do not want, and absolutely should address.

They are unmotivated

Frederick Herzberg was an American psychologist hailed as one of the most influential thinkers in business management. He is most well known for his Two Factor Theory, which breaks down the facets of working life that contribute to an enriching working experience in terms of ‘hygiene’ and ‘motivation’.

Things that create hygiene don’t provide any real motivation, but their absence will quickly demotivate employees. A fair salary and good conditions are among them. These factors are essential to keeping employees satisfied, but that alone won’t be enough.

As Herzberg puts it in a 1973 interview with the BBC: “I’m a human being. I want to do something. I just don’t want to avoid pain my entire life. I want to show what I can do. I want to, in the sense psychologically, grow. I want to end my life by saying not that I vegetated, but I am more than I was before, and that can only be measured in what you’ve done.”

We spend more of our lives at work than we do anywhere else, so the sense of purpose that is needed for a happy human existence is needed in the world of work, too. Even if a workplace is comfortable, it won’t necessarily present opportunities for an employee to express their true potential.

Do your employees have opportunities to achieve? What do they actually get to do? Have they been given learning opportunities? Have you helped them achieve any of their personal goals?

Your employees won’t necessarily quit immediately if the answer to the above questions is no. But they definitely won’t give you their all, and they’ll probably be quick to take a new opportunity when it arises.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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