Leigh Branham on why good employees leave

25 Jul

My colleague and friend Leigh Branham has reported his latest findings on why good employees leave. The full report can be found today at our web site Re-EngageBook.com.

The summary clearly shows that the vast majority of employee turnover is largely within the control of company leadership and direct line supervisor. Leigh summarizes the study:

  • Most Turnover is Avoidable. The vast majority of respondents–94%– report leaving for push reasons than for pull reasons–only 6%. These percentages are almost exactly the same as those reported in my analysis of post-exit data from the Saratoga Institute in The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave (AMACOM, 2005). These more recent findings add still more evidence that most turnover is at least potentially preventable if there is a commitment to re-engage and keep the individual. Of course, we may not care to avoid some turnover, though it may be avoidable.
  • Trust in Senior Leaders: The #1 Reason…But Why? The most-cited reason for leaving was lack of trust in senior leaders. This may surprise some and certainly runs counter to conventional wisdom that employees leave managers–usually interpreted as one’s immediate boss. However, this finding confirms the conclusion Mark Hirschfeld and I presented in our analysis of 2.1 million engagement surveys from 10,000 employers, as described in Re-Engage (McGraw-Hill, 2010)–that caring, competent, and trustworthy senior leadership is the number one driver of employee engagement. We believe this may be related to the events of the past 10 years–the fall from grace of many CEO found guilty of malfeasance, reports of disproportionate CEO compensation, and the greed of Wall Street senior executives before and after the financial collapse of 2008. CEOs, who were considered innocent until proven guilty, are now considered by many guilty until proven innocent. This generalized distrust may be having a dual and counterintuitive effect–increasing employee cynicism while at the same time raising expectations of CEO behavior at our own employers.
  • Pay is A Significant Push Factor For Some. Insufficient pay was the second most-cited reason for leaving and continues to be a “dissatisfier” that causes some employees to move on. Actually, as you may have noticed, three of the 39 reasons are pay-related. When we add reasons #17 (Pay not based on performance) and #19 (Unfair pay practices), the percentage that selected pay-related reasons becomes 10.4%, still second to senior leadership, but a significant root cause for many. Note that reasons #17 and #19 have more to do with dissatisfaction with the way pay is determined, not the amount of pay per se–an important distinction.  Keep in mind also that respondents were asked to cite up to five reasons for leaving, so that pay may not be the number one reason, but one among a handful of others.
  • Leaders and Managers Can Prevent the Push Factors. Reason #3–Unhealthy/undesirable culture–is mostly influenced by the values, mindsets, and standards of senior leaders, but also by managers who must be counted on to uphold the cultural values and people practices. Most of the remaining push factors in the list can be influenced and prevented by the actions of both senior leaders, managers, and supervisors. “Lack of work/life balance”, for example, is influenced by staffing/budget decisions and work/life policies made at the most senior levels, but also by the daily decisions of direct managers about granting time off to care for sick children and family emergencies, etc.

For additional information, please check out Leigh’s web site: Keeping The People.

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