May 20, 2009

Why people really quit

An interesting article in this morning's Globe and Mail, discussing why people quit their jobs:

The real deal on why people quit

The interesting part of this article is not really why people quit, but the marked disparity between why people quit and why leaders think people quit. This disparity is quite significant because it will always cause companies to compensate incorrectly to keep people aboard.

Hiring costs are as high or higher (200% according to the above article) than keeping an employee aboard. But if companies don't know the real reason why people are leaving, they will keep throwing money at a situation they cannot fix, because they aren't fixing the real problem.

Another item of note: 5/5 top reasons given by employees have to do with the company. 4/5 reasons given by managers have to do with the employee (I am assuming that "insufficient pay" goes both ways, that is, management sees it as an employee issue and employees see it as a management issue). The only one that is common is "lack of opportunity for training and development." So in other words, employees say "I'm leaving because of the company" while companies say "It has very little to do with us."

What to do, then? Here are a few ideas:
  • Exit interviews. I've had a few jobs in my time and when I left, I was never asked why I left. So for the most part, nobody really knows why I left any company, and I suspect this is often the case. I don't think I'm an exception. Thoughts: in your company, are exit interviews mandatory when someone leaves? Are the results taken into account and brought back to the attention of the employee's supervisor? Are results analyzed to determine whether a particular supervisor or department is having trouble keeping its staff? Is the exit interview done by the employee's supervisor or by an impartial party?
  • Leadership development: Leaders aren't born, they are made. Just as anyone learns their trade in order to do his or her job, they need to learn how to be a leader too. Are leaders in a company trained and groomed appropriately? Are they aware of what makes good leaders? Are they coached on how to become a good leader or are they fed to the wolves?
  • Leadership willingness:  I've seen instances of people taking on leadership roles, not because they wanted to but because they felt they had to do it, or their careers would suffer as a result. You can't force someone to become a good leader if they aren't interested in becoming so in the first place. When looking at the leaders in your organization, have they been catapulted in their current position because they were good at what they did previously? Or was it part of their career plan? I've seen many IT professionals, for example, leave a company because they were moved to a management position when all they wanted to do was code.
  • Self-assessment: Few companies will say "we are a bad place to work." Yet according to this article, it is the main reason people leave (leadership, money, bad working environment). How often do organizations assess their claims against their employees' perception? When a company says "Our people are our biggest asset" is that really what their employees believe? Or is it management's wishful thinking?
According to many reports and analysts, we are slowly but surely heading out of this recession. During the 18 months of devastating job losses and stress, have your employees felt that they were operating under stellar leadership? Or will they be heading out in droves once the job market opens up again?

It's not too late to prevent the latter.

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