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Ken Keller: Why employees leave for greener pastures

Posted: May 18, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 18, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Forbes reported that millions of employed Americans are switching employers each month.

Here are seven reasons why your direct reports are leaving you to earn a paycheck elsewhere.

First, because of the layoffs, downsizings and leaving vacancies open when employees voluntarily resigned or retired, many employees are now working the jobs of two, perhaps three people.

These same individuals may not have been given raises in years. Chances are you have not told them when they can expect a raise, or given them any idea as to the amount or percentage when raises are given.

Second, people leave if not challenged. If your direct reports don’t have new things to learn keep in mind that low level work is a root cause for boredom and disengagement.

To engage and retain your best people, you need to have them thinking strategically, not living in day to day operations. If you can’t provide an opportunity for higher level thinking, another employer will.

Third, if you are micromanaging people, it is probably driving your better people nuts. When I was in a key management role and I was constantly being questioned about my time, my goals and my budget, it drove me to realize I was working for the wrong owner.

I had hoped I was viewed as a trusted member of management and as such, I expected significant latitude in leading my department. If that trust did not exist, why was I working there?

Fourth, regular feedback is more than nice, it is necessary. Putting off performance appraisals and hearing generic comments such as “keep up the good work” is demeaning. Key employees need to understand what they are doing well and what they need to be doing differently.

How can an organization improve if the people in it do not? As the owner, you owe it to help people become better. They cannot do that on their own.

Fifth, the opposite of a micromanaging owner is the absentee owner. These are people with so many other activities ongoing on, including perhaps other business interests, that they only aren’t around much, when they are around, they create chaos.

They never talk to anyone; when they do the preferred communication method is to scream, pound a desk, point fingers and threaten everyone with losing their jobs. The phrase “or else” is used freely in these so-called discussions. Some people might put up with this, but the best people won’t tolerate this abuse.

The sixth reason is that it is all about the owner. Employees invest time, effort, energy into your business in exchange for not just the present, but a future. In many ways, it is their company too.

When the owner gets star billing over the business; look for the hard working and dedicated to start looking out more for themselves and less for the company. This culminates in a resignation letter.

Finally, if you want people to stick around, sacrificing today for the future, you have to define and communicate what that future is. Where can people go in your company? Is there room for growth or have they already topped out at age 35? What may be worse than not being able to communicate a future for your key employees is constantly changing what it will look like.

Before you let your best people join the other 2.5 million Americans this month departing their companies for another place to work, why don’t you do your best to prevent that from happening?

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together for education, sharing and on-going success. Contact him at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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