9 Reasons Good Employees Leave -- and How You Can Prevent It

retention and engagement

The average tenure for IT workers is less than 3.8 years, according to Payscale. And while you’ll never eliminate employee turnover, these strategies can help you motivate and ultimately retain your best talent.

The people who work for you are your greatest asset. Treat them as such and they will be more productive and engaged, refer other great workers to your organization and stay longer. Treat them as a liability and they will be less productive and eventually leave, hurting morale as well as the bottom line.

So as the New Year approaches, if you don't have a great employee retention strategy in place, then it's time to start formulating one.

Why Workers Leave

At the end of 2013, CareerBuilder polled more than 3,000 workers to see what they thought were the major pain points in their career. Here is a look at the some of the highlights:

  • 45 percent of workers say they were dissatisfied with the advancement opportunities at their current company.
  • 39 percent say they didn't have a positive work/life balance.
  • 37 percent had a poor opinion of their boss and his/her performance.
  • 36 percent said they felt like they were overlooked for a promotion.

So what can IT executives do to address these concerns and improve employee retention? To help you better retention numbers, CIO.com asked industry experts and CIOs why top performers leave and how organizations can build ways to stem the flow and better engage the talent they have.

Identify Poor Managers

There's an adage that's been often repeated that "people don't quit their jobs; they quit their bosses."

So if you want to know why some employees are leaving, take a look at your managers. Which ones have a high turnover rate? Have you investigated why that is?

"One manager with poor people skills can do damage to the culture and effectiveness of a company in a short period of time -- managers need to be people orientated and able to harness their team's talent and passion. Middle managers are a significant force in accomplishing the business objectives and are essential to the overall culture," says David Stevens, CIO of Arizona's Maricopa County.

Provide Management Training

Even if an employee is unhappy with a manager, you can't necessarily lay the entire blame on the manager. Skills that make an employee a great software developer or coder, for example, are completely different from the ones required to be a great manager. And, unfortunately, many times companies promote superstars into positions they aren't equipped to deal with - and then don't provide the necessary training and guidance necessary to manage the people on their teams.

"A critical mistake organizations can make is the assumption that [if] someone is great at their day job, they'll be great at leading and managing people," says Travis Furlow, head of Client Services, Alexander Mann Solutions. "One of the easiest ways to lose people is to misalign them with their daily duties."Organizations need to train people to be managers. "Invest the time in developing, coaching and mentoring your managers," says Furlow. "Too often, people are promoted into management and then are left to fend for themselves."

Provide Career Advancement Opportunities

One of the main reasons top performers leave is because they feel that their career advancement isn't going as planned.

"It doesn't matter if they like what they're working on, who they're working with and are compensated fairly or more than fairly," says David Foote, chief analyst and research officer, Foote Partners. "They have to feel there's something in it for them personally." Otherwise, they will be tempted to search for employment elsewhere, or be susceptible to recruiters.

But what if you don't have any nonmanagerial career paths, or employees don't want to become managers? Your best individual contributors aren't always going to want to manage people. So you need to build a path of advancement for them or you will find them on their way out the door when another organization does.

"There are plenty of individual contributor roles that can make an impact in companies," says Joe Topinka, CIO, SnapAV. "Have clear career pathways for managers and supervisors as well as people who want to stay in an individual contributor path," he advises. "Business relationship managers, or as I like to refer to them, IT business partners, are good examples of people that can really make an impact in this regard. They don't have to manage people to drive real and meaningful business results in companies that are rewarded," he explains.

Stevens agrees. "It is important to recognize that not everyone is interested in or cut out for managing people," he says. "So there must be an opportunity to advance along a couple of trajectories, [such as] technical SME and leadership/management… [where] both career paths are viable growth vectors."

Give Employees Feedback

If your managers are offering constructive feedback on a regular basis and talking about career goals at least once a year with employees, then your organization is probably better connected with your employees than most. While many experts agree that once a year performance reviews are the minimum, most agree that more is better, especially with millennials.

"The more frequently you can have those [performance] discussions, the easier it is to catch and correct a [problem] and support great behavior or performance," says Furlow. "Having a structured and pointed career development session every 6 months with the employees on your teams can add huge value when it comes to growth, engagement and retention."

Regular feedback will also give you more warning when people are feeling dissatisfied or disengaged. "Checking in with your employees a couple times a year provides a sense of interest in the employee's success and in many cases will give early warnings of dissatisfaction, allowing for an opportunity to change course if warranted," says Stevens.

Lack of Accountability

One sure way to drive down morale is to not hold managers and employees accountable. "Creating a culture of personal accountability is a must. People should understand that they are in the driver seat when it comes to their careers and the right cultural approaches support and nurture that mindset,"says Topinka.

Recognize and Reward Good Employees

Recognize and reward your employees for their outstanding work. Money isn't always the top motivator. So you've got to know on a case by case basis what it is that motivates your top talent. This can take many forms. It could be internal recognition, a promotion, extra vacation time or a flexible schedule. To find out what employees' value most, ask.

"The biggest impact companies can make is to recognize and reward solid performance. This can take the form of a pat on the back for a job well done, financial incentives, or even promotions and giving high performers more responsibility, "says Topinka.

Employee's Not Taking Responsibility for Their Careers

Another issue that Topinka says he often sees cis employees who don't take responsibility for their own careers. From their perspective it's the organization's and manager's job to do this. "Too many employees are not proactive in managing their own careers - they expect their companies to do that for them. I like putting the responsibility for mapping career goals on employees. It is their careers to manage after all."

Not Offer Flexible Hours or Telecommuting

In the tech space, flexible scheduling and telecommuting have become common. "Flexible work time and the ability to be a virtual employee are so prevalent in today's workforce that they are becoming an expectation," says Furlow. Moreover, "the ability to work a flexible schedule can be a [great]way to retain professionals."

Understanding the Organization's Goals and Vision

If your employees don't understand what the organization's, or their department's, goals are, or what their role is in the overall strategy, chances are, they will not be as engaged.

"Communicating the technology strategy and how it reflects the organization's objectives is essential to employee engagement," says Stevens. "This is so central to succeeding that it needs to be continually and consistently presented at various levels of the organization, so the team can be part owners and champions of the strategy."

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