One of the most fascinating and (in my experience) anecdotally accurate statements I’ve heard regarding employee departures from a company is: Employees don’t quit companies, they quit managers. Obviously there’s many more factors beyond interpersonal relationships as to why an employee leaves a company; ethics, location, industry and upward mobility being a few others. However, the majority of the turnover I’ve seen in my company when an employee quit is due to some personal issue between two individuals.
I was reading an old article about employee retention from Harvard Business Review, and it mentioned a new perspective on the whole turnover conversation I’d never considered before: The reasons people leave are not necessarily the opposite of the reasons people stay. The study found that most people stay with a company due to what they labelled as inertia; as long as they are in motion with the factors that they consider to be important to them personally, they will stay with that employer. Note, that doesn’t necessarily mean the employee is happy in their employment, just that finding a new employer is more difficult than their reasons to leave. I have also had a similar experience where I was in a position that looking for a new job was not an option because my personal circumstances required me to work, regardless of how I felt about my employer at the time.
Rather than solely examine the reasons why people leave, if companies concentrate their efforts on why employees stay, they might be able to make themselves a more attractive workplace overall and reduce turnover. The interesting thing about this conversation: money is almost never the first topic on the list. Many employees start work for the money, but it’s rare to find that is why they leave, and even more rare to find that’s why they stay.