Why are your staff leaving?

Losing valued members of staff can be disheartening. It can be very frustrating when staff members leave, particularly if you have spent time and effort developing the employee. In many cases, employees will leave because they have found more attractive opportunities elsewhere. However, a high staff turnover can be indicative of a problem with your organisational culture.

There are many benefits for a business to retain good employees so it is wise to understand the reasons why people might want to leave. The departure of an employee presents a good opportunity to gain feedback about the organisation. This can be done through an exit-interview or a questionnaire, where the out-going employee can explain their reasons for leaving. This method, however, may only have limited success. For example, once the employee has got the offer of another job, they may decide it best to simply leave on good terms with their former employer and avoid giving an honest and candid explanation of their reason to leave. Many people do not want to leave an organisation on a negative note.

Clues can be found in the behaviour of the employee when they resign. Sometimes the resignation will be gracious, with the employee expressing appreciation to the employer for the experience and opportunities they had benefited from during their time with the company. They are also likely to give a plausible explanation for their resignation. Perhaps they have been offered a higher paid or higher status job elsewhere, which would provide the individual with greater career progression.

However, there should be cause for concern where employees resign without an explanation, if they walk out without serving their notice period, or if they act in a disruptive or passive aggressive manner during their notice-period, effectively ‘burning their bridges’ with the organisation. In these cases, it is worth making further investigation into why the employee is leaving.

So, how can a firm find out more?

  • Speak to the employee’s closest colleagues. Their friends and closest colleagues are likely to know the real reasons why the person has chosen to leave. Don’t interrogate them, of course, and don’t impose undue pressure, but an informal conversation may provide useful insight.
  • Look at where the employee goes next. Are they going to a better paid job? Have they been ‘poached’ by a competitor? Are they going back into education? It is worth considering what attracted the employee to go to ‘pastures new’ and what your organisation could have done to have retained the member of staff. For example, are sufficient training opportunities available?
  • Look for trends. If numerous people are leaving, are there similarities in their reasons for leaving?

An effective system of appraisals and regular one-to-ones between managers and their staff is also an important part of this process. A good manager will ask their team members if they are happy in their role, what their career plans are and would work with the employee to realise those ambitions (where reasonable) for the mutual benefit of the employee and the company. You can never guarantee that people won’t resign but good, open communication is a useful way to safeguard against this.

About the author

Nathan joined RWA in 2016 on successfully completing his PhD. He previously worked in the private, public and charitable sectors. Nathan leads the content and professional standards team at RWA and is responsible for managing and curating technical content on the Aviva Development Zone and the award-winning My Development Zone e-learning platforms.

Since joining RWA, Nathan has written hundreds of business skills e-learning modules and assessments on a variety of subjects, including leadership and management, communication skills, human resources, employability, regeneration, citizenship and equalities.

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