In his analysis of more than 20,000 employee exit interviews, Leigh Branham has come to this conclusion: Workers might say they're leaving for the promise of greener pastures, but usually they're just trying to get away.
Branham, a Kansas City-based management consultant and author of "The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," has found that most workers defect to escape toxic work environments, poor management practices and other negative attributes of their current employers.
"It's true that most employees get an increase in pay when they leave," Branham tells New Equipment Digest. "But that's not the real reason they decided to leave in the first place."
Still, in this era of the skills gap, there's a silver lining for managers who dread the thought of losing their star performers.
"I would say that all of the reasons [employees leave] are under the control of leaders and managers," Branham says.
To help managers take a proactive approach to keeping and engaging their top employees, Branham offers these three tips:
1. Conduct "entrance interviews."
Managers need to understand that "you engage one employee at a time," Branham says.
Consequently, he advocates conducting one-on-one meetings with new hires to get a sense of what they expect from the job, how they like to be recognized and what's most important to them.
"Some employees are motivated more by recognition," Branham explains. "Others are motivated more by the technical challenge of the job, by being a good craftsman. Some people are motivated more by work-life balance."
The bottom line: Get to know your employees better, and "don't expect all of them to be motivated by the same things that you're motivated by — or for all of them to be motivated by the same things."
2. Send "valuing messages" to your employees.
It's critical to make sure that "you're sending the message to all of your employees that you value them," Branham says.
One simple way to convey that message, he explains, is "noticing when [employees] do something above and beyond, and simply going up to them and saying, 'I saw what you did. I want you to know how much I appreciate it.'"
"So that means as a manager, you need to be observing your people enough to do that, instead of having your head down, checking off your to-do list," Branham adds.
Sending the right message to team members extends beyond recognition, though.
"It's giving them the tools they need to do a good job," Branham says. "It's listening to their ideas and paying attention to them, and, if they make sense, implementing their ideas.
"It means keeping them informed. It means including them on emails and memos and everything that you do that can send a message to an employee that the employee is either important or not important."
3. Conduct "stay interviews."
In a stay interview, or "re-engagement discussion," a manager meets with an employee who perhaps isn't as focused on the job as he or she has been in the past.
The goals of the meeting are to emphasize that the worker is a valued member of the team, and to find out if the employee is receiving the proper tools and support to perform his or her job tasks at a high level.
"I hear managers all the time say, 'I really had big plans for that person, and they up and quit on me,'" Branham says. "Well they up and quit because [the manager] never took the time to have a heart-to-heart discussion."