Reasons Why Employees Leave

Ongoing Professional Development

The well-researched and bestselling book, “Good to Great”, speculates that one of the most important characteristics of great companies is the quality of human capital within its ranks. Truly visionary companies know how to get the right people on their bus and in the right seats. Once this happens, the right people are smart and motivated enough to figure out where the bus should be going and how they are going to get there. But finding and keeping the right people is no small task. This article will discuss the main reasons why employees leave their companies.

It takes a great deal of work to put together a quality team with the right people heading in the same direction. When it happens, it’s a beautiful thing. Many of us have experienced the enthusiasm and excitement of a motivated group of people in pursuit of meaningful goals and objectives. But those moments of synergy can be short-lived. Just as the bus leaves the station and starts gaining speed, someone decides to get off.

According to the international consulting firm, McKinsey and Associates, there is a war for talent in the workplace today. Companies with the best and brightest employees have a competitive edge. But attracting good talent is only half the battle; keeping them may be even more important. When companies lose good people, they need to know why.

Why Employees Leave Companies

The Work Institute has been collecting data for years and helps organizations understand why people join and leave their companies. Based on research conducted with 16,000 people who left their jobs, The Work Institute has found the following reasons for leaving:

  • 23% were fired or laid off. Many of the terminations were due to problems with a supervisor, poor selection practices, or antiquated policies and procedures.
  • 22% left because of limited or no opportunities for growth and advancement. Many of these individuals did not believe they were being prepared for future roles, responsibilities, and opportunities.
  • 22% left because of scheduling problems or the number of hours they were working.
  • 18% left because of the work itself. In many cases they were recruited into a role that was not aligned with their skills and/or personal goals.
  • 15% left for location reasons, including traffic problems, high gasoline prices, or length of commute.

While workers are free to move about the country (to use another travel metaphor), companies hope their best employees will stay on their bus. Turnover costs can be quite high (often one to two times an employee’s salary) so companies need to pay attention to this. Identifying and addressing the reasons employees terminate is a step in the right direction. By attracting, developing, and keeping talented employees, good companies can become great companies.

Why Employees Stay At Companies

So how can companies retain top talent? According to Deloitte, employee loyalty to companies has declined in recent generations, especially with millennials. Organizations are hesitant to invest in professional learning and leadership development because they do not want their employee to take those acquired skills to a competitor. However, organizations must emphasize employee value to retain top talent. Here are some basic strategies to keep high performers in your company:

Define Clear Roles for Employees

Every member of the team should feel that they are contributing in some way. Your organization is sure to have a mix of generalists, specialists, and everything in between scattered across a number of different divisions, departments or teams. However, what is important is that an employee knows what his/her contribution is to the success of the team. This is especially true of virtual teams. With limited communication with the rest of the team, virtual team members must be very clear on how they create value. Revisit the job descriptions of various roles, and make sure your organization is hiring for the position it intends to fill.

Additionally, encourage managers to know and understand the strengths of their team members in order to understand how well each employee fits within their role. Enterprise companies across the world are using human capital management platforms like Workday to determine the best fit career paths for employees. Using predictive analytics, these platforms can process any number of variables to determine how an employee would best fit in an organization. Effective use of management and evolving technology will help companies understand how to keep employees happy and productive, yielding value for both employee and company.

Reward Top Performers

The most talented employees in the organization, more likely than not, want to be treated like they are the top performers. Rewards can range from affirmation to financial compensation. Different employees value different things, so a raise may not always be the best answer for how to encourage a team member’s performance (a team member may prefer more vacation days or a more flexible work schedule to name two examples). In sum, consider what motivates your employees, and reward them accordingly.

Create A Comfortable Company Culture

You may already be thinking “easier said than done.” However, company culture is a huge priority for leading organizations today. In general, employees value the relationships they make at work, and they will feel more comfortable making a career for themselves in a place that feels inviting. The driving principle behind creating a great company culture is aligning individual and organizational interests. By creating a company that has the same values as the kind of people you want to attract to your organization, you create a winning culture that will satisfy the interests of the organization and every employee that works for it.


Turnover is an inevitability. However, few companies succeed without getting the right people on the bus. Retaining top talent is a battle that is won in many areas, whether it be in the HR department, the team setting, or within the company culture itself. Align the organization’s needs with the needs of the individual, and the company should have little trouble keeping top performers. G360 Surveys can help.