Why Your People are Quitting

Failing at employee retention, especially in high tech, can be devastating to your business. Protect your investment by keeping your top talent from jumping ship.


Employees want to feel involved. Executives should regularly communicate with employees. And I don’t mean an annual conference call with an 80-slide PowerPoint to discuss results. When I managed teams, I made calendar time for one-on-one informal chats with my staff. Even if it was just over coffee, I needed to “take their temperature”. That is, they should feel comfortable communicating stresses, frustrations, concerns, and problems…even if those problems were with me. I expected the same from my executive management, but rarely got it.

I’ve always encouraged my executive clients to have skip-level meetings in their organizations. Employees will feel more valued, and you’ll often get the unfiltered truth that you might not get from your line managers. My best C-level clients have an open door policy for any staff member to walk in, sit down, and talk about anything. No, they won’t abuse your time. Listen to them.

Why do they stay?

Exit interviews are the worst possible time to learn about failings in your organization. Conduct “stay interviews”, especially with those employees whose absence would cause a major impact. Ask questions such as: What attracted you to the company? What has kept you here? What might cause you to leave? Are there any dealbreakers? What would you change about the company? By the time you’re in an exit interview, it’s too late.

Money isn’t everything

While it pays the bills, money isn’t always the primary motivator for many employees. When you do offer financial rewards to your best and brightest, do it based on merit. Across-the-board increases, such as those for cost-of-living, don’t have the same impact as those based on individual performance.

Shop the competition. Your employees are doing it. Make sure your compensation plans are competitive with your market. Naturally, a firm in suburban Tulsa won’t pay as well as one in San Francisco for the same job, but you also don’t want to lose a key player to a firm down the road because they’re willing to pay 20% more.

Stock options don’t work. Unless you’re a founder, you’ll probably never get rich this way, so don’t dangle this carrot. Recent college graduates might fall for this, but those of us with decades of experience know it’s vapor. Don’t insult their intelligence. You can’t pay the mortgage with options.

Prepare for the inevitable

Average tenure in the IT industry is around 2.5 years. Your best people will eventually move on. Maintain a healthy succession plan, and don’t allow individuals to hoard knowledge. You never know, someone might win the lottery and you’ll never hear from them again.


Do you know why your people are quitting? More importantly, are you doing what it takes to keep them?**

© 2015 Mark Richman


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