Why Good Employees Leave and What to Do About It

Taking a look at why employees are leaving and how to fix that leads to a better work culture

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The impact felt when an employee leaves is exacerbated when labor markets are tight. Leaders at all levels in the organization need to be cognizant of the message their actions send to employees when someone leaves.

“Leaders are always being watched. How the leadership reacts when someone leaves is going to impact how everyone else reacts,” says Marissa Levin, co-founder of Successful Culture International and a culture and leadership expert.

“If they are transparent, honest and don’t act like the sky is falling and they acknowledge the loss but pivot quickly into filling that gap, then employees will take that cue and things will go on without a glitch,” she says.

If you feel that workers today don’t have the same loyalty to employers that previous generations did, you are correct. “Younger generations definitely have less tolerance for being unhappy,” Levin says. “They are just not going to stay in a job if it’s not fulfilling a purpose they believe in.”

So, what can employers in the plumbing industry do to attract and keep employees on the job? Levin offers five key strategies.

PAY ATTENTION TO EXIT INTERVIEWS

When people leave a company, it’s critical to find out why. According to the 2018 Retention Report from the Work Institute, the top three reasons employees leave are:

Career development — No opportunity to grow in a preferred job and career.

Work-life balance — Better work-life balance, which includes more favorable schedules, shorter commute times and scheduling flexibility.

Manager behavior — Unprofessional or unsupportive managers. Exit interviews can be a useful tool in identifying the reasons why employees are leaving, provided they ask the right questions.

“The goal of the exit interview should be to find out where the company did well or fell short on communication or meeting expectations,” Levin says. While exit interviews can be a useful tool, it’s about more than just collecting data. Companies need to analyze and share the information and then follow up with action.

Levin cautions that exiting employees might not be comfortable providing answers. “If you haven’t already developed a culture of trust, when an employee leaves, they are not all of a sudden going to divulge everything to you,” she says.

EXAMINE YOUR MISSION, VALUES AND VISION

“Problems such as high attrition, low trust, low morale and low engagement are all a result of a compromised culture,” Levin says. 

Companies that start to deviate from their mission, vision and values struggle. She recommends that businesses reengineer their hiring processes to ensure that new hires have the technical competence and are culturally aligned with the company’s core values before they begin.

“Interviewing is the key piece to ensure that you have strong retention of great people,” Levin says.  

PCL Construction — ranked No. 98 on Fortune magazine’s Best Places to Work and No. 7 on Engineering News-Record’s Top 400 list of general contractors — uses behavioral aptitude tests such as the Predictive Index to help gain a clear understanding of the motivating needs and behaviors of potential team members.

“We use a two-pronged approach to seek out interest, and if the potential candidate seems like a good fit, the next steps would include an in-person interview,” says Dianna Hemphill-O’Byrne, communications specialist for PCL Construction.

BE PROCESS-CENTRIC, NOT HERO-CENTRIC

The more your processes are documented and employees are trained on those processes, the less risk there is to the company when a key person leaves. Employees can then easily step in and fill the void.

“When a company revolves around a handful of heroes, it can be demoralizing for the people who are not one of those heroes,” Levin says. 

CHECK IN WITH EMPLOYEES AT ALL LEVELS

It’s important to know what’s happening throughout all levels of the company. “If you’re only talking with other C-level executives, you can be blinded,” Levin says. 

She views companies as puzzles, and leaders need to understand what motivates everyone in the organization.

“When one puzzle piece is missing, the puzzle is still incomplete,” Levin says. “Everybody matters, and everyone sees the company from his or her own perspective.”  

LOSE THE HIERARCHY 

Levin believes that the idea of coming in and paying your dues before you speak up is an antiquated view.  

“From the day they start on the job, you should give employees an opportunity to be valuable,” Levin says. “Creating cultures of mentorship rather than a strict hierarchy is important.”  



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