Why Good Employees Quit – And How to Promote Staff Loyalty

Last modified 18 July 2024
Balance & Wellbeing, Leadership, Organisations & Culture
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Why Good Employees Quit – And How to Promote Staff Loyalty

In every company, a certain level of staff turnover is to be expected – it’s the nature of the modern-day workplace. But when the resignation of top performers becomes a regular occurrence, it’s important to identify the cause, whether it be one primary reason or a mixture of many.

Replacing any employee requires a significant commitment of time and resources, and when it’s one of your best performers who leaves, the burden is all the greater. When a great employee quits, you don’t only have to go through the rehiring and retraining processes, you also lose institutional knowledge, risk damaging client relationships and may see knock-on effects to team morale.

In addition to what you lose when a valued employee leaves, replacing them has never been more difficult than it is now.

The global disruption of COVID-19 has led to major skills shortages across industries and sectors, and the threat of The Great Resignation could compound this.

As the departure of your best employees can be so damaging to the company, investing in your workforce’s loyalty is crucial. To do so, you must first understand what makes good employees quit.

1. They feel unappreciated

For managers, top performers make life easy. They get on with their tasks, deliver on deadline and look for proactive ways to add value to the team. But because you don’t need to coach them often, it’s all too easy to take them for granted.

When this happens, your good employees can get tired of being overlooked. They know how valuable they are, even if you don’t tell them so, and without external validation, they’re likely to look elsewhere.

Ensure you take the time to recognise your good employees’ achievements, both verbally and materially. That might mean an end of year bonus, the first chance at that juicy new project or genuine support of their career progression. Whatever it is, make sure they know they’re a valued team member – they’ll be less likely to leave when a new opportunity comes along.

2. They don’t see a path forward

Some people are happy coming into work and focusing on the same kinds of tasks day after day. Most of us seek more, however, and that’s particularly true for top performers. They work hard and put in the extra effort so that they can drive forward their career. For these employees, it’s critical that a path is visible to them.

If there is no view of progression or they perceive that the career ladder isn’t open to them, they’ll quickly get dissatisfied. To combat this, examine your company’s career development procedures, put your top performers forward for promotions and ensure to be transparent about what it takes to advance.

Also, make sure you’re giving your good employees a range of experiences and opportunities to broaden their skillset and keep them interested. Be genuinely interested in their long-term career development, not only their progression within the company, and they’ll be more likely to stay.

3. They don’t have faith in the leadership of the company

If employees don’t have faith in the company’s leadership, they’re more likely to leave.

It might be that they perceive the management structure to be unfair or they don’t believe in their leader’s vision. They could take issue with how things are run at an operational level, or they may not see eye to eye as to the best way to get results. Often, it will relate to the company culture that the leaders act within.

Whatever the reason, when employees regard themselves as in conflict with leadership, they start looking around for other positions. To make sure this doesn’t happen to your company, practice radical transparency. If big decisions or changes need to be made by management, are those communicated to staff? If someone is found to be acting unethically, is appropriate action taken? Do employees feel trusted and respected? Whether you’re a middle manager, upper management or executive level, transparency can go a long way.

4. They don’t enjoy their role

Sometimes good employees find themselves stuck in roles which don’t play to their interests, even if they do play to their strengths. That might happen if an employee is seen to be a ‘details person’ but find themselves in a role where their preference for big-picture thinking is ignored. Or a ‘people person’ who finds themselves in a back office role.

When your top employees are unfulfilled, they’ll stop enjoying coming to work and start thinking about a move.

Managers can play a major role in finding out where their employees’ passions lie and look for opportunities to bring those into work. Sometimes that means rotating them out of their current role, even if their performance is strong. Sometimes it means looking for a special project they can do around their core tasks. With good communication, you can help your good employees find enjoyment in their job.

5. They need more flexibility

With a new generation of workers who value work-life balance, flexibility is so important. If your office is one which demands long hours at the desk, you might lose your top performers to places where they can get a bit more flexibility back.

If this is happening to you, step back and consider whether those long hours are really necessary for productivity. Studies show that workers are only really productive for about four hours a day, with the rest lost to anxiety and ‘padding’. If your staff are staying at work late into the evening, it’s as likely to be because they feel they should, as because they’re getting much more done.

In some cases, of course, long hours really are necessary. If this is you, can some of those hours be done from home? Are there flexible arrangements you can offer to alleviate the pressure at your less busy times of year?

The more flexible you make your workplace, the broader a pool of applicants you’ll attract and the more workplace loyalty you’ll engender.
Great employees can be difficult to find and even harder to retain. If your company is currently losing a number of its top performers, make it a priority to learn each and every reason why. Only then can you shift your thinking and put strategies in place to promote loyalty.

Also read: The Challenges Managers Face with High Performing Employees

This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Harvard Business Review, 6Q Blog, HRM and The Guardian.

*The Australian Institute of Business (AIB) is Australia’s largest provider of MBAs. Source Ready, B. (2023) Domestic Enrolments Surged During COVID After International Students Locked Out, MBA News. Available at: MBA News.

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