Why They Leave

Do you lie in bed each night wondering if your people are thinking of leaving?

Of course not. You are more concerned with the production quotas, or the quarterly shareholders meeting or the new office space that you are hoping to lease. Right

I got to thinking about this because there was an article on line about keeping tech employees happy that I was going to post here but I didn’t like the article that much because it was too geared towards techies and I though it would be easier to write my own than go through the other one and criticize it.

If you are worried about what would make people leave your company then you are probably better positioned to keep turnover low than companies that don’t worry about it. And trust me a lot of companies don’t. However here is a list of some of the most common reasons that managers give me on a daily basis as to why they are looking. I am not going to present them in any particular order.


    People do leave for more money. It’s that simple. I know that there are plenty of studies and articles out there saying that more money won’t keep you in your job if you hate it and that is probably true but as a headhunter I am often amazed the amount of people I recruit to move laterally from one position to another and the reason is often money (or reason number two (which I will get to).

    Are you paying your top employees fairly? Are you sure? Don’t rely too heavily on compensation surveys; they are often out of date and dependent on the participants actually giving accurate information. Want to know if you are paying your employees fairly? Call up a headhunter who specializes in the field and tell him you are looking to hire someone in whatever position you want to find the going market rate for. Ask him how much it would take to get a top-level person. You will know immediately if you are an employer of choice or what we headhunters call a “source company”


    Gridlock and urban sprawl have combined to make commuting a huge issue for people. No one wants to spend 2 hours or more in their car every day and this adversely affects your company’s productivity. When I do a search nowadays the first thing I do is segment my targets not by industry but by location. I will look through my database for any potential candidates that are living near my client. And guess what? It is one of the easiest recruit calls to do. I just recently completed a search for a senior financial manager. The position was located in north Toronto. All I did was call all the people who were working downtown but lived in the northern suburbs. I had candidates willing to take a pay cut in order to eliminate commute. Conversely I have lost candidates because of the commute.

    So what can you do? Well be more sympathetic to those in your firm who have long commutes. Are you letting them work flex hours?? Most companies say they do but the reality is that they only pay lip service to it. So they tell you can come in early but if you leave early you get the raised eyebrow. Of course you can prevent this by not hiring people who would be commuting for a long distance, but that might be discriminatory.

    Sopranos2Family Owned Companies.

    When I encounter a manager who is working for a family owned company I consider this a slam-dunk that I can recruit this person. First if they aren’t part of the family they know that no matter what they aren’t going to make it to the top echelons of the company. Second family owned companies have a reputation for being extremely tough places to work. Why? Because as one manager once put it “ you don’t know when you go in work if there’s going to be a target on your back or not”.

    If you own the company give some thought to those who aren’t your blood relatives. You can scream at your relatives and they typically aren’t going to quit. But remember your employees aren’t your family.

    Bureaucracy2Large Corporations.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum people who work in large corporations often complain that the reason they are leaving is that they feel that they are unable to truly make a difference – or at least feel that they are making a difference. Often they will move to a smaller company where the job they are doing really seems to be having an effect. Additionally they often complain about the bureaucracy they encounter in larger companies. I worked on a search recently where the candidate hired came from one of the world’s largest corporations. His biggest complaint? The bureaucracy. It was just too hard to get something done. So now whenever I am calling potential recruits in that company I start talking about the bureaucracy right from the beginning. And guess what? It really makes a difference.

    So you can’t do much about the size of your company but you might want to think about the bureaucracy and red tape in your company and how to cut down on that. Also think about ways to recognize your employees so they feel like what they are doing is actually being noticed.

    Ceilings (glass and otherwise)

    Want to make sure your employees are dusting their resumes off? When a management opportunity opens up hire someone externally instead of promoting them. What’s that you say? You don’t have anyone internally that could do the job?

    I once knew a VP who prided herself in the fact that if she “got hit by a bus” (as she put it) she had her replacement ready to take over. Your organization should have a plan in place to develop talent internally. It should start right at the campus level. You can only steal from competitors so often and trust me that well is not infinite. So look around your organization. At the senior level how many of the mangers are homegrown and how many came from outside? If the majority came from outside I can tell you that there are some very unhappy middle managers in your organization and you had better hope I don’t get my hands on your phone list.

I could go on and on with a variety of other reasons but I would like to turn it over to the readers and ask you: What has caused you to leave your company ?

One of the reason’s listed above or have I missed some glaringly obvious ones??

I look forward to reading your comments.

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