Employee turnover: What to do when your best employees outgrow your business

A lack of career progression, followed by low pay, is the number one reason people quit their jobs.

by Diane Faulkner
updated May 11, 2023 ·  3min read

Employee turnover is a big problem for businesses. Recruiting and training new hires can be costly for organizations, which is why retaining your best employees is important.

Understanding why employees leave will help you know how to prevent employee turnover. Find out the different ways employers can try to keep talent in their company.


Why your best employees leave

According to Dr. Miriam Lacey, professor of applied behavioral sciences for executives at Pepperdine University, "It's not unusual for somebody to change jobs within a year-and-a-half inside the organization."

When asked what's causing the need to move, international speaker on leadership and careers, Michelle Enjoli, offers, "I find there are four main reasons why key employees leave:

  1. There's a conflict with their leader or manager, which ends up being their management style or other form of discontent.
  2. The environment is toxic for them, the overall unhappiness of the team spreads around, and they don't want to be a part of it anymore.
  3. A lack of career path or growth opportunity.
  4. A new opportunity gives them a raise or a promotion that they can't pass up.

A January 2020 CareerAddict study, Why People Quit Their Jobs, reveals that while leadership and environment play a part, "A lack of progression is the number one reason people quit their jobs, followed by low pay."

Mercer's January 2020 North American Turnover: Trends and Effects update supports that finding as it showed 81% of voluntary turnover was due to the employee finding a better job opportunity.

Interestingly, half of the CareerAddict respondents also reported they left their jobs because they believed their bosses took credit for their work, and one in two respondents felt they had been discriminated against by either their boss or by colleagues.

Who is leaving?

The CareerAddict study found that job-hopping is particularly common among younger workers as 48% of all respondents reported quitting jobs for the first time between the ages of 18 and 25, 12% were aged 26 to 30, and 14% were aged 17 or younger. The CareerAddict data concludes that "the vast majority of people would have most probably already quit their first job by the time they are 31- to 35-years-old."

PR Revolution owner and CEO, Elyse Bender-Segall, sees those statistics lived out first-hand. "Today's [younger] generation is very quick to think that there's always something better around the corner. They can be impatient."

But Bender-Segall notes that the fault is not all theirs. There's more temptation for the perpetually online generations.

"With social media, and especially LinkedIn, they get poached a lot more," she says. "People are always out there dangling that carrot in front of them saying, 'Come work here.'"

Groom them or lose them

With the bombardment of temptation, companies and managers should be on the lookout for grooming opportunities.

Bender-Segall advises small business owners to think broader to find ways to retain the best employees. "I'm a boutique agency, so I don't have the budget to play with," she says. "I have to get creative. Millennials want to be heard and do things that they're probably not ready to do, so I give them those opportunities I know they won't get if they leave for a bigger agency."

"High-performing employees," says Dr. Lacey, "want to be growing and learning. If they're not learning, not feeling like they're getting more experience, broadening and deepening their worldview, then they get bored and leave. They may love the boss they're working for, but if the job's not doing it for them, they're gone."

A smart boss will help an employee look for another position internally, "because that person will continue to be loyal even if they're not working for you. More than anything else," says Dr. Lacey, "let your people know that you're on their side, that you have their backs. If you help a person find work, they will be loyal to you the rest of their lives."

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About the Author

Diane Faulkner

Diane Faulkner is a ghostwriter, content marketing strategist, and editor based in Jacksonville, Florida. She specialize… Read more

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