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Why People Stay: Exploring Employee Retention

People leave jobs for a number of different reasons – toxic company culture, poor work life balance, a lack of opportunities for remote work, for example. They also stay for a number of different reasons, and those reasons are probably the opposite – a great company culture, excellent work life balance, and the opportunity to work remotely.

What’s the deal with the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation conversation has piqued a lot of interest. People are leaving jobs, and employee turnover is high. Many “whys” are being thrown around. 

But there’s only one thing that’s for certain. The pandemic has disrupted the thinking about the “what” and “how” in a job, and distinctly the “why” behind it. And maybe that’s because being in lockdown and trying to understand the feeling of uncertainty gave all of us a little time to pause and consider our future.

The distinct spirit of the times may very well have forced people to contemplate the tension between employment and purpose. The fragility of each. And not just the employee. The employer has also had to look in the mirror and consider the same things.

I believe we are living through a remarkable time, when both employee and employer will fundamentally change how we look at work. How we engage in it. How we see a bigger picture. How we figure out what matters most in our day to day. Is that company culture? Remote work? The big question of work life balance?

Why people stay in work

I’m writing a series of articles that will look at why people might stay in a job. They are each built around the premise of the book, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late (American Management Association, 2005) by Leigh Branham, SPHR. While the book is seventeen years old, I find the reasons to be just as prudent now as when they were written.

I will take each of the seven reasons Branham identifies, and turn them around. Each one will share a perspective into what may be possible if we willingly ask ourselves some questions, are honest about the answers, and then openly engage in some action to create some change.

Let’s be real, there’s no secret pill or formula that will solve why people are leaving or why they might stay. There is no one size fits all. It will more than likely require more than just you to be involved, or any one department in your organization. It will, as they say, take a village. A tribe, clan, or team of like-minded people who care about others. Many collaborating for all. 

Branham’s first reason is, and as the author denotes – not in any particular order, the job or workplace was not as expected.

When the job or workplace isn’t what you expected

Have you ever had an expectation given fall short of what was expressed? Told one thing and another thing transpired? Maybe you’ve even found out the truth shared was not the real truth or the whole reality of a position. Think, “If I had known that would be part of the job, I wouldn’t have taken it.”  

Branham refers to it as post-hire shock.

The simple response in inverting the reason would be telling the truth. Providing a genuine and authentic picture of what happens, to what extent, why, and how to best work through and be successful.

Perhaps the biggest tripping point for an employer might be that if a candidate knew the worst-case scenario, they wouldn’t take the job. This assumption might be true if there wasn’t any structure, training, resources, or support to ensure they would be successful in any and all circumstances.

Consider each job. What are the duties and responsibilities? What are the challenges, and what are the ways people are empowered to get the job done? Involve all levels of team members to share the reality of positions within the organization. Share true case studies and real scenarios in the interview process. This allows for both parties to gauge response and solutions.

In all things, company culture plays a big part. One coin, two sides. One side, the job. The other, where it lives. I was told once, “sell the company culture first and the job second.” Assess your guiding principles and core values. How are they lived out, and do they support a true picture of the job and the work environment?

What expectations are you creating? Are you living up to them? Employees do not want perfection, they need the truth. They appreciate honesty, and they may stay longer if they know where they stand.

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