In 2006, 23.7 percent of American workers voluntarily quit their jobs.

                                                                                U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Individuals give various reasons for leaving a company, but most credible research suggests the following are those most common:

  • Uncaring and unprofessional managers
  • Putting or keeping people in the wrong jobs 
  • Poor communications
  • Lack of recognition        
  • Poor senior leadership
  • Not setting clear expectations
  • Failure to set role clarity
  • Lack of work group cohesion
  • Lack of tools or resources
  • Lack of training.

A survey was conducted by The Saratoga Institute that revealed 89 percent of managers believe employees leave their jobs for more money. However, the same survey found that 88 percent of employees who left their jobs did so for reasons other than money. Think we have a disconnect between management and employees? You bet we do!

If your organization is experiencing turnover, do you know why? Do you even care? I believe it's fair to say that if you understood and knew what the costs of voluntary turnover were in your company, you would be spending considerable time and effort to find out why. You would then find ways to keep and retain your good employees… and I dare say that offering them more money is not one of the best options!

Much research on retaining good employees has centered on understanding the reasons behind their decisions to leave. By understanding why people leave, organizations can also gain a better idea of why people stay and then learn how to influence these decisions.

The theory of organizational equilibrium, as set forth by Barnard-Simon, can shed valuable light on these important organizational concerns. According to this theory, an individual will stay with an organization as long as the inducements it offers (satisfactory pay, good working conditions, developmental opportunities) are equal to or greater than the contributions (time, effort) required of the person by their company. Clearly, turnover is a complex process.

Although some individuals may quit a job on impulse, most spend time evaluating their current job against possible alternatives, developing a plan of action, and engaging in various types of job-search behavior — all of which take time and effort away from their current position. This affects you, affects your other employees and affects your customers.

Effectively managing retention isn’t easy. It takes extensive analysis, a thorough understanding of the many strategies and practices available, and the ability to put retention plans into action and then learn from what is working and what is not. These leadership activities can mean the difference between long term success and failure.

Job satisfaction: A key factor in employee retention

Job satisfaction is one of the most important factors that help determine whether an employee remains with a company. By being aware of key motivators, owners and managers are better able to develop workplace programs, policies and practices that focus on individual aspects of job satisfaction.

A good way to gauge employee needs and desires regarding workplace culture, communications and issues of importance to your employees is through an employee attitude assessment. This may be an excellent first step in helping you analyze the nature of why your employees may be leaving and the extent to which you have ongoing or re-occurring issues that need to be addressed.

A word of caution: If you are going to conduct an employee attitude survey you need to be prepared to address any issue(s) that may arise. Failure to act upon or address employee concerns will doom the entire process, lead to a further deterioration in the workplace relationship, and may actually decrease your ability to retain good employees.

Once you have identified the issues that may be causing employees to leave, you’ll need to:

  1. Understand the drivers of employee turnover
  2. Decide the most important and manageable issues that should/can be corrected in your company
  3. Design, implement and evaluate strategies to improve job satisfaction and minimize voluntary turnover in ways that meet your company's unique needs. 

It takes a lot of effort and resources to source, screen, select, recruit and hire manpower. It is always easier to motivate, mold, train and retain your existing workforce than it is to force them out and start the whole process over again, which only serves to rob yourself and your company of time, energy and profits.

Scott Tackett joined VMA with a 32-year background in manufacturing, human resource management and organizational leadership. He is currently a business development advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA) where he works closely with business owners and their key management staff as both a business consultant and an executive coach. To learn more about VMA’s services and programs visit or call (330) 966-0700.