Why Your Employees Are Leaving (and How You Can Win Them Back)

Employee turnover is a fact of life. And as it turns out, not even the most in-demand employers are immune.

Earlier this year, rumors were circulating that “tons of engineers” were ready to leave Google after employees received underwhelming year-end bonuses, and Elon Musk recently claimed that Apple was offering his employees a $250,000 signing bonus to leave Tesla.

Turnover is costly to any enterprise, but especially to high-profile companies like Google and Tesla. Not only do you lose valuable team members, but also an employee who quits can cost up to 150 percent of his or her salary to replace.

There are a variety of reasons why employees decide to leave a company. Some leave for a higher-paying position, a challenging new role, or a more appealing title, but most reasons boil down to one preventable factor: employee disengagement.

Why employees disengage

There are two types of disengaged employees.

First, you have those who simply get tired of their role at your company and leave. These losses can be painful, but the alternative is worse: Employees who disengage and stick around. These employees are poisonous to your company because they can infect the rest of your team with apathy and resentment.

Employees disengage for a variety of reasons, but usually it’s because they feel underappreciated in their role when their effort and sacrifices go unrecognized. They may also feel like they don’t have autonomy in their role or a clear path for future growth.

Whatever the reason, if you’re going to retain a solid and lasting workforce, you need to find ways to make them feel engaged, appreciated, and excited about the future.

5 ways to boost engagement and retention

A study by Glassdoor shows that employee appreciation truly does make a difference in employee engagement and turnover. Some 81 percent of respondents said they feel motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, and more than half would stay with their employer longer if their boss showed more appreciation.

There are several things you can do to boost morale, increase engagement, and get employees to stick around:

1. Give small artifacts of appreciation

Sometimes keeping your employees happy is as simple as providing small, thoughtful gifts.

This probably won’t cut it if you’re not delivering on the core necessities such as fair pay, good health care, and a quality work environment, but if you take the time and effort to provide the occasional thoughtful gift, it will show employees that you really care about them.

2. Think beyond the office

Remember that your employees are people who have lives during the 16 hours that they’re not in the office. Do something to make that part of their lives easier — especially when they’re working extra hard on your behalf.

At my company, many of our employees are working moms who feel obligated to clean the house while staying on top of their work. We solved this by paying to have employees’ homes cleaned every other week.

This is an expense they would probably never spend their own money on, but it makes their lives much less stressful. And while it might cost us $1,500 annually per employee, the return is $20,000 in productivity because our employees are focused on work instead of worrying about their growing to-do lists.

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3. Plan trips that include spouses

People who play together stay together.

Create a community beyond the office in a way that rewards employees for great performance, provides a chance for spouses to connect, and gives everyone the opportunity to unbutton his or her collar and relax.

4. Track appreciation

You’re probably already tracking most aspects of your business, from sales to website visitors to call-response times. But what about employee appreciation?

Ask your managers to track and report how often they give positive feedback to team members. Not only will employees feel good about getting the appreciation they deserve, but it will also build this engagement-enhancing gratitude into your company culture.

5. Surprise employees with unexpected generosity

You’ve probably heard about the importance of surprising and delighting your customers, but treating your employees this way is just as important.

Say you added a $5 bonus to every weekly paycheck. Probably no one would notice or care. But if you surprised employees with a $250 gift at the end of the quarter, the response would be huge.

Everybody wants to feel loved and appreciated, and smart companies capitalize on the kid inside every employee with these random displays of generosity.

In the end, it’s ALL about appreciation

At the end of the day, employee disengagement isn’t about salaries or year-end bonuses. I’d be willing to bet that even employee turnover at companies like Google isn’t solely a money issue; it’s an appreciation issue.

Your employees work hard, and you can’t wait until the yearly retreat to tell them how great they are. You need to show it year round and build appreciation into your company culture.

John Ruhlin is the founder and CEO of the Ruhlin Group, a firm that specializes in high-level gifting plans to build relationships and acquire new clients. The Ruhlin Group’s partnership with Cutco has enabled it to become the No. 1 distributor of Cutco in Cutco’s 60-year history. John is a sought-after speaker on the topics of C-level selling, relationship development, and strategic gifting; he is also the co-author of the best-selling book, “Cutting Edge Sales.”

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6 Comments on “Why Your Employees Are Leaving (and How You Can Win Them Back)

  1. The shoe is now on the other foot! For 5-6 years employers had been living a fantasy of sorts……..cheep employees, employees that they can run into the ground and employees that are scared! Now, those employees have better choices! The employers get what they deserve!

  2. the solutions offered in the article above are short term feel good solutions at best. At the worst they are disrespectful and lack recognition of employees true needs which the author actually articulated in the article but failed to address. All employees want higher-paying positions, a challenging new role, a more appealing title (promotion) and the time in which to enjoy the fruits of their labors. In the end if a company has “disengaged” from their employees and are unable to provide the above then of course employees will leave. It is simply just a matter of time. No one is more aware of this fact that our “millennials”. Many have a very blunt and direct response on their views of company’s that they have seen lay-off their parents and even grandparents. Their view is that a company no longer defines them in the sense of who they are as a individuals.

  3. John – The author is not talking bribery, but it is simply recognizing that people want more than the simple paycheck and the adage that “money does not buy happiness” is true. The first step is that you must pay people a fair wage and give them good benefits. Most small companies do not have $250,000 to offer a person to jump and can not even pay that as a base wage and remain in business. If you are reasonable in compensation and benefits, then the difference in keeping people is culture and recognition.
    People are engaged when they feel that they are being heard with their ideas and have the power to get things done. Culturally this needs to be in place from the top down. Listen to people and have candid conversations with them. They will feel part of the team and that they are a contributing member.
    Since we were small children we have wanted recognition from our parents when we did something good. We still want that as adults, but its from our bosses not our parents that we want it most. As one post said our bosses are the people we are around for eight hours every day. Praise is a powerful motivator and small tokens are reinforcements that can go a long way in letting a person know they are valued.
    Large monetary gifts can be great, but companies go out of business because of it.
    I agree that just putting $5/ wk more in a paycheck is lost and forgotten too quickly, but a couple of $50 gas cards or a housecleaning certificate, goes further in letting them know you appreciate them.

  4. In most cases good employees leave their company, is TRUST! I have been with a company for 15yrs, and I don’t trust the company I work for. The only reason why I am still with the company is for the income that it brings me, until I am able to transition into something that I really want to do. The incentives and rewards, is just a form of manipulation. The employee can sense the difference between sincerity and manipulation.

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