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Why good employees leave and what to do about it

August 17, 2020  By AEM

It can be tough when an employee leaves a company when labour markets are tight. Leaders at all levels in the organization need to be cognizant of the message their actions send to employees when someone leaves.

“Leaders are always being watched. How the leadership reacts when someone leaves is going to impact how everyone else reacts,” says Marissa Levin, co-founder of Successful Culture International, and a culture and leadership expert.

“If they are transparent, honest, and don’t act like the sky is falling, they acknowledge the loss, but pivot quickly into fill that gap, employees will take that cue, and things will go on without a glitch,” she says.

If you feel that workers today don’t have the same loyalty to employers that previous generations did, you are correct. “Younger generations definitely have less tolerance for being unhappy,” says Levin. “They are just not going to stay in a job if it’s not fulfilling a purpose that they believe in.”


So, what can employers in construction do to attract and keep employees on the job in this market? Levin offers five key strategies.

Pay attention to exit interviews

When people leave an organization, it’s critical to find out why. According to the 2018 Retention Report from the Work Institute the top three reasons employees leave are:

  1. Career Development – No opportunity to grow in a preferred job and career.
  2. Work-Life Balance – Better work-life balance, which includes more favourable schedules, shorter commute times and scheduling flexibility.
  3. Manager Behaviour – Unprofessional or unsupportive managers. Exit interviews can be a useful tool in identifying the reasons why employees are leaving, provided they ask the right questions.

“The goal of the exit interview should be to find out where the company did well or fell short on communication or meeting expectations,” says Levin. While exit interviews can be a useful tool, it’s about more than just collecting data. Companies need to analyze and share the information and then follow up with action.

Levin cautions that exiting employees might not be comfortable providing answers. “If you haven’t already developed a culture of trust, when an employee leaves they are not all of sudden going to divulge everything to you,” she says.

Examine your mission, values and vision

“Problems such as high attrition, low trust, low morale, and low engagement are all a result of a compromised culture,” says Levin. Companies that start to deviate from their mission, vision, and values struggle. She recommends that businesses re-engineer their hiring processes to ensure that new hires have the technical competence and are culturally aligned with the company’s core values before they begin. “Interviewing is the key piece to ensure that you have strong retention of great people,” says Levin.

Be process-centric, not hero-centric 

The more your processes are documented and employees are trained on those processes, the less risk there is to the organization when a key person leaves. Employees can then easily step in and fill the void. “When a company revolves around a handful of heroes, it can be demoralizing for the people who are not one of those heroes,” says Levin.

 Check in with employees at all levels

It’s important to know what’s happening throughout all levels of the company. “If you’re only talking with other C-level executives, you can be blinded,” says Levin.

She views companies as puzzles. “When one puzzle piece is missing, the puzzle is still incomplete,” says Levin. “Everybody matters and everyone sees the company from their own perspective.” Leaders need to understand what motivates everyone in the organization.

Lose the hierarchy 

Levin believes that the idea of coming in and paying your dues before you speak up is an antiquated view.

“From the day they start on the job you should give employees an opportunity to be valuable,” says Levin. “Creating cultures of mentorship rather than a strict hierarchy is really important,” she says. Encourage communication and collaboration.

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