Holding on to your best talent is one of the biggest challenges for any executive. You know firsthand how hard it is to build a cohesive team of “A” players. Any disruption can be frustrating and costly to your top and bottom lines, not to mention your work culture.
As executive recruiters, we have the opportunity “to peek under the kimono” to discover the actual reasons why candidates leave their current employers. This valuable information provides our clients with insight into what’s necessary to retain top talent, giving them an opportunity to adjust expectations and policies to ensure their top talent sticks around long term.
So, what are some of the reasons our placed candidates left their former employers?
The scenarios and reasons below were surveyed from multiple candidate experiences, as they have recently left or started new jobs. The majority of these scenarios applied to C-suite, SVP, VP, and Director levels across major functional areas.
5 Reasons Your Talent Is Deciding to Leave
1. Incentives Abruptly Revised, & Not In A Good Way
Placed candidate left because her superior revised her incentive plan downward – after earning her bonus. Her new employer offered her competitive salary and incentives.
Any downward changes to incentives, especially when abrupt, will make employees feel insecure about their compensation, earning potential, the company’s stability, etc. It’s a signal to them to look elsewhere – for compensation and incentives greater than you’re offering.
2. Lack of Trust
Placed candidate was easily recruited when he got a new boss. This new boss lacked ethics, honesty, and integrity. Creating a work environment that was stressful and not aligned with the candidate’s professional ethics and beliefs, he sought healthier employment and we found it for him.
If company managers or superiors lack ethics, honesty, integrity, and rapport with their subordinates, it’s a recipe for turnover. A manager’s job is so much more than production. He or she should motivate and encourage top talent, which only boosts productivity and generates trust.
3. Key Responsibility Changes
Placed candidate was promised by her previous employer that branding and innovation would be a key part of the job. It turned out to not be the case. In addition to the change in job responsibilities, her employer was about to be acquired by a larger company. Uncertainty about everyone’s future ran rampant.
Managing expectations of roles and responsibilities is crucial. When expectations don’t align with reality, problems ensue. Whether these problems manifest internally or with good employees jumping ship. While your company has tasks that need to be performed, you also have people with strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. To keep employees engaged and productive, all of these must align.
4. Lack of Challenging Opportunities & Incentives for Good Work
Placed candidate could be recruited because little opportunity existed for professional development and upward growth. In addition, he confided that he often felt taken for granted with his previous employer.
Driven and motivated employees look for companies, positions, and environments where they can grow and continue to be challenged. If your work environment lacks these opportunities, your top talent will find them elsewhere. And don’t forget recognition – whether verbal and/or incentive-based. While some people need external validation or motivators more than others, we all have a need to feel seen, heard, valued, and appreciated.
5. Unsatisfactory Compensation and Expectations
Placed candidate could be recruited because the owner of his previous employer failed to make equity and other long-term incentives part of the compensation package. Our client did and was able to hire him.
In addition, this candidate had been traveling globally for almost 80% of his job for over a year – a lifestyle not realistically sustainable.
Another example of an unsustainable work expectation is a cross-country work commute. One candidate was commuting weekly, half-way across the country. Employees will work under these conditions for a short time, but typically not long-term.
Compensation is a key driver for job seekers. When a compensation package is less than satisfactory, from salary and benefits to equity and long-term incentives, candidates are much more likely to look for new employment or be recruited easily.
And if the job has long-term, unrealistic expectations without clearly communicated plans for positive changes, don’t expect that employee to hang on. And if the job has a lifestyle or expectations that aren’t realistically sustainable, without an action plan to improve conditions, you can assume the employee will grow tired and look elsewhere.
And with the growing trend for remote and hybrid working environments, having flexible working options – when the position allows for it – provides trust and flexibility for your employees.
Do these candidate experiences sound familiar? The above reasons are given repeatedly from candidates searching in earnest for their next career opportunity.
Important Takeaways for Your Recruitment Efforts
What are the most important takeaways from these candidate-supplied reasons your top talent might be thinking of jumping ship?
- Roles and responsibilities of the actual job changed drastically from what was communicated to the candidate during the interview process.
- Lack of upward mobility and professional development.
- Unsustainable daily or weekly commuting arrangements with no end date.
- Drastic compensation changes well below market value.
- Lack of equity, long-term incentives for top leadership positions in emerging companies.
- Boss’ or new company’s values not aligned with the candidate’s preferences; lack of integrity, honesty, or ethics.
As you interact with your current team, hopefully you will find this information insightful, helpful, and useful. Losing great people is unfortunate, especially when it is preventable.