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This is why all your great employees leave

5 min read


It’s time to face facts: As business leaders, we’re failing our employees.

A 2015 LinkedIn survey revealed that the No. 1 reason employees leave their company is because of a lack of career advancement opportunities. Fifty-nine percent of job-switchers did so because the new workplace had a stronger career path.

Continuing to ignore employees’ aspirations affects recruitment, retention, engagement and the overall success of the organization. And unless employers find ways to help their workforce visualize a clear path within the company, great talent will keep leaving.

So the question becomes, what are we doing wrong? Here are four ways you’re holding your employees back and how to do better:

1. Company and individual goals aren’t aligned.

Organizations have their goals for success as do their employees. But what does one have to do with the other? Everything.

A 2014 Brandon Hall Group survey found that, when it came to performance management, 74% of respondents think aligning employee performance goals with overall business goals needs to be a priority.

Unless an employee’s performance is tied to organizational goals, it’s difficult to see how their work affects the big picture. Employees begin to feel a disconnect between their success and the organization’s. And that makes it easier for them to think that their future doesn’t matter to their employer — or worse, that they need to seek opportunity elsewhere.

When setting and reviewing performance goals for individuals, make it clear what achieving those targets means for the employee and for the organization as a whole. That way, employees know that their hard work matters and is appreciated.

2. The focus isn’t on building strengths.

In 2014, Gallup developed the Strengths Orientation Index to determine how well American workplaces were nurturing employees’ strengths. Some factors in the index included “In the last three months, my supervisor and I have had a meaningful discussion about my strengths” and “My organization is committed to building the strengths of each associate.”

Only 3% percent of employees strongly agreed with all four measurements in the index.

This implies that employees don’t feel like their work environments are conducive to making them better. And if they don’t feel like they’re being given the chance to develop, how can they meet their career goals?

However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking helping employees improve means fixing weaknesses. Instead, employers need to start showing employees that they understand, value and will develop individuals’ strengths. Each person has skills that come to them more naturally than others. For instance, some people are extroverts, some aren’t. Time is better spent showing introverts how to use that disposition to their advantage than trying to make them more outgoing.

3. Employees have to put education on the back burner.

It’s incredibly difficult for people to continue their education while maintaining a full-time job. Constraints on time and finances mean that something has to be put to the side. But organizations can make juggling all those responsibilities easier.

Benefits like flexible schedules, working from home, and student-loan assistance go a long way in helping employees. These perks not only give employees a chance to pursue valuable education or training, but also they make them more devoted workers.

A 2015 FlexJobs report found that increased work flexibility would improve loyalty among 82% of employees. Instead of viewing the scheduling changes or added costs as an inconvenience, look at them as an investment that will create a better and more loyal workforce.

4. The promotion system is broken.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that, when changing roles, an astounding majority of employees also change employers. Whether the switch happened decades ago or within the last year, no more than 10% of respondents took a new position in the same organization.

At first glance, this data point may cause employers to rethink giving employees more support for their individual career advancement. After all, why train and nurture a worker if the odds are they’re just going to leave? But consider this stat from another angle. When all those employees left for a new role, it means that their new employers chose to hire them — an outsider — instead of promoting existing employees.

It’s impossible for employees to feel like they have a strong career path with you if, when a new opportunity arises, there’s no internal promotion. Furthermore, when an employee is brought up through the ranks, it needs to be clear that the promotion is a reflection of their performance and capabilities, not a result of how long they’ve been with the company. That way, it’s clear that career advancement is tied to performance and merit.

If you want your best employees to be with you for the long haul, you need to stop holding them back. Create opportunities and show them how they can reach their goals. Otherwise, they’re going to continue leaving for greener pastures.

What other ways are employers standing in the way of employees’ career advancement? Share in the comments.

Aaron Michel is the co-founder and CEO at PathSource, a career exploration solution helping students and job seekers make better career choices. To navigate your infinite career possibilities, connect with Aaron and the PathSource team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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