Workforce Disruption Management

The invisible reasons why good employees quit

5 min read

Do you feel powerless to stop good employees from leaving? According to employee retention research from the Work Institute, up to 75 percent of turnover may be preventable.

Unfortunately, many employers struggle to combat turnover, even the preventable kind.

Managers and leaders often miss the subtle causes of frustration in their workforces. By the time they realize trouble is brewing, key personnel may be ready to hand in their resignations.

To overcome this challenge, the first step is to understand what hidden issues can drive turnover and why these problems are so easy for employers to overlook. With the right solutions, you can anticipate the invisible causes of turnover and keep your best team members on board.

What makes employees quit their jobs?

Some reasons for leaving, like personal life changes or new career goals, are beyond an employer’s control. Other causes are relatively straightforward to identify, such as below-market pay or lack of opportunities for career advancement in certain positions.

The real challenge lies with less visible triggers of turnover.

These variables are often just as impactful as salary, but they’re more difficult for decision-makers to see and measure. Because they aren’t quantifiable in dollars and cents, they often fly beneath your organization’s radar until it’s too late.

The causes can hide in plain sight

People’s day-to-day experiences inevitably shape how they feel about their jobs. When those experiences fall short of expectations, unhappiness grows—and even the most committed team members may start counting the days to their departure.

Every employee’s experience is unique. Nevertheless, certain variables influence job satisfaction for most people. These include:

  • Workload: Excessive work hours and stress can drag down morale, especially when more and more employees prize work-life balance.
  • Relationships: Strained or unsupportive relationships, whether with superiors or colleagues, make coming to work a grind.
  • Communication: Team members need to feel included and heard. When communication falters, they can feel disconnected and underappreciated.
  • Schedules: Inflexible or unpredictable work hours, among other challenges, can be deal-breakers for many employees.
  • Support: Frustration can mount when employees lack the tools and access to people needed to perform their work.
  • Appreciation: Team members need acknowledgement when they live up to expectations. They’re unhappy when they don’t get it.
  • Personal issues: Everyone faces struggles outside of work. If employees perceive managers as insensitive or unconcerned about their needs, engagement and loyalty can suffer.

Any one of these factors, by itself, might not cause an employee to leave. But the more problems pile up, the more likely someone is to consider moving on. If similar issues stretch across teams or departments, you’re probably facing more systemic difficulties.

Why preventable turnover takes employers by surprise

When employees have negative feelings about their day-to-day work experiences, they’re more likely to jump ship. That’s easy to understand.

So, what makes these causes of turnover “invisible” to so many organizations?

  • Problems are individual and often unvoiced. Everyone’s personal experiences are their own, as are the expectations they bring to their jobs. Even when multiple people face a common issue, they may not air their concerns at work.
  • Managers’ skills are highly variable. Not every manager excels at reading the people on their teams. Some may have great instincts, but their skills are likely specific to them, not a blueprint others can follow.
  • Understanding each employee’s situation is hard work. Managers and HR teams are busy and have many responsibilities. It’s virtually impossible to know what’s happening with every employee.
  • Information doesn’t flow to the people who need it. Even if some people know about a problem, that knowledge often doesn’t filter through to decision-makers in time to make a difference.
  • Trouble can strike fast. Your workforce may look calm from above. But beneath the surface, circumstances are constantly shifting. Simple changes in policies or personnel could have impacts you didn’t anticipate.

For all these reasons, even the best organizations may face structural blindness to issues that affect employee retention. No matter how good your intentions, you may need help getting ahead of problems before talent walks out the door.

Seeing beneath the surface

To make a real dent in turnover, employers must tackle its invisible causes head-on. Changes in policy, processes, and workplace culture all play a role in this effort. So does the right technology.

A comprehensive plan may include:

  • Training to help managers better understand and address employee expectations.
  • Active information gathering via anonymous surveys and exit interviews.
  • Casual check-ins and other policies to promote open communication.

Such measures can help bring hidden challenges in your work environment to light. But they only provide part of the answer.

Managers, HR teams, and other decision-makers need a streamlined way to see and respond to subtle signals in real time without getting bogged down in complex workflows. The ideal is a proactive, lightweight solution that empowers you to:

  • Gather continuous, timely feedback from employees.
  • Keep track of a consistent set of core variables.
  • Drill down for individual, team-level, and organizational insights.
  • Pinpoint trouble spots and alert decision-makers right away.
  • Investigate, manage, and resolve specific employee issues.

Vantage Point, from PrevailHQ, is designed to simplify all these tasks—so you can anticipate unseen problems that make employees quit and take action before they grow.

Start getting ahead of turnover

Turnover can be challenging to prevent, even when you see it coming.

You have an advantage if you can gain consistent insight into the causes that other employers miss. The right technology, with thoughtful implementation and supporting policies, can be the key to making the change you need.

By seeking to understand employees’ feelings about their jobs, you’re not locking yourself into any particular course of action. Sometimes, there’s an irreconcilable conflict between their expectations and your needs.

Nonetheless, information is power. If you know what’s happening in your workforce beneath the surface, you can often find a solution that serves both sides—and keeps valuable talent in the fold.