Talent Tip #68: Ask the Magic 8 Ball: Why do Employees Leave?
Do you remember those Magic 8 Balls? You pose a yes/no question and then turn it over to reveal the answer. My childhood friend and I used to ask the Magic 8 Ball whether the handsome and oh-so popular neighbor boy would ever give us the time of day. We would turn that puppy over 100 times until it told us what we wanted to hear: “All Signs Point to Yes.”
Speaking of questions you are dying to know the answer to, many nonprofit organizations wonder why they experience employee turnover. One way to figure it out, of course, is to ask the Magic 8 Ball.
You: “Are we experiencing turnover because of our management style?”
Magic 8 Ball: “Reply hazy. Try again later.”
You: “Are we underpaying staff?”
Magic 8 Ball: “Concentrate and ask again.”
You: “”Is it because we recently dropped healthcare coverage?”
Magic 8 Ball: “Better not tell you now.”
But why rely on a plastic sphere for an answer this important? How about I just tell you the most common reasons I hear from candidates about why they want to make job changes.
- Culture – Unhealthy or negative environments chase off employees faster than you can say “dysfunction junction.” The laundry list of culture complaints I’ve heard is worthy of daytime television: overbearing bosses, egomaniacal CEOs, cultures of secrecy and distrust, nepotism, broken promises about raises and promotions, inept leadership – you get the idea. If your organization is battling culture problems, now is the time to address and correct. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt — and it could cost you your best employees.
- Fiscal Instability -If employees sense their organization is in fiscal trouble, they will often start making their way to the door. Even if financial ruin is not on the horizon, employees fully understand the nature of the nonprofit world and the fact that staff cuts may be forthcoming. Instead of waiting and wondering, they choose to write their own script. In this case, management obviously needs to address the issue directly (cutting costs, increasing revenue, etc.). In addition, management may want to communicate openly and honestly with staff about the situation. Often times the rumors are worse than the reality; so, unless management communicates, the rumors will win.
- Money – Not surprisingly, candidates often start looking around if they feel under-compensated. This is especially true for the high performers who are often tempted by other job offers. If your organization is not paying market rates, I pinky swear you are paying for it through attrition. What’s worse, your reputation for underpaying will spread and eventually create a hurdle for hiring.
- No Room for Growth/Lack of Challenge – Many people who are drawn to our free-market world of ideas are inherently curious and love to learn. That means they want to be continuously challenged and have opportunities to grow, learn, and get promoted. If yours is the type of organization with little room for growth, know that up and coming top performers likely won’t last long. If possible, find opportunities for your best employees to take on new challenges and grow into new roles.
- Lack of Fulfillment – The good news for my free-market nonprofit clients is that this is something I rarely – if ever – hear from people inside our world. I usually get an earful about lack of fulfillment from people in the private sector or (surprise!) the public sector. That said, employees at liberty-advancing shops still want to work at a place that is clearly and effectively advancing its mission; and they especially like to see the results of their work. The clearer these things are, the more fulfilled your staff will be.
So, there you have it. If your organization is facing turnover problems, consider whether any of the above reasons may be factors.
And if you’re wondering, the neighbor boy did come around. In fact, we became high school sweethearts. Maybe you can trust the Magic 8 Ball!