Keeping the People Report
LB@keepingthepeople.combullet (913) 620-4645bullet
E-Letter Volume 3 Winter, 2005

In this issue:

  • Q & A with the Author, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave
  • 16 Employer-of-Choice Engagement Practices
  • Book News
  • Upcoming Speaking Engagements
  • In the Media
  • Recent Articles by Leigh Branham
  • Send Your Stories
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    Q & A with the Author, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

    The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Read the Subtle Signs and Act Before It's Too Late, by Leigh Branham (AMACOM Books, 2005).

    For more information, or to order, go to:

    The following Q&A is reprinted from the transcript of a recent media interview:

    Question: Why did you decide to write this book?

    Answer: This is the second book I've written on employee retention, but this one goes deeper because it's really about employee disengagement, which is what eventually causes most employees to leave their employers. As we know, many employees disengage but never leave their employers, which is tremendously draining in itself on a company's performance, especially in the economy we've experienced since 9/11/2001

    So, I wrote this book mainly because I wanted to delve more deeply into the root causes of employee disengagement, but also because I was struck by the gaping disconnect between why employees really disengage and leave and the reasons managers think they leave. The research shows that 88% of employees leave jobs for reasons other than pay, and yet, in one survey, 89% of managers believe employees leave mainly for pay-related reasons! If belief and reality are at such polar opposite points in the business world, how can we ever expect employers to correct or prevent the high costs of low productivity and workforce instability?

    I had done a lot of exit interviewing and already knew the main reasons employees leave, but I wanted to write a book that cited a highly authoritative source. So, I asked the Saratoga Institute, which does more post-exit interviewing than any organization in the world, if they would grant me access to their post-exit survey and interview findings, which they agreed to do. As it turns out, they were sitting on 19,700 exit surveys and almost 4,000 verbatim comments that had been gathered from employees of U.S. companies in 17 different industries between 1998 and 2003. I analyzed the data, which I report in the book, and I sifted through the 4,000 verbatim comments, grouping them into "buckets" as I read them. I ended up with seven buckets that had many more comments than all the others, and these became the seven hidden reasons employees leave.

    Question: For whom did you write the book?

    Answer: The book is intended for anyone who manages people-mainly frontline supervisors, but also project managers, CEO's, senior executives, and human resource professionals that make strategic workforce decisions, other consultants, corporate trainers, and, of course, small business owners. Ultimately, the book is for anyone interested in employee motivation, and in seeing their organization become an employer of choice, because seven chapters are organized by 54 "engagement practices" that will help any organization to become a great place to work..

    Question: With the job market the way it is right now, do employers these days really care about why employees are leaving?

    Answer: I'm afraid not as many as we might hope. I have a friend who is a CEO and he tells me that for the last three years, all his fellow CEOs have been "high-fiving" one another in celebration of the fact that employees are "tree-hugging" their jobs and the war for talent is over. As a writer for Fortune magazine, put it, "The war for talent is over-talent lost."

    So, I think a lot of managers only care that they are back in the driver's seat and they don't have to cow-tow to the needs of their employees. I also think there are plenty of good managers who not only care about treating their people well, but also understand that it is also the best path to greater business success and profitability. Optimistically, I think that is a growing number of managers and senior execs, because they have seen some of the latest research that supports the fact that positive cultures and good people management practices are leading indicators of business performance. In fact, the stock growth of the public companies selected in Fortune's "100 best places to work" during the years 1998-2003 outperformed the S&P average 125% to 25%!

    Unfortunately, I think there is always a significant percentage of managers who are very dismissive of any employee who leaves the company. Their attitude seems to be, "If they didn't want to be here, then I don't care what they have to say." Also, many managers don't put much stock in what employees say in exit interviews, which is one reason why only about one third of the 97% of companies who do exit interviews even bother to report the results to line managers.

    The thing that ultimately makes managers start to care is when they suddenly lose a couple of key people, or when they feel the economy is starting to turn to the point that they are truly competing for talent with other employers, like the way things were in the late '90's. Most experts believe those days will be here again soon as the economy steadily improves and boomers start retiring in bigger numbers.

    Question: Don't employers already know from exit interviews why their employees leave?

    Answer: As I mentioned, two thirds of all managers and executives don't even see the findings of the exit interviews that are done. Even those who do see the findings don't know whether employees are telling them the truth about why they left the company. As we know, many employees don't feel comfortable telling someone in human resources the unpleasant truth about why they decided to leave. They are afraid they will burn a bridge and they don't want to do that if they need a good reference later. So, because most employees move on to new jobs that pay better, they just say "more pay" or "better opportunity" as the answer when, in truth, the true cause had more to do with feeling unchallenged, undervalued, overworked, or distrustful of senior leaders.

    Getting superficial answers to the "why did you leave?" question allows managers to stay in denial and avoid responsibility for delivering the kind of everyday good management that causes employees to re-engage and stay. Keep in mind that the Saratoga exit surveys were conducted under conditions of complete anonymity by a third party weeks after the employee had left the company, so the former employees felt they could be candid about why they started thinking of leaving in the first place and the sequence of events that led to their departure.

    Question: What are the 7 hidden reasons employees leave?

    1. The Job or Workplace Was Not as Expected
    2. There is a Mismatch Between the Job and the Person
    3. Too Little Coaching and Feedback
    4. Too Few Growth and Advancement Opportunities
    5. Feeling Devalued and Unrecognized
    6. Stress from Overwork and Work-Life Imbalance
    7. Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders

    As I analyzed and grouped the reasons for leaving, looking for common denominators, and peeling off layers from the onion in search of root causes, it became clear that employees begin to disengage and think about leaving when one or more of four fundamental human needs are not being met:

  • The need for Trust:

    Expecting the company and management to deliver on its promises, to be honest and open in all communications, to invest in you, to be treated fairly, and be paid fairly and on time.

  • The need to have Hope:

    Believing that you will be able to grow, develop your skills on the job and through training, and have the opportunity for advancement or career progress leading to higher earnings.

  • The need to feel a sense of Worth:

    Feeling confident that if you work hard, do your best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, you will be recognized and rewarded accordingly. Feeling worthy also means that you will be shown respect and regarded as a valued asset, not a cost, to the organization.

  • The need for Competence:

    Expecting that you will be matched to a job that makes good use of your talents and is challenging, that you will receive the necessary training to perform the job capably, see the end results of your work, and obtain regular feedback on your performance.

    Q & A will be continued in Spring issue of "Keeping the People Report" e-letter.

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    Can You Check These Employer-of-Choice Engagement Practices?

    Here are 16 of the 54 engagement practices recommended in the book that organizations can implement to keep the 7 root causes of employee disengagement and turnover from taking root. How many of these does your organization do?

    To Match Candidates' Expectations with Work Realities (Reason #1):

    1. ___ Conduct realistic job previews with every job candidate.
    2. ___ Hire from pool of temp, adjunct, staff, interns, and part-time workers.

    To Match the Person to the Job (Reason #2):

    10. ___ See that all hiring managers perform talent forecasting and success- factor analysis.
    11. ___ Cast a wide recruiting net to expand the universe of best-fit candidates.

    To Match the Task to the Person (Reason #2):

    14. ___ Conduct "entrance interviews" with all new hires.
    16. ___ Delegate tasks to challenge employees and enrich jobs.

    To Provide Coaching and Feedback (Reason #3):

    20. ___ Make performance management process less controlling and more of a partnership.
    22. ___ Hold managers accountable for coaching and giving feedback.

    To Provide Career Advancement and Growth Opportunities (Reason #4):

    30. ___ Eliminate HR policies and management practices that block internal movement
    32. ___ Keep career development and performance appraisal processes

    To Make Employees Feel Valued and Recognized (Reason #5):

    35. ___ Offer competitive base pay linked to value creation.
    45. ___ Provide the right tools and resources.

    To Reduce Stress from Work-Life Imbalance and Overwork (Reason #6):

    48. ___ Tailor the "culture of giving" to the needs of key talent.
    49. ___ Build a culture that values spontaneous acts of caring.

    To Inspire Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders (Reason #7):

    52. ___ Inspire confidence in a clear vision, a workable plan, and the competence to achieve it.
    53. ___ Back up words with actions.

    Look for more of the 54 Employer-of-Choice Engagement Practices in the next issue.


    Book News

    The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It's Too Late (AMACOM Books, 2005) has been selected by Executive Soundview as one of the top 30 business books of the year.

    For discounts on volume purchases of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, contact Renita Hanfling, AMACOM Books Special Sales,, or call (212) 903-8316.


    Upcoming Presentations

    March 7 and 8, 2005: "Reinventing Your Organization as a Great Place to Work," co-presentation with Anne-Marie Laws, Xilinx Corporation, #5 on Fortune's 2005 list of the 100 Best Places in America to Work, at "Talent Engagement: Retaining and Engaging Employees" conference of the Human Resource Planning Society, Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information, visit, or call (212) 490-6387.

    March 16, 2005: "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," sponsored by The Center for Faith and Work, "Dinner and Dialogue" Series, Kansas City, Missouri. For more information, contact Jennifer Basuel at (816) 842-0416 x. 127.

    April 5, 2005: "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," at the Human Resource Association of Mid-Missouri, Columbia, Missouri. For more information, contact Kristen Buchanan at (573) 815-6829.

    June 15-17, 2005: "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave and Stay: Linking Individual Choices to Workplace-of-Choice Strategy," pre-conference workshop at the Workplace of Choice conference sponsored by the American Strategic Management Institute, San Diego, California. For more information, contact Eleanor Rollings at (858) 874-6876, or at, or visit ASMI's website-

    July 12, 2005: "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," to the Human Resource Management Association, Jayhawk chapter of Lawrence, Kansas. For more information, contact Ann Connor at (785) 830-7310.

    July 20, 2005: "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," to the Society for Human Resource Management, Wichita, Kansas. For more information, contact Jeff Adams at (316) 636-2322.

    To book Leigh Branham for a speaking engagement or workshop, call (913) 620-4645.


    Articles by Leigh Branham

    Executive Update magazine, published by the Center for Association Leadership, Washington, D.C., February, 2005, "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave." To read this article, go to:

    Optimize, the magazine of business strategies and execution for Chief Information Officers, "Three Reasons Employee Retention Initiatives Fail," February, 2005. To read this article, go to:

    Workforce Management magazine, "What Makes Some Employers So Desired: The 54 Best Practices of Great Places to Work", February, 2005. To read this article, go to:

    Workforce Management magazine, "The Best Conditions for Conducting Exit Interviews, February, 2005. To read this article, go to:

    The Kansas City Star, "Employees Often Depart Because They're Pushed," February 1, 2005. To read this article and additional past articles by Leigh Branham, go to

    Upcoming article in the Toronto Globe and Mail, on "Reading the Early Warning Signs of Employee Disengagement and Turnover."


    In the Media

    March, 2005, date to be announced, National Public Radio interview with Leigh Branham about the book, "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," on Marketplace Morning Report, with business reporter, Tess Viglund.

    March, 2005, Harvard Management Update article about why employees leave, stay, and stay engaged.

    March 2005, Contract Pharmaceuticals article, "Close Those Floodgates! Put a Plan in Place to Improve Retention," by David G. Jensen.

    Upcoming article (March 15) on talent strategy and engagement by David Creelman for The Human Capital Institute,


    Send Us Your Story About "Why I Left" or "Why I Stayed"

    Do you have a story to share about why you chose to leave a former employer or why you chose to stay? Can you recall a turning point when you first started thinking of leaving and tell us about how it led to your leaving an organization? We are also interested in what an organization or a manager did to inspire your loyalty.

    E-mail your story and we will publish it on our Web site. The story chosen as the best for 2005 will receive a free copy of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave.


    To send this newsletter to a friend, please click here.

    Keeping the People, Inc. helps organizations link employer-of-choice strategies with business strategies, conduct third-party post-exit interviews and surveys, conduct engagement surveys with current employees, and provides the management coaching and training needed to implement those strategies.

    For more information, contact Leigh Branham directly at (913) 620-4645, or by e-mail at Also visit the Web site:

    Keeping the People Report
    LB@keepingthepeople.combullet (913) 620-4645bullet
    13488 West 126th Terrace, Overland Park, Kansas 66213

    Copyright, Keeping the People, Inc. 2004. Keeping the People Report is written and edited by Leigh Branham.