Keeping the People Report
LB@keepingthepeople.combullet (913) 620-4645bullet
E-Letter Volume 4 Spring, 2005
Leigh Branham,
Keeping the People, Inc.

In this issue:

  • Q & A with the Author, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave
  • What Employees Can Do to Keep Themselves Engaged
  • 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: What is the #1 reason employees quit their jobs?

    Answer: The reason more employees by far mention in third-party post-exit interviews is being unrecognized and undervalued. This includes a host of management sins--not being thanked for giving extra effort or staying late or making a special contribution above what was expected, or being treated unfairly compared to other employees, or being disrespected for any number of reasons, or being discounted because of superficial differences such as race, gender, and nationality, or not receiving the kind of equipment or resources to do the job right, or having to work in noisy, dirty, or cramped surroundings-basically anything that the employer does or does not do that says, "you're not important."

    It's important to note that poor pay practices are part of this reason as well. What employees complain about most when they leave is not simply the low pay, but the inequity of pay compared to what others in the same job were receiving. Many employees also disengage because pay is not linked in any way to performance or actual contributions, or because of favoritism or poor performance management. Another theme is the secrecy that exists in so many organizations about how pay decisions are made. This creates distrust, which quickly leads to disengagement.

    Another theme is that senior managers seem to have an exaggerated sense of their own importance compared to the average employee, which contributes to employees' feeling relatively undervalued. You only have to take notice of the fact that the average CEO today makes 570 times what the average worker makes.

    Question: What are some of the other reasons?

    Answer: In the order I present them in the book, they are:

    1. The job or workplace was not what the employee expected, which is the number one reason for turnover in the first six months.
    2. The mismatch between job and person (mostly due to poor or hurried hiring, but also because of mis-assigning and inappropriately promoting people into the wrong jobs).
    3. Too little coaching or feedback 62% of employees say they don't get enough of either.
    4. Too few growth and advancement opportunities, which is the number one frustration of younger top performers.
    5. Feeling devalued and unrecognized, which I already mentioned.
    6. Stress from overwork and work-life imbalance. Is it really surprising to anyone that 70% of all workers don't think there is a healthy balance between their work lives and their professional lives?
    7. Loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders. Only about four in ten employees trust senior leaders.

    Question: How important are pay and benefits?

    Answer: Pay ands benefits are very important. Pay is a scorecard of how valued we are, so it sends a very important signal about our worth. Benefits are increasingly important in these times when so many companies are cutting back on benefits. Pay is more important to some types of employees than others, such as sales people. And pay is more important to workers who are struggling just to survive and pay bills, obviously.

    The research shows that pay and benefits are a much bigger part of the equation in attracting employees than in retaining employees. The Saratoga Institute exit data I analyzed from surveys with 19,700 departed employees showed that 12 percent of the respondents became disengaged because of various forms of dissatisfactions about pay. That puts pay among the top three reasons for voluntary turnover, but it also leaves 88% of employee departures traceable to reasons other than pay.

    Question: What are some of the things that the best places to work do to keep good people?

    Answer: Before hiring, many companies are starting to invest time and money in understanding the competencies required for a job. Then, they carefully assess candidates against those competencies in the hiring process. By following this disciplined process, they reduce mismatches. The state of Georgia's social welfare department invested in finding out what made some of their agents really good at collecting child support payments from deadbeat parents. They compared the "stars" to average performers by observing and recording what they did differently. Based on that they developed a new competency profile, used it to assess candidates, and got much better matches. The agents hired with the new profile each gathered $200,000 per year more for the agency, which saved the state $100 million dollars.

    As for giving employees more coaching and feedback, that's mostly a matter of recognizing that most managers have never been trained in these competencies and don't feel very comfortable using them. I teach a managers a process called "Get-Give-Merge-Go," meaning that instead of just telling employees to do better or taking a parent-child approach to correcting poor performance, they first get (ask for) the employee's perspective, and only after they have done that do they then give their perspective about the employee's performance. Then they merge mutual perspectives into an agreement, and finally, they agree on an action plan. This is an adult-to-adult approach that communicates respect and can significantly reduce avoidable turnover.

    Many employees quit because their managers don't know how to do career coaching with them. Employers should provide management training on how to be a career coach or do workshops for employees on how to take charge of their careers. Without quality career discussions, employees end up leaving and then the manager says, "I wish I'd known you were thinking of leaving because I had plans for you."

    Organizations can also survey employees about the people-management abilities of their managers. Managers themselves are often not getting feedback and they are not being held accountable for retaining people. It keeps coming back to two things--training and accountability.

    Employees' view of senior leaders is tremendously important. Employees watch what senior leaders do and don't do. The tip of the iceberg is turnover, but the bulk of the iceberg, invisible under water, is disengagement. Seventy-five percent of the workforce is not engaged. Disengagement often happens when employees see things in their senior leaders that make them lose trust.

    I believe strongly in servant leadership. David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airline, is a great example of someone with an attitude of being there to serve employees. That is hard for some senior leaders because they think there is too much worker entitlement already. Senior leadership has to make a decision whether to give to the workforce first or wait for them to give to the firm. When you look at the lists of best employers, many of those CEOs have the attitude of "give first, then get back." I believe that attitude is what's needed going forward.

    Question: What are some of the "subtle signs" that an employee may be thinking of leaving?

    Answer: Actually, the signs vary depending on the reason. For example, a sign an employee may be thinking of quitting is that the last time they received performance feedback was six months or more ago. A sign that an employee may leave because of frustrations with career advancement is when they start applying for a succession of internal positions for which they may be unsuited or unqualified. Any employee who works for an abusive manager is probably vulnerable to being lost to the organization because of feeling unrecognized or devalued. Overworked employees consistently work late, work through sickness, take work home, and may eventually appear increasingly cynical, forgetful, or irritable-all signs they are burned out and ready to move on to a more sane work environment.


    What Employees Can Do to Keep Themselves Engaged

    The responsibility for keeping employees engaged is not the manager's alone-in fact, the first obligation of all employees is to keep themselves engaged by bringing their best efforts to work each day. Here are some ways employees can do their part to guard against the seven hidden reasons for disengagement:

    • Reason #1 - Unrealistic and Unrealized Expectations: Before taking any job, ask lots of questions about the job and working conditions. Always ask to meet with ands spend time questioning several other employees, take a thorough tour of the workplace, or work part-time or as a consultant before going full-time.
    • Reason #2 - Job-Person Mismatch: If you feel your job is not making good use of your talents, look for unmet needs in your work unit that would make better use of your talents, and approach your manager about changing your job accordingly.
    • Reason #3 - Insufficient Coaching and Feedback: If your manager is not giving you the feedback you feel you need, ask for it. Also develop the habit of asking for feedback from peers, customers, and other co-workers.
    • Reason #4 - No Career Growth or Advancement: When no promotion seems likely, seek skill-building assignments that allow you to grow in place, or pursue cross-functional projects or lateral movement.
    • Reason #5 - Feeling Devalued or Unrecognized: Ask your manager what you can do to make yourself more valuable to the organization.
    • Reason #6 - Stress related to Workload or Life/Work Imbalance: Instead of feeling victimized by your workload, ask for flex-time, part-time work, job-sharing, or whatever will make your life less complicated and stressful.
    • Reason #7 - Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders: Respond honestly on employee surveys, describing any instances of leader behavior that have created distrust or caused you to lose confidence.


    Book News has selected The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave as one of only 30 business books it will review in 2005, out of more than 4,500 business books released each year, according to BBR's CEO, John Fayad. For more information, visit

    Executive Soundview will release a condensed summary of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave in June, 2005 on a CD that also features a condensation of Malcolm Gladwell's best-seller-Blink. Both summary recordings are narrated by the authors. To purchase this CD, visit:

    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

    June 15-17, 2005: "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave and Stay: Linking Individual Choices with 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 by e-mail at, or visit ASMI's website-

    July 7, 2005: "54 World Class Engagement and Retention Best Practices and Practical Tools" one-day seminar, Workforce Engagement and Retention Conference, June 6-8, Hilton Shanghai, Shanghai, China, sponsored by LNOPPEN Shanghai Co. business information providers. For more information, contact Fay Wang at

    July 12, 2005: "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," to the Human Resource Management Association, Jayhawk chapter, 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.

    August 17, 2005: "Behavior-Based Interviewing Basics," public workshop, Kansas City, Missouri. For more information, call (913) 620-4645.

    October 13, 2005: Kansas City Compensation and Benefits Association Presentation, "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave" breakfast presentation, Crown Center Westin Hotel. For more information, contact Mike Marino at

    November 9, 2005: "Family & Workforce Friendly" Recognition Breakfast, Kansas City Marriott Hotel, "Conquering Reason # 6: Workload Burnout and Work-Life Imbalance." For more information, contact Nancy Mitchell, Midwest Childhood Development Group, Overland Park, Kansas at (913) 341-6200 (ext. 12).

    November 14, 2005: "Engaging and Retaining All Generations of Workers," Organizational Forum, Las Vegas, Nevada, sponsored by The Advanced Management Institute, contact Cynthia Crenshaw at

    February 1-3, 2006: "You Can't Afford the Luxury of Another Bad Manager," Toronto, Canada, Human Resource Professional Association of Ontario (HRPAO) Annual Conference. For more information, contact Christianne Warda, at

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


    Articles by Leigh Branham

    Toronto Globe and Mail byline article, "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," Business section front page, April 28, 2005. To read this article, go to:


    In the Media

    KCUR-FM Radio "Up-to-Date" interview on The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave with host, Steve Kraske, Kansas City, Mo., March 15, 2005. To listen, go to: in-depth review of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, March, 2005. To read this review, go to:

    National Public Radio "Marketplace Report" interview segment with NPR business reporter, Tess Viglund on The Root Causes of Employee Turnover, April 27, 2005. To listen, go to:

    HR Magazine, review of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, May, 2005. To read this review, go to:

    FastTrac Connections, a publication of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, "Writing Opens Doors to New Business," May 1, 2005.

    Quoted in Associated Press, article on Persuading Employees Who Quit to Change their Minds and Stay, by Joyce Rosenberg, May, 2005. To read, go to

    Harvard Management Update, quoted in article on "Great Managers Are Great at Managing Talent", June, 2005 issue. To read, go to:

    Soundview Live Worldwide 2-Way Audio Conference: July 27, 2005: Sponsored by Executive Soundview Book Summaries, on the topic of "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave," 1 pm Eastern. For more information, contact Tanya Nagyhetenyi at (800) 521-1227 ext 2298.

    Human Capital Institute E-Letter: Why Employees Leave (interview with HCI Editor-at-Large, Howard Creelman), March 7, 2005. To read this interview, go to:


    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. 2005. Keeping the People Report is written and edited by Leigh Branham.