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Why Are Your Best Employees Walking Out the Door? 

Why Are Your Best Employees Walking Out the Door? 

You may think it’s just the hot job market or the plethora of opportunities awaiting them on the “other side,” but your employees could actually be cutting ties with your company for an entirely different reason.


When 2019 ended, the national unemployment rate was at a 50-year-low of 3.5% and employers were scrambling to fill a total of 7.3 million positions, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. According to Work Institute, the majority of those open positions will be filled by individuals who are currently working.

In any given year, millions of workers quit their jobs in search of greener pastures and better opportunities. In 2018, about 41 million voluntarily quit their jobs. That number jumped 8% from the prior year and is now on track to reach 47 million (or roughly one in three workers) this year, Work Institute estimates.

“Employers continue to believe that they’re in control of employment relations, but with the current economic condition, employees are squarely in control,” Work Institute’s Danny Nelms told SHRM. “Employees are sellers in a sellers’ market.”

What many companies don’t realize is that their own operational strategies, policies, and cultures are keeping their “revolving doors” in motion and employee turnover high. Take career progression, for example. A new CareerAddict.com study revealed it’s looked upon as being more important than pay, with 82% of the 1,000 participants saying they would quit their jobs if there was a lack of career progression.

High Employee Turnover = Huge Expense

According to CareerAddict, those participants were asked to rate different reasons that would affect their decision to quit based on a scale of importance. A lack of career advancement opportunities—followed by low pay and no raises—were the three main contributing factors to their decision to leave. Among those individuals who had already quit their jobs, the site says 35% would consider returning if they were offered a better salary or a higher position.

In an interview with tED magazine, CareerAddict Outreach Specialist Stavros Triseliotis, says the company conducted its research with the goal of figuring out what makes working professionals “tick,” with a particular focus on why people leave their jobs.

“High employee turnover comes at a huge expense for companies worldwide and it seems that rapid globalization is making matters even worse,” says Triseliotis, who notes that social media and the Internet as a whole have made it much easier for unhappy employees to find new opportunities. “People aren’t hesitant to seize new opportunities when better offers come along.”

Asked what’s behind the high number (82%) of workers who would leave if they didn’t think they were progressing in their jobs, Triseliotis says the company also looked at factors like benefits, job flexibility, fair salary, and good team collaboration—none of which was as important as a lack of progression.

“Progression is directly related to job satisfaction and motivation,” he points out. “Meanwhile, the rest [of those considerations] are necessary for a healthy work environment and a fruitful company culture. Employees appear to be willing to work within a company that fails to implement some these factors, as long as they feel that their career is progressing.”

The problem is that too many companies set short-term targets for their teams and wind up taking a myopic approach to employee progression. In other instances, smaller companies avoid the issue altogether, assuming that they lack the resources needed to create a career advancement roadmap for their associates.

“Progression is not necessarily promotion,” says Howard M. Shore, a speaker, author, and founder of Activate Group. “Many leaders assume that they have to promote people every year or they’ll leave, but progression is much bigger than that.”

For example, it could be as simple as giving the administrative assistant to the CEO a few different “special projects” to work on that don’t relate to his or her job duties (but that help to advance the organization). Shore says cross-training is another fairly easy way to improve employee engagement and keep them feeling like they’re “moving on up.”

“Whenever someone is taken outside of their comfort zone, it’s progression,” Shore explains. “Whenever they’re taken into new territories to challenge their smarts or their grit, that’s also progression.”

Part of a “Bigger Something”

One way to keep distribution employees looking forward to coming to work every day and contributing to the greater good is by placing more emphasis on that staff’s personal growth.  “Create opportunities for career advancement,” Triseliotis advises, “while also recognizing them and compensating them for their efforts. These are some actionable initiatives that could significantly improve motivation, engagement, and retention.”

Shore tells distributors to create an environment that gets the entire team focused on a meaningful purpose that the organization is addressing in the electrical industry, in wholesale distribution, or from a more global perspective. “People become more connected and excited about work when they feel part of a ‘bigger something,’” says Shore.

“The whole idea of advancement can mean anything from, ‘Yes, I am climbing up that corporate ladder,’ to ‘I’m taking on more responsibilities because my employer has trained me in new areas and is stretching me in that regard.’” Accommodating these needs could require a mindset shift on the distributor’s part, and especially if that company expects new hires to bring certain skillsets and capabilities to the table.

“At the small to midsized company, where folks are already wearing a lot of hats, taking the time out to train someone on a new skillset can be logistically impossible,” HR Strategist Ed Krow admits. “How do you pull someone out of the warehouse for a half-day when you’re already running lean and mean?”

Knowing that the average millennial is going to stay in place for 2-3 years—and that Gen Z will likely follow a similar pattern—Krow says the key is to make people the best that they can be while they’re with your company. It all starts with your recruiting function, he says, and with the message that’s being sent to the universe about what it’s like to work for your company.

“If you want to retain people of any generation, it starts with the people you’re bringing in,” Krow says. “Distributors really need to be selling their employment brands and what they have to offer prospective candidates. Then you can build out your retention strategies from there.”

4 Ways to Improve Retention

When asked what they want most from their new jobs, all employees—and especially millennials—put “opportunities to learn and grow” at the top of their lists, according to Gallup.  “When managers neglect to provide such opportunities, regardless of promotability,” says Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow, “they ultimately fail to engage and retain their top talent.”

Knowing this, Azulay says managers should be charged with developing every employee all the time. “This is one of the keys to creating a more inclusive workplace where people feel like they’re cared for and can thrive,” she says. Here are four good starting points for distributors that want to keep their top talent and slow (or even stop) their revolving employment doors:

  1. Talk to your employees regularly about their development and learning needs and desires. Then, use that feedback to develop appropriate, relevant, and specific development goals for those workers (i.e., for the next 90 days, the coming quarter, or for the entire year).
  2. Tailor your approach to their needs. There are many ways to develop employees in a way that’s tailored to their unique learning preferences, your organizational budget, and any related time constraints— all while using existing resources and opportunities.
  3. Think outside of the box. In her book Employee Development on a Shoestring, Azulay outlines 11 different non-training development methods, including helping employees get involved with volunteer opportunities that create intense and varied learning of competencies (e.g., leadership, project management, public speaking, or financial acumen).
  4. Don’t just set it and forget it. Follow up with your employees on their progress toward their development goals. “Help them troubleshoot solutions to problems or ways around obstacles,” Azulay says, “and support the successful achievement of their learning targets.”

With the steady expansion of the global job market—and with the national unemployment rate not promising to jump up anytime soon—electrical distributors no longer have the upper hand when it comes to employee retention. “In order to keep up with industries’ top talent, managers need to adapt to these changes and satisfy their workforce’s need for progression, recognition, and growth,” says Triseliotis. “It all starts with internal improvements to their practices, policies, and approach.”


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Bridget McCrea  is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

Discussion (1 comments)

    Thomas Courtland March 8, 2020 / 1:39 pm

    After 40 yrs in the business it boils down to poor management, poor salaries, poor insurance offerings, management that lie to your face, do nothing but live off you like the parasites they are, I have worked for 3 national chains, it’s all the same, success starts at the top, so rid the bad eggs out of the picture, hire a consultant to train you on how to succeed if the top dogs are too stupid, or inept to figure it out themselves.

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