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Chapter 11
Talent Engagement Strategies in Action 198
What Do We Learn from These Success Stories? 205
Linking Talent and Business Objectives 205
Linking the Right Measures to Business Results 206
Creating an Employer-of-Choice Scorecard 207
The Plan Works . . . If You Work the Plan 211
Partners in Working the Plan 211

Appendix A

Appendix B




This book is about the hidden, elusive motivations that cause capable employ-
ees to start questioning their decision to join your company, start thinking
of leaving, eventually disengage, and ¬nally, leave.
The true root causes of voluntary employee turnover are hiding in
plain sight. If we really think about it, we already know what they are:
lack of recognition (including low pay), unful¬lling jobs, limited career
advancement, poor management practices, untrustworthy leadership, and
dysfunctional work cultures.
So, in what way are these root causes hidden, and from whom? Surveys
tell us they are hidden from the very people who need to be most aware of
them”the line managers who are charged with engaging and keeping val-
ued employees in every organization. The vast majority of line managers,
in fact, believe that most employees leave because they are ˜˜pulled™™ away
by better offers. Of course most do leave for better offers, but it is simplistic
and super¬cial to accept ˜˜pull factors™™ as root causes.
What these managers fail to perceive is that ˜˜push factors,™™ mostly
within their own power, are the initial stimuli”the ¬rst causes”that open
the door to the ˜˜pull™™ of outside opportunities. The important question
that remains unasked in so many exit interviews is not ˜˜Why are you
leaving?™™ but ˜˜Why are you not staying?™™
Over the years, I have listened to hundreds of departing employees
emotionally describe the sources of their dissatisfaction with, and disen-
gagement from, their former employers. And, I have been intrigued by the
fact that so many managers see things so differently. Eventually, in an effort
to authoritatively document the root causes of voluntarily employee turn-
over, I contacted the Saratoga Institute in Santa Clara, California, now a
division of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and considered by many to be the
world leader in third-party exit interviewing and employee commitment
surveying. Saratoga was founded in 1977 by Dr. Jac Fitz-enz, a pioneer

in human resource practices benchmarking and human capital return on
Saratoga Institute maintained a database of 19,700 exit and current em-
ployee surveys it had conducted from 1999 through 2003, a ¬ve-year pe-
riod that started during a war for talent and ended during the buyer™s
market that followed. Saratoga™s survey data included companies in a wide
range of industries”¬nancial, industrial medical, technology, manufac-
turing, distribution, insurance, health care, telecommunications, transpor-
tation, computer services, electronics, consumer products, consumer
services, business services, consulting, and ˜˜other services.™™
I was pleased that the Saratoga Institute was interested in the premise
of this book and willing to let me analyze the data and verbatim comments
from these surveys. The ˜˜seven hidden reasons™™ I identi¬ed through this
analysis are remarkably similar to the turnover causes I described in my
earlier book, Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business. When you read
about them, you will probably not be surprised to see any of them among
the top seven. The real surprise is that even when companies know what
the root causes are, they aren™t doing nearly as much as they could be doing
to eradicate them.
Too many companies are still relying on the tangible, easy-to-imple-
ment solutions that revolve around pay, bene¬ts, and trendy perks, when
we know the most powerful solutions revolve around the more challenging
intangibles, such as good management and a healthy corporate culture. This
book is ultimately more about solutions than it is about the reasons employ-
ees disengage and leave. You will ¬nd in these pages 54 practices for engag-
ing workers and bonding them to your organization. You will ¬nd that
some of these practices ¬t your current needs and situation better than
The good news is that you don™t have to implement all of the 54
engagement practices. All you have to do is implement the right ones”the
ones that will best engage and retain the employees you need most to
achieve your business objectives. So please feel free to skip from chapter to
chapter, picking and choosing among the practices that best ¬t the needs of
your company and your key talent.
I also invite you to visit the Web site of Keeping the People, Inc.”
www.keepingthepeople.com”and anonymously complete one or both of the
con¬dential surveys you will ¬nd there. Your response to these surveys will
serve to support my ongoing research into employee engagement and what
managers believe about the real causes of turnover.


for this book and his ongoing cooperation
For his initial interest in the idea
and contributions during the writing process, I offer my sincere thanks to
Michael Kelly, director of research at Saratoga Institute in Santa Clara,
California. Michael responded to each chapter as it was written with long,
thoughtful missives and phone conversations that provided a valuable per-
For her supportive encouragement and ongoing technical assistance, I
am deeply grateful to my wife, Cheryl.
For their inspiration and support, I thank my sons, Christopher Reed
and Jonathan Spencer.
For taking the time to bring his expertise to bear on an important
section of the book, special appreciation goes to Don Feltham.
Thanks to all the workers who responded to the thousands of Saratoga
surveys with honesty, candor, and the faith that maybe their comments
would help to make things better.
Thanks to all the kindred authors, executives, human resource profes-
sionals, colleagues, fellow consultants, and clients whose thoughts and ac-
tions have inspired and contributed to the continuing quest for human
capital management practices that produce business success. Their names,
ideas, and wisdom enrich this book.
For his expert and professional editing, I acknowledge the conscien-
tious assistance of Niels Buessem.
And last but not least, for her guiding hand and constructive sugges-
tions, I thank Adrienne Hickey, editorial director at AMACOM.

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The 7 Hidden Reasons
Employees Leave

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Why Care About Why
They Leave?
The greatest obstacle
to discovery is not
ignorance”it is the
illusion of knowledge.

— ”D®©¬ J. B©®

It was almost six weeks since Anna had resigned her position with her former
employer, but it was obvious that strong feelings were still stirring inside
˜˜I was thrown into the job with no training. I asked for some one-on-
one time with my manager to go over the project inside out, but he never
had the time. I sensed he didn™t really know enough to be able to thor-
oughly brief me anyway.
˜˜When I got feedback that certain work wasn™t acceptable, he
wouldn™t be speci¬c about how to correct it in the future. . . . He actually
enjoyed intimidating people and he had a terrible temper”he would ask
me a question and if I didn™t know the answer, he would make fun of me
in front of my coworkers. As it turns out, he wasn™t following the right
work procedures himself.
˜˜Later, when I was working way below my skill set, I was told they
weren™t ready to give me a promotion, even though I had mastered every-
˜˜Finally, when I resigned, they didn™t seem interested in why I was
leaving. There was no exit interview. They never listened to me when I
was there, and they certainly didn™t care to listen when I left.™™
Anna went on to say that she loved her management position with her
new employer: ˜˜I™m still doing what I love to do, but in a much more
The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

professional environment. There™s open communication and no game-
playing. I know where I stand with them at all times.™™
One more thing”Anna went on to mention that she had hired away
a talented colleague from her former company.
In the post-exit interviews I conduct for client companies with em-
ployees they regretted losing, these are the kinds of stories I hear. I know
there are two sides to every story, and that Anna™s former manager might
tell it differently. But I also know that there is truth in Anna™s story, and in
all the stories I hear”more truth than they were willing to tell their former
employers when they checked out on their last day of employment.
The good news is that some companies do wake up and realize it™s not
too late to start listening to former, and current, employees. Some grow
alarmed when several highly valued workers leave over the course of a few
weeks, and others become concerned about protecting their reputation as
a good place to work. Most companies, however, simply want to make
sure they have the talent they need to achieve their business objectives.
But the fact remains that many managers and senior executives don™t
care about why valued employees are leaving. Their attitude seems to be
˜˜If you don™t like it, don™t let the door hit you in the backside on your
way out!™™
You care, or you wouldn™t have picked up this book. So why do you
care? Why even take the time and effort to uncover the real reasons em-
ployees leave? It would be much easier just to accept what most employees
say in exit interviews. You know the usual answers: ˜˜more money™™ or
˜˜better opportunity.™™
Who has time to stop and wonder why they left, anyway? They™re
gone. They didn™t want to be here, so why worry about what they think?
We can™t expect to retain everybody we hire. Let™s just get on with ¬nding
a replacement.
If this sounds familiar, it should, because it describes the prevailing
mindset of most managers in American companies today. Most are over-
worked and many are frustrated with their inability to meet the demands of
the workforce, much less have time to do exit interviews. And increasingly,
human resource departments are so understaffed that they can do little
more than ask departing employees to quickly ¬ll out exit surveys on their
last day.

Managers Will Not Hear What Workers Will
Not Speak
As we know, when exiting employees are asked, ˜˜Why are you leaving?™™
most are not inclined to tell the whole truth. Rather than risk burning a
W C Aµ W T L?

bridge with the former manager whose references they might need, they™ll
just write down ˜˜better opportunity™™ or ˜˜higher pay.™™ Why would they
want to go into the unpleasant truth about how they never got any feed-
back or recognition from the boss, or how they were passed over for pro-
So, it is no wonder that, according to one survey, 89 percent of manag-
ers said they believe that employees leave and stay mostly for the money.1
Yet, my own research, along with Saratoga Institute™s surveys of almost
20,000 workers from eighteen industries,2 and the research of dozens of
other studies, reveal that actually 80 to 90 percent of employees leave for
reasons related NOT to money, but to the job, the manager, the culture,
or the work environment (Figure 1-1). These internal reasons (also known
as ˜˜push™™ factors, as opposed to ˜˜pull™™ factors, such as a better-paying
outside opportunity) are issues within the power of the organization and
the manager to control and change.
It is a simple case of ˜˜when you don™t know what™s causing the prob-
lem, you can™t expect to ¬x it.™™ This dismaying disconnect between what
managers believe and the reality”the true root causes of employee disen-


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