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Employee Revenue
Satisfaction Growth

External Service Customer Customer
Internal Quality Employee
Value Satisfaction Loyalty
of Work Life Satisfaction

Productivity Profitability

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

don™t like it, they can leave. I once worked at a company where the vice
president of manufacturing, when asked if he was stressed, responded, ˜˜I
don™t get stress, I give stress.™™ For such individuals, caring for people as a
business strategy seems weak and soft-headed.
There is a fast-growing information systems company that once made
Fortune™s top 100 employers list, but fell off it largely because of its demand
that employees work 60 to 80 hours per week. There seems to be no
shortage of young professionals who are attracted to working those hours
in exchange for rapid advancement and good pay. A woman who worked
there told me that, when she told this company she wanted to work part-
time, the employment representative responded, ˜˜a part-time job in this
company is 40 hours per week.™™ In spite of this, young, talented profes-
sionals continue to be drawn to this company, attracted by the fast-track
experience. They generally stay a few years and move on. The company
has a good product and is pro¬table. But the question remains”are they
building the kind of employment brand that will serve and sustain their
business interests long-term?

The Best Places in America to Work
Here are pro¬les of a few companies that have taken a different path.

• The Number One Place in America to Work: Smucker™s!

The J.M. Smucker Company, Orrville, Ohio, made it to number one on
Fortune™s list of the 100 best places in America to work by continuing to do
what they have done for years”live by a simple code of conduct: ˜˜Listen
with your full attention, look for the good in others, have a sense of
humor”but not at the expense of others, and say thank you for a job well
done.™™18 Lots of companies have similar values statements, but few adhere
to them the way Smucker™s does.
One employee said she had been thanked more in her two years at
Smucker™s than she was at the three other mega-food companies where
she had worked the previous nine years. Managers routinely hand out gift
certi¬cates and buy lunch for their teams. Employees can recite the com-
pany™s strategy and corporate values. Workers say there is a commitment to
each other founded on the Golden Rule. The result is a positive work
environment where people feel respected, challenged, and valued.
Ernestine Wilson, who works in the packing line, told a reporter that

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when her husband had cancer, the company let her come to work when
she could and park close to the shop so she could leave quickly if she had
to. ˜˜They have been so good to me,™™ said the 32-year veteran, ˜˜I can™t say
enough.™™ Another employee said, ˜˜I don™t worry about somebody asking
me to lie. That™s a good feeling. If it means working twelve hours a day,
that™s OK.™™19
The company has no stock options, no onsite day care center, no con-
cierge services, or other such ¬‚ashy perks, but it does offer ¬‚ex-time and
provides an average of seventy hours of training per employee per year.
Employees consistently say it™s the intangibles that make Smucker™s special.
The company also puts a lot of energy into hiring the kind of people who
¬t the culture and will work well with long-term employees.
Is there a bottom-line pay-off ? The company™s stock has had a total
return of 100 percent over the past ¬ve years, and it has only a 3 percent
voluntary turnover rate.

• The Second-Best Place in America to Work: Alston & Bird

This Atlanta law ¬rm grants mothers three months of maternity leave, and
the same to fathers if they are the primary caregivers. The ¬rm also charges
a reasonable $500 per month for its onsite child-care center, and it averages
¬fty hours of training per employee per year.
Average yearly job growth”8 percent, with turnover of only 7 per-

• The Third-Best Place in America to Work: The Container Store

This retailer has been among the top employers for several years now. It
offers weekly yoga sessions free to employees, with 25 percent of the com-
pany™s workforce attending. The company™s of¬cial mascot is Gumby”a
¬tting symbol for the company™s value of bending over backwards to please
their customers and their coworkers. The Container Store averages 162
hours of training per year per employee and is known for its exuberant staff
morale. Other perks include: monthly chair massages, stretching classes,
and an online exercise and nutrition diary that is personalized for every

What They Have in Common
What all these employers have in common is a philosophy of ˜˜give ¬rst,
get second.™™ In other words, these preeminent employers believe that if
they take the ¬rst step in giving a desirable employment experience to its

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

employees, those employees will respond by giving back. Thus begins a
virtuous cycle of reciprocal commitment. Employers of choice understand
that they are competing with other employers”both large and small”for
talent, and realize the importance of ˜˜branding™™ themselves as preferred
places to work. It™s no longer about passively recruiting by selling during
job interviews”it™s about proactively marketing one™s organization as a
great place to work.
Contrast this approach with that of employers who start employees on
probation, wait to see if the employee is worthy of respect, judge new
hires guilty until proven otherwise, and wait for employees to prove their
commitment to the organization before demonstrating the organization™s
commitment to them. This is certainly the traditional. approach, but in a
war-for-talent economy, it can no longer keep your company competitive.
The new employers of choice resolve to give before getting back, and
usually go to extra lengths to select the right people. This makes it so much
easier to trust the employees they hire to return their commitment in kind.

Interested in Becoming One of the Best Places to Work?
If your company is interested in applying to be selected as one of
Fortune™s 100 best places in America to work, you can start by sending
an e-mail stating your case to: 100best@greatplacetowork.com

It™s Not Just the ˜˜Big Boys™™ You™re Competing With
When Tom Creal started his own company”First Biomedical”he had
already given seventeen years of his life to a large company before he was
let go in the ¬fth of ¬ve rounds of layoffs. The big-company environment
had transmogri¬ed into one where employees were no longer loyal to the
company. It was a culture Creal didn™t like. So he decided that someday he
would operate his own company in a totally different way.
He didn™t want to become a father ¬gure, but Creal did want to de-
velop company loyalty among his workers. He decided he would provide:

• Full medical, dental, life and health insurance for the whole family
• 15 vacation/sick days, with carry-over of unused days
• IRAs with 3 percent match and ¬rst-day vesting
• A seven-hour workday

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• Free cell phones for employees on call
• Free snacks and Costco cards paid for by the company
• A new onsite gym
• A new incentive-driven wellness program
• Open sharing of the company™s ¬nancial situation
• 2 percent of employees™ annual salaries paid any month the company
has a record gross-pro¬t
• A year-end bonus of 4 to 5 percent of annual salary
• No job descriptions, with the freedom to move on to different posi-

Since opening its doors in 1998, this employer of ¬fteen people has
lost only four, a record that Creal believes has signi¬cantly increased pro-
ductivity and revenues. ˜˜We started at zero and we™ll be a $3.5 million
company this year.™™21
Whether bene¬ts-driven, culture-driven, or great-manager-driven,
employers of choice choose the right employment branding strategy for
their business objectives. The branding goal they choose is to be known
for having cultures that are both high-performance and high-caring (see
Figure 9-2). High-caring cultures never forget that employees are people,
with basic human needs and widely varying family situations. They know

Figure 9-2.
Your culture equals your employment brand.

High Performance
High Performance
High Caring
Low Caring

Low Performance Low Performance
Low Caring High Caring

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

that their employees want to have time to live rich lives beyond the bounds
of work.
Employers of choice also seem to have the following engagement prac-
tices in common:

Engagement Practice 47:
Initiate a Culture of ˜˜Giving-Before-Getting™™
Some companies initiate generous work-life and health bene¬ts for their
employees out of genuine, warm-hearted caring, and others do so more as
a means to an end”capturing and keeping talent. My research and experi-
ence tell me that employers with the former motivation generally build
more caring everyday cultures and arouse more commitment from their
employees. That does not mean that taking a more calculating approach
based on generous bene¬ts cannot succeed. I believe it can, especially if the
decision to provide those new bene¬ts signals the beginning of a cultural
transformation based on a more caring and respectful treatment of the
In researching the best practices of employers of choice in the late
1990s for my ¬rst book, I was struck by how often the companies identi¬ed
as employers of choice were led by CEOs with a sincere passion for taking
care of their employees as people: Jim Goodnight at SAS Institute, Quint
Studer at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Herb Kelleher at Southwest
Airlines, Hal Rosenbluth at Rosenbluth Travel, and Wilton Connor at
Wilton-Connor Packaging Company”to name a few out of a growing
What I noticed in all these leaders was their ˜˜if-we-build-it-they-will-
come™™ faith in making the ¬rst move. What they all seemed to know
intuitively was that if they demonstrated an initial willingness to trust their
employees by giving valued services, then the employees would willingly
reciprocate. As astute business executives, they also certainly realized that
well-treated employees take better care of customers, but that realization
did not seem to be the driver of their generosity.

A Big Menu of Bene¬ts and Services
The question most employers ask is, what bene¬ts and services can we
afford to give that will allow us to attract and keep the talent we need while
also helping to reduce their stress at work and lead fuller and healthier lives

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Owners Work Hard to Help Employees Battle Burnout
Working for a company like D3 Inc., a small, Kansas City-based stra-
tegic marketing communications ¬rm, sometimes requires long
hours, including nights and weekends to ¬nish projects for big clients
like Sprint and Hallmark. For owners David Svet and Mark Schraad,
employee burnout is a very real concern. Both owners had previously
worked for other marketing ¬rms where creative staffers would get
burned out and leave. They were determined not to create the same
kind of environment in their business.
˜˜A steady diet of this schedule dulls your senses and the ability to
think outside the box,™™ said Svet. To prevent such burnout, the own-
ers established regular working hours of 8:30 .. to 5 °.., and they
try hard to enforce that schedule, clearing the of¬ce in the evenings
if necessary. When client projects call for longer hours, employees are
compensated with time off to refresh themselves. Svet and Schaad
also take D3 workers on regular outings to parks and museums to
stimulate their creativity and break the routine of the workweek. The
owners also pay for training conferences around the country and give
spot bonuses and twice-yearly salary reviews.
Since implementing these new ideas, D3 reports very low turn-
over and a noticeable improvement in morale. Employees appreciate
having the extra hours for their lives away from work. The owners
have actually turned away business because they knew it would im-
pose an unhealthy workload on staff.22

outside of work? With the cost of bene¬ts hovering at around 45 percent


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