. 29
( 40 .)


The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

design their bene¬ts, perks, employee services, rewards, cultures, and man-
agement practices to attract and keep the speci¬c desires of the talent seg-
ments they need to meet their business objectives. In other words, they
align their human capital strategies with their business strategies. In scan-
ning Fortune™s pro¬les of the 100 best companies in America to work for,
one is struck by the way so many top employers appear to have matched
the right offerings to the right talent:

• Construction company TD Industries of Dallas offers upward mobility
and respect to construction workers by calling them ˜˜partners™™ and
paying 100 percent tuition reimbursement.
• W.L. Gore, inventor of Gore-Tex fabric and Elixir guitar strings, is a
company built on innovation, so it offers the kind of work environ-
ment in which independent, creative people thrive. Workers get to
choose their projects, and the process for selecting leaders is highly
unstructured”most leaders are not appointed, but rather emerge
based on the fact that other workers seem to follow their lead.
• Starbucks knows that many of the younger workers it needs to attract
will only work part-time, but would not get health coverage for part-
time jobs with other retailers. So, they offer health coverage to all
workers who put in 20 hours a week and give stock options to those
who stay for a year.
• Wireless tech supplier, Qualcomm, has employees in more than 100
countries, so they offer a ¬‚exible holiday policy that allows them to
use ten company-approved days to suit their needs.

In all these examples, the common thread is the matching of what is
given with what is valued, and a faith that if it is given, employees will give

Engagement Practice 49:
Build a Culture That Values Spontaneous Acts of Caring
So far in this chapter, we have focused on bene¬ts and aspects of culture
that are within the power of business owners and chief executives to de-
cide. But great employers are also characterized by managers who are em-
powered to act with spontaneous acts of generosity and caring. Here are

R® #: S ¦ O·« ®¤ W«-L©¦ I¬® 169

some examples of how individual managers have helped relieve employee
stress and generate more loyalty in return:

• Letting the team go out for a long lunch at the manager™s expense on
the condition that they not talk about work
• Sending cards, free movie tickets, or restaurant gift certi¬cates to the
homes of employees who worked long hours to complete a project
• Bringing meals to the homes of workers who are grieving the death
of a family member
• Providing a sympathetic ear when employees are going through di-
vorces or child-custody problems
• Creating a Thursday ritual”free pizza in the of¬ce
• Giving an employee the rest of the day off after a particularly stressful
• Allowing employees to work from home when it isn™t essential that
they be at the workplace
• Pitching in to help with the workload on especially busy days
• Stopping communicating by e-mail, having real conversations with
employees, and concentrating on listening with genuine interest
• If they have been insensitive in the past, offering a sincere apology

The point here is not to provide a prescriptive list of things to do, but
to describe the kinds of things managers do when they are being spontane-
ously sensitive to the needs of workers. Employees can tell when managers
are going through the motions, following a tip they read in a book, and
when they are acting sincerely in the moment. Like so many other practices
already covered in this book, the ¬rst requirement is paying attention to
the people you manage.

Engagement Practice 50: Build Social Connectedness
and Harmony Among Employees
There is little doubt that part of the glue that binds people to workplaces
comes from the relationships they form with other employees. I have heard
employees say to coworkers, ˜˜You people are what™s keeping me here,™™
even as things are going from bad to worse in the other aspects of their

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

work lives. Human beings have a basic need for belonging, as Maslow
pointed out, and more employees look to the relationships they form at
work as a source of the ˜˜family feeling™™ that might otherwise be missing.
We live in an increasingly transient society where workers stay in their
jobs less than three years on average, and yet workers long for connection
with coworkers. We spend one third of our workdays communicating by
e-mail”time that in years past we spent in direct human contact. Many
people now work from home or from remote locations and feel isolated
from coworkers and alienated from their organizations. In toxic workplaces
employees often experience anxiety, distrust, unspoken con¬‚ict, petty jeal-
ousy, departmental in-¬ghting, incivility, and outright nastiness”condi-
tions that make teamwork almost impossible.
What can a manager do about all this? Perhaps it is easier to start with
what a manager cannot do”change the culture or suppress all con¬‚ict.
Con¬‚ict, if openly and constructively expressed, can actually have positive
consequences, leading to higher levels of trust and quicker, more open
resolution of disagreements. Managers cannot expect employees to always
get along, nor should they view themselves as referees in every personal
dispute. Although manager interventions may sometimes be required, em-
ployees need to be able to resolve their own con¬‚icts whenever possible.
What managers can do is work to actively encourage harmony and
social connectedness among workers. Here are some of the ways managers
can help bind employees together in a positive way:

• Allow employees a reasonable amount of time to meet in the halls or
at the water cooler to have personal conversations. Try not to always
look at such gatherings as a drag on productivity, but rather, as time
spent building connectedness with each other.
• Assign teams to work on projects together when possible, especially
when there is an opportunity to bring together workers who have
not worked together before.
• Create cross-functional teams, mixing staff from your department
with employees from other areas or functions.
• Invite people from other departments to your staff meetings.
• Take the initiative to organize group outings such as picnics, softball
games, offsite work sessions, group volunteer work, holiday parties,
birthday parties, lunchtime card games, trips to sporting events, regu-
lar breakfasts or pot-luck lunches together, or informal meetings on
Friday afternoons to review the week.

R® #: S ¦ O·« ®¤ W«-L©¦ I¬® 171

• Encourage several employees to join professional associations and at-
tend meetings together.
• Ask employees to get up and go speak to one another more often, or
take each other to lunch more frequently instead of depending on e-
mails as their primary mode of communication.
• When an employee seems bogged down trying to solve a dif¬cult
problem, bring together several coworkers to brainstorm new ideas
and possible solutions.
• Encourage the formation of employee interest groups, such as invest-
ment clubs, book clubs, informal parenting discussions, or travel dis-
cussions where employees can share photos from recent vacations.
• Get to know all your employees on a personal basis so you will know
enough to link those with common interests or to refer one em-
ployee to another who can help with a practical everyday issue, such
as ¬nding a good real estate agent.
• At staff meetings, ask each member of the team to introduce them-
selves by mentioning one fact about themselves that most people
would not know.
• As often as possible, bring onsite workers together with those who
work from home or remote locations.

Research shows that employees who have better relationships with
their coworkers are also more committed to the organization.31 There may
be times when those relationships are in need of repair and you may require
the services of a consultant who specializes in con¬‚ict resolution or team-
building. In the meantime, keep an eye out for creative ways to build the
ties that bind among coworkers.

Engagement Practice 51: Encourage Fun in the
˜˜Work should be more fun than fun,™™ said the playwright Noel Coward, a
statement that conjures images of the seven dwarfs marching off to the
mines singing ˜˜hi-ho, hi-ho.™™ Alas, for far too many employees today, the
work itself is not fun, and the work environment is even less so.
Generation Xers noticed as children that many of their parents weren™t
having much fun working long hours and were neglecting their families in
the process. Many of them made up their minds early on that when they
entered the world of work, they were going to make it more fun and less

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

Reducing Turnover Through Social Bonding
RiverPoint Group, a 70-employee information technology group
owned by Jon Schram and his wife, Jill Washington Schram, faced
the challenge of a 60 percent turnover rate, made worse by the fact
that most of its employees work offsite. The Schrams wanted to create
a stronger common culture that would make employees feel more
bonded to one another and to the organization. Among other initia-
tives, they created an associate management program, in which sen-
ior-level employees mentor their junior counterparts. Mentors and
mentees talk several times a month by telephone and face-to-face at
least monthly. Account managers are required to be on job sites once
a week to ensure ˜˜face time™™ with associates. When employees start
new projects, they are greeted with bagels from the owners and a
cake on their birthdays. The owners also schedule quarterly staff
meetings and social outings every three months so employees can get
better acquainted. Everyone stays connected through a corporate
Web site
Result: RiverPoint™s turnover rate fell to 25 percent, well below
the industry average. This has been critical to the retention of impor-
tant clients.32

formal. In the late 1990s, when the war for talent was most intense, Silicon
Valley companies worked hard to create more fun for younger workers”
putting in game rooms with foosball and pinball, throwing keg parties on
Friday afternoons, creating quiet rooms with recliners for napping, and
providing in¬‚atable ˜˜stress-relief ™™ punching dummies.
After the dot-com bust, many companies curtailed the ˜˜frivolity.™™ Be-
tween 2001 and 2003, the American workplace reached unprecedented
levels of productivity, but at a price: People weren™t having any fun. During
this time, some companies felt the need was even greater to reinject some
fun into the workplace to relieve the stress from overloaded work sched-
Not everyone has the same ideas about what is fun, but most of us
recognize that whether it is planned or spontaneous, fun activities and cele-
brations can be highly effective stress-busters. In fact, the more stressful the
workplace, and the more employees are vulnerable to burn-out, the more
need there is for fun and celebration. Studies have actually shown that

R® #: S ¦ O·« ®¤ W«-L©¦ I¬® 173

workplaces with higher ˜˜fun quotients™™ have lower health-care costs,
higher productivity, and improved morale.
Here are some companies who have woven fun into their cultures:

• At ELetter, a direct mail company in San Jose, California, the CEO
pledged that he would wear high heels to the of¬ce every day for a
week if they met his ambitious sales goals. They did, and he did.
• To build teamwork and keep his executive team sharp, the CEO of
Demandline.com of San Francisco told all ¬ve of them to meet at the
airport with cold-weather gear for a ¬ve-day trip to an undisclosed
location. They ¬‚ew to Alaska where they were met by two guides
with ice axes and 70-pound backpacks. They then proceeded to
climb Matanuska Peak.32
• At Perkins Cole, a Seattle law ¬rm, ˜˜happiness committees™™ visit em-
ployees™ of¬ces, leaving baskets of treats.
• Valassis, of Livonia, Michigan, publisher of newspaper coupons and
inserts, holds limerick contests, and sponsors tail-gating parties at col-
lege football games.
• At Simmons, the Atlanta mattress manufacturer, employees break the
stress by going on ropes-course training once a year. They even get
to walk a high wire.
• Employees at Fannie Mae, Washington, D.C., complained about too
many speeches at the annual holiday party, so the company cut back
on the speech-making and created more time for dancing at the next
year™s party.
• Republic Bancorp of Owosso, Michigan, holds an annual Easter egg
• Third Federal Savings and Loan of Cleveland threw a company-wide
Mardi Gras party breakfast with Polish doughnuts, magicians, and
• Duncan Aviation of Lincoln, Nebraska, announces employees™ birth-
days over the public address system.
• At Network Appliance in Sunnyvale, California, a sign welcomes visi-
tors to ˜˜GALACTIC HEADQUARTERS.™™ At a company rally to
kick off a new sales campaign, there were life-sized cutouts of execu-
tives on the stage in Star Trek costumes.
• Auto lending company AmeriCredit in Fort Worth sent each of its
branches a ˜˜¬esta in a box™™ with pinata and salsa music to celebrate
reaching $15 million in loans.

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

• At LensCrafters in Cincinnati, managers and executives wore white
gloves, bow ties, and top hats to welcome employees to the company
party. They also opened their doors and parked their cars.
• At Kimberly-Clark in Dallas, one unit staged its own version of Sur-
• At Grif¬n Hospital in Derby, Connecticut, musicians and clowns en-


. 29
( 40 .)