Streetwise: The Real Reasons People Leave: Organizational & Personal Clarity

February 23, 2021

From our friends at Eure Consulting:

In January of 2020 (my last in-person conference) I heard a keynote by Jamie Taets of Keystone Group International about going “beyond the paycheck”. The talk was focused on helping us, as leaders in our organizations, understand that paying people well is not enough. We need to do more to retain our top talent.

What resonated with me the most were her five reasons why people leave their jobs. Her reasons were all spot on and I have seen each and every one of them in action. Those reasons have never been more important to pay attention to than now. As companies are starting to hire again they may potentially hire away some of your best talent. Using her talk as inspiration, I’ve decided to revive this blog series on those five reasons (her information came from the American Progress Organization) and how you, as a business owner, can address them.

Her first reason is the lack of organizational and personal clarity.

It’s important that we look at organizational clarity and personal clarity together. There can be no personal clarity without organizational clarity. If the company as a whole doesn’t know where it’s going then neither can the employee.

Let’s look at organizational clarity first. Does everyone understand what your organization stands for and where you’re headed?

Are your core values clear?

Just having them written down isn’t enough. They need to be lived, every day, by every employee. Core values are the backbone of any great company. They are what makes your company what it is. But they don’t do you or your employees any good of they’re just hung up on the wall and ignored.

Core values define how you want your employees to act, work, and interact with customers. And you have to reinforce those behaviors on a regular basis, through consistent feedback that tells everyone these values are important and are here to stay. Defining core values is defining your company’s operating system. No software can run without an operating system and neither can your company.

Is the mission of your company clear?

Does every employee know what business you’re in? I bet if you surveyed your team, some of the answers would surprise you. There is no greater way to give someone a sense of purpose than to give them a clear mission to accomplish.

You need to clearly define what your company’s mission in life is so that your employees can buy into it. Your mission needs to state how your company plans to make a difference in the world. Maybe you want to make the best car parts available. Or maybe you want to ease the stress of home buying. Or maybe you want to change the way the world communicates. Whatever it is, make sure you share it with your employees. That way they can have the chance to help build something bigger than themselves.

Is your vision clear?

If you want your employees to know what to do every day, you need to tell them where you want to go. By clearly defining and bringing to life your vision of what your company will look like in the next 3, 5, or 10 years you help to focus your entire company on finding ways of getting there. Without a clear focus and vision, your company will easily stray from the most effective path. Employees will get distracted by new and shiny objects, focusing on the urgent, but not the important. Taking the time to clearly articulate where you want to take the company will give every employee the chance to join in on the effort of getting you there.

If you’ve addressed these areas of organizational clarity, next you need to make sure you’re providing each individual personal clarity about their role and the difference that they make.

Do your employees clearly understand their role?

Despite what you may think, everyone wants a clearly defined job description. Even those that like to be flexible and spontaneous in their work want to know exactly what you expect of them at the end of the month, quarter, or year. Not knowing what your boss wants from you or on what objectives you will be measured can be extremely stressful. So take the guesswork out of it.

Tell them exactly what you need them to do. This actually gives them more freedom. With a clear definition of the end goal, they can have the autonomy of deciding how to get there. Plus, if every employee knows exactly what success in their role looks like then they are more likely to actually reach those milestones.

Do your employees clearly understand their impact?

People leave jobs when they do not feel a sense of purpose or fulfillment. If they can’t see how their day-to-day connects to the bigger picture or the greater good, they will check out. This greater good is really just your company’s mission, the greater good of the industry, the company, the consumer, or even just their coworkers. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that people don’t want to live in silos quarantined from other people. Most people don’t want to act only for themselves. They want to collaborate with others and they want to know that they are contributing to something bigger.

Your job, as a leader, is to help them see how what they are doing every day contributes to and impacts those around them. How it contributes to the company’s success. We call it “line of sight”. Can they see a direct line from their role to the end goal, product, or service? Some people can find this connection on their own, but most will need your help to understand their true purpose at work.

Having clarity at both the organizational and the personal level will make a huge impact on your ability to retain employees.

By defining what your company stands for, how you operate, and where you’re going, you give your employees the chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves. And then by showing them what their role in that bigger picture is and how their day-to-day impacts that mission you help them to feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment. They get to buy into a company that is making a difference and know that they are helping move the mission forward. Don’t rob your employees of that satisfaction. Provide the clarity they need and help them contribute something meaningful to the world.