Seven Reasons Great Employees Leave

6 Jan


Check out this great interview with Leigh Branham about the most common reasons why good employees leave:–leigh-branham


Thoughts of “Boomerang” Employees

31 Dec

I’m fond of “groaner” joke he learned from our daughter: What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?

A stick.

Now that we’ve gotten that awful out of the way, I want to share with you the benefits of “boomerang” employees. Those are the folks who leave your employ and then decide to come back to work for you. Many companies find boomerang employees are more productive the second time around, often as a result of learning additional skills while they were away. Their second stay by a boomerang employee may also be a longer one:

“We find that boomerang employees often ‘stick’ longer the second time around,” said Sarah Gutek, VP for human resources at Foremost Insurance. “To keep them longer the second time around, we also offer continuation of service incentives. Basically, if they stay with us for two years after being rehired, we’ll give them credit for all of their previous years of service, as well.” These incentives count towards Foremost’s vacation pay, incentive plans, and service awards programs. (Posted at

So how do we get more former employees to boomerang? There are a number of techniques you can use to stay in touch with those you would like to have back sometime in the future, but it’s clear to us you will also need to create and sustain a work environment and culture which will entice them to return. Consider the following comments from two employees who work for companies recognized as “Best-Places-to-Work”, whose cultures are highly productive and engaging:

“I inquired about the turnover here when I was job hunting and it was extremely low.  In fact, it appeared that anyone who left the company always found the grass was greener here and asked to come back… to which the company always obliged.”

“I’ve been with the company seven years. I was one of the first employees and we now have over 400. In 2005, I foolishly decided I wanted to experience working in another business environment and left. I was back within a year. This is truly a unique place to work and I have been so fortunate to be involved with this company.”

Comments like these are far more frequent at companies where engagement is already quite high. Think about it—would you want to go back to a disengaging workplace?

I admonish you to passionately work on the six universal engagement drivers we’ve uncovered in our book—Re-Engage. Doing so will help you develop the kind of environment that will act as a magnet to entice great employees to “boomerang” back to you.

Otherwise, instead of getting a great employee to return, you’ll just end up with a stick.

Wellbeing Elements

16 Nov

Wellbeing is a big topic–very big.

But thanks to the work of Dr. Jerry Wagner, the idea of wellbeing is much easier to understand. Jerry is currently the Director of the Institute of Wellbeing Management at Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska. He is also the designer of a unique software program that helps organizations uncover and evaluate employees’ ideas about how the organization can improve wellbeing.

Dr. Wagner has identified ten elements of wellbeing:

Employee Benefits  Physical Health and Nutrition  
  Job and Career Growth  Recognition and Rewards  
  Communication  Social and Recreational  
  Environment and Place  Community Service  
  Financial  Work Policies

A few thoughts about the elements:

  • Some of these elements overlap and also work in concert with each other.
  • Some of these elements might be extremely important to you or your organization, others less so.
  • There is a growing body of evidence about the importance of these elements.

Dr. Wagner has consulted with a number of organizations that have seen the benefit of working together to improve wellbeing. They’ve engaged in a process using the idea management software specifically tailored to wellbeing to identify and rate ideas their organizations could implement. Here are comments from employees who participated in the wellbeing process and how they felt about the experience:

“It was exciting to learn some new things, and also be reminded about wellbeing and how we could be more proactive in wellbeing activities. The process brought excitement to the organization and also brought some cohesiveness. It’s planting seeds of change for us as a community in trying to help us focus not only on our physical wellbeing but our emotional and mental wellbeing.”

“What I thought was exciting was brainstorming and coming up with ideas that would improve our work environment. What especially got my attention was the physical piece… one’s physical wellbeing has an impact on how they do in the workplace.”

“It was wonderful being able to create ideas with co-workers from other departments. I’m excited about the future and what we’ll be doing with the wellbeing ideas.”

“That feeling that you know you are part of something, part of a movement where you change people’s lives for the better, is very exciting.”

“I’ve heard from employees who want to take a financial planning class. Others want to take advantage of our tuition reimbursement benefit. Others want to get more involved in the community—they feel like they want to give back. You get the conversation started, and you’re helping to create a culture where everyone is expected to be always improving.”

You see, when it comes to wellbeing, we don’t have to go it alone. We can work together. We can make a difference for ourselves and folks we care about.

Do Employees Really Want To Be Engaged? by Leigh Branham

26 Jul

The following post was written by my good friend and co-author Leigh Branham. The second edition of his book The Seven Hidden Reasons Why Employees Leave, published by AMACOM, is due out next week. Check out his web site:

As I speak and listen to managers about employee engagement, I occasionally hear a manager come right out and say, “employees don’t want to be engaged.” I have concluded that for every manager who expresses that belief out loud, there are many more who believe it and don’t say it. I believe this mindset helps explain why only about 25% of the workforce is fully engaged. Managers (and senior leaders) who don’t believe employees want to be engaged are less likely to try to engage them and more likely to use a disengaging KITA (Kick-in-the-Ass) management style.

It is understandable that managers have this worldview. For centuries, most notably exemplified by the Greeks and Romans and continuing through the Puritan work ethic that is alive and well yet today, work has been seen as a necessary evil to be suffered and endured. It is only in the last 50 years or so that the idea of a job as a vehicle for self-fulfillment has been widely embraced.

And yes, of course, there are still significant numbers of employees for whom the idea of achieving personal fulfillment at work is a foreign concept. They view work as something they do simply to earn a paycheck that allows them to pursue the things they truly enjoy on their own time. Are they engaged? The term I’ve seen lately to describe these workers is “transactionally engaged.”

By contrast, the “emotionally engaged” are willing to give more discretionary effort at work because they feel a strong bond or connection with the organization, manager, coworkers, or the work itself that is often more important to them than pay.

The transactionally engaged, who most certainly comprise a large portion of the 75% that Gallup identifies as either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged”, aren’t emotionally connected to the organization to the point that they are willing to go above and beyond what’s minimally required on the job. When some managers say they don’t believe employees want to be engaged, they almost certainly have these employees in mind. Thus, we have a matching of mindsets and low mutual expectations.

The question that intrigues me is “what if we could demonstrate to the transactionally engaged that it is possible and desirable for them to be emotionally engaged, not just for the sake of their being more productive for the company’s benefit, but because it would also enhance their personal well-being?

We know what drives engagement. Gallup, Kenexa, Towers-Watson, Sirota and others have all come to very similar conclusions as Mark Hirschfeld and I did in our analysis of 2.1 million employee engagement surveys. Here are the six universal drivers we identified in our book Re-Engage (McGraw-Hill, 2010) that the best employers have in common:

1. Caring, competent, and communicative senior leaders,

2. Managers who proactively manage performance through clear expectations and feedback,

3. A culture of teamwork, not “we vs. they,”

4. Job enrichment, learning and growth opportunities,

5. Feeling valued monetarily and a dozen other ways, and

6. Feeling the organization and manager care about your personal well being.

When these drivers are present in an organization’s culture, employees feel “given to” and, as a result, they typically want to give back. Put another way, they become “emotionally engaged.” Organizations that score higher on these drivers have fewer transactionally engaged employees and more who say things like “For the first time in my life, I actually look forward to coming to work in the morning.” In other words, their eyes have been opened to the possibility/reality that work can be a source of personal fulfillment. Deep down, I believe, we all want to be engaged at work…if only we knew it was achievable.

This is why it is so important for employers not to “roll out” employee engagement “programs”, but instead, actually start doing all the things that truly engage employees. This means training managers in what really engages employees, giving managers the discussion tools they need to engage and re-engage their direct reports, and holding managers accountable for improving a few carefully selected metrics.

Too many companies are conducting engagement surveys without truly intending to take action based on the results. To be fair, some do intend to take action, but still don’t follow through. This only serves to further reduce employee expectations and raise levels of cynicism. For more on this, see C.V. Harquail’s provocative blog — “Why Employee Engagement is a Scam-.

Done well, and not as an exploitive way to get employees to give more effort without giving them something in return, employee engagement is most certainly not a scam. Authentic engagement initiatives inspire commitment, not cynicism.

TED Talk– Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

9 May

Remarkable twelve minutes on why happiness is so important:

Wellbeing Idea Management Case Study

8 May

The following video was provided by our colleague Dr. Jerry Wagner about the experience of One World Community Health Center and the wellbeing idea management process. For more information about the process and additional testimonials, go to

Quieting the Naysayers

29 Apr

We all know naysayers, people with a less than positive attitude. The dictionary describes a naysayer as someone with “an aggressively negative attitude.”

Aggressively negative, yikes.

Okay, we all have probably been naysayers at one time in our work life. Things happen at work and we can get crabby, hopefully for just a while. However, I think we can all agree that too much naysaying, too many aggressively negative attitudes, can seriously damage the culture of a workplace.

How do we stop naysaying?

I had the opportunity to interview an executive whose organization participated in an Employees Know wellbeing idea management project, an effort designed to gain employee feedback about what could be done to improve individual and organizational wellbeing. She was very pleased with the process that brought forward employee ideas. This process included the creation of a “unity council” to manage the project and communicate with employees who forwarded wellbeing ideas. Most of the ideas had been implemented in a few short months, and was looking forward to conducting the process again the following year. I asked her if she saw any additional benefits to the process we had not discussed. Her answer was a pleasant surprise: “Mark, our culture is different. In particular, the naysaying that we used to have is gone.”

The naysaying is gone???

She told me that previous to this process there were several individuals who always seemed to be negative about, well, anything and everything. Moreover, they were quite vocal, and like a bad virus would spread their negative attitudes to others. As the wellbeing idea management process unfolded, something seemed to happen in the organization, something quite unexpected. When employees (whether naysayer or not) saw that employee ideas were being taken seriously and then implemented within a short period of time, the naysayers seemed to lose their footing.  The naysaying went away. “Our work environment is now much more positive, and not just about wellbeing but about other things. Just going through the process has contributed to our wellbeing”, she said.

In our consulting work, we’ve seen three different groups vie for control of this part of the culture, the part that allows, or at least tolerates, negative attitudes. They are:

  • “Hard-Core-Naysayers”,
  • “Swing-Vote-Naysayers”, and
  • “People-Who-Put-Up-With-Naysayers”.

Here’s what I think happened to these groups as a result of the wellbeing idea management process:

  • The “Swing-Vote-Naysayers”, who didn’t like to gripe but felt like they had some legitimate complaints, stopped griping because, well, they no longer had a reason to gripe. They were glad that leadership stepped up and responded. As long as leadership continues to be open to processes such as this, they’ll be just fine.
  • The “People-Who-Put-Up-With-Naysayers” were as pleased as they could be, because they had ammunition to tell the hard-core naysayers to stop it. This made them smile. Some of them are smiling because they can stop looking for a new job because they were sick of the negativity.
  • The “Hard-Core-Naysayers” stopped because they lost their audience. It’s hard to naysay when lots of positive things are happening around and to you that came largely from feedback from your peers. Some may be looking for another place to naysay—we’ll miss them but wish them well.

Idea management killed naysaying at this organization! In truth, what killed the naysaying was a manager who encouraged employee feedback, was able to truly hear what employees were concerned about, and acted in way that helped employees know they were heard. We call that leadership.