Why Good Employees Leave High-Paying Jobs

Retain your top talent by opening an environment for regular feedback to drive the growth of employees.

August 20th, 2017   |    By: May Chau    |    Tags: Culture, Recruiting

One year. Did you know that’s the average tenure of an employee at giants like Google and Amazon?

When the average salary for a Google software engineer is $111,149, you can’t really argue that the tech giants underpay their employees. So why do good employees leave high-paying jobs so quickly, and what can companies do to combat it?

Motivation and “Progress”

Harvard professor Teresa Amabile conducted a study observing the daily activities and motivations of several hundred employees over the course of a few years and found external incentives, such as salary and perks, have little to do with employee tenure.

She notes, “the key to motivation…doesn’t depend on elaborate incentive systems” at all. In fact, Amabile’s study revealed the top motivator for employees is simple. Making progress.

“On days when [employees] have the sense they’re making [progress] in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive.”

— Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business Review

Seems simple enough. But, the difficulty for managers is that over time, as employees improve and grow in their jobs, the work that once was a challenge, that once represented making progress becomes routine. So, how can leaders make sure employees continue to make progress and are challenged?

Rethinking Feedback at Work

The answer is to rethink how we think of ‘feedback’ at work. Feedback has come to be the dreaded synonym for constructive criticism. Itself, another synonym for stuff your boss wants changing.

If companies want to attract and retain the best talent, they have to get past this old-fashioned way of thinking, and moving toward what HR leaders call ‘a culture of feedback’ but ultimately just means the ability to have honest conversations.

Ideally, a culture of feedback should be one which is frequent, quality and honest.

Why Good Employees Leave High-Paying Jobs

Frequent peer-to-peer feedback.

Regular peer-to-peer feedback builds a team culture of helping each other to achieve more. Not just manager-employee, not just because of a looming performance review.

A mechanism for employees to request feedback and advice from peers is crucial to helping your company become more transparent and supportive.

Peer feedback also gives employees the chance to demonstrate their expertise and offer others the opportunity to learn about what they do.

Better quality of feedback.

Through 360 feedback, employees are able to elicit more opinions and get a better view of how to grow.

According to Spotify, “…everyone needs [autonomy] to own and drive themselves — it is about development and personal growth”. 360 feedback provides the autonomy for more than just the direct manager to give feedback.

In fact, high-performing teams share six times the amount of feedback compared to other teams. So in this case, quantity does equal quality.

Honest conversations about the experience of work.

Feedback from employees to managers about their feelings towards work shows top employees they are not only valued for their work but as people as well. One of the most efficient ways to comfortably address how employees feel about their work is by normalizing open conversation between employees and their managers.

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What we know now.

We know from Gallup’s recent employee study that only 29% of employees in the U.S. and Canada are engaged at work. Perhaps if there was a culture of open and honest feedback between managers and employees we could offer a lot more to employees.

As a leader, it’s not your job to give all the feedback, or even to get managers to give more. It’s to create an environment of honesty, and a process where employees are constantly challenged to grow, and when they don’t feel challenged can make it known.

Perhaps the best and most cost effective way to retain employees is to create an environment that allows everyone to give and request peer feedback. Demonstrate to your top talent the company is listening and will act on creating an environment for them to grow.

Retain your top talent by opening an environment for regular feedback to drive the growth of employees.

About the Author

May Chau

Contributing to the improvement of modern performance management at http://7Geese.com. Twitter: @may_chau

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