10 reasons why your best people quit

By understanding why our great people leave, we gain insight into what could make them stay, writes Jane McCarroll. 

I’m all about unlocking effort and making things easy. Please let me explain.

Externally; I want my organisation as easy as possible to work with and work backwards from my customers’ experience in all that I do. With an internal hat on, I’m about unlocking discretionary effort. Extra effort leads to increased performance, higher productivity and a stronger bottom line for your organisation. Why wouldn’t you?

Good employees are, and have always been, an organisation’s greatest asset. It’s always been about the people. Through understanding why our great people leave we gain insight as to what could make them stay.

Here are 10 trends I have seen repeatedly from researching this subject across the United Kingdom, United States and Australia with some insight into unlocking discretionary effort across our organisations. 

Bad bosses:
It worked well in the movie for Jennifer Aniston (said no-one, ever). Few of us make it through our careers without enduring at least one terrible boss. Our role as leaders is to bring out the best in our people and navigate relationships to work and achieve results collaboratively. The relationship with our boss is more than integral, and it’s too big a relationship to be uncomfortable. Clashing is exhausting and no-one wins.

It’s the quickest route to burn-out. And, it’s often our most capable people that get loaded up because they’re so good. It’s not sustainable, and leads to our people feeling unappreciated and looking elsewhere for opportunities that support work life balance.

No-one likes to go mouldy. I believe everybody wants to contribute in a way that leverages their key strengths and contributes to the greater good of their organisation. Does your team know your organisation’s aspirations and do you know your theirs?

Vague values and vision:
What’s being translated into action in your organisation? Without the connection of values to action it’s just talk. Are your values something that is understood by your team, and is it something you hire backwards from? Aligning employees to your organisation through shared values should always be the first step. Hire for fit – train for skill.

Broken promises:
It doesn’t work when we’re raising our kids, and it doesn’t work when we’re developing our teams. Do you do what you say you are going to do. It’s that simple.

Profits over people:
To win in business, we must first win over our people. When an organisation puts profits before people they best show themselves the door. Not ideal as it can leave an organisation with a culture of under-performance filled with people that are neither here nor there on who they work for. That won’t achieve anything. Use business as a force for positive change.

Lack of recognition:
Everyone likes a special mention. (I know I do.) Even the most selfless people want to be recognised for a job well done. Acknowledging your team is important to encouraging feelings of being appreciated and contributing to the greater good. Appreciation is free, sprinkle it everywhere. 

Relationships with co-workers:
Make connections. They are so important. I am thankful for, and work hard to support, the relationships I have in the workplace. Good relationships are the safety net of effort that is unlocked for you when the going gets tough. Very helpful when working backwards from great business outcomes in challenging situations.

Lack of trust and flexibility:
Any bond is built on trust.
A relationship without trust is like a car without petrol, you can stay in it all you want, but it won’t go anywhere. Without trust, you have nothing. Flexibility comes from having trust, working backwards from agreed outcomes and leveraging technology. A 2017 survey conducted by Deloitte about millennial leaders found this as a consistent decider in how millennial leaders choose who they work for. 

Overall culture:
Culture eats strategy for breakfast. We need to build the happiness muscle of our organisations. A happy workforce is more engaged, creative and more focused, increasing overall productivity. Enough said.

At IMNZ we are a strength-based organisation and work to the following key values:

  • Operate with honesty and integrity: We aim always to be open, honest, bold, brave and accountable. Each of us acts as a role model for others to follow. We serve the greater good and are always professional.
  • Foster a collaborative spirit: We demonstrate ways of working with customers, affiliates and other stakeholders that lead to better business outcomes for all. We volunteer knowledge, skills and networks. We focus on forming long-term relationships.
  • Strive for the best quality: We value quality and aim to deliver (to each other and our stakeholders) communication, products, services and interactions that achieve the highest standards of excellence.
  • Being better never stops: We look at the future through our customers’ eyes. We encourage new ideas and we encourage each other to drive change, to learn by doing and to keep developing through lifelong learning.

It’s always been about the people. To reach for the stars we must all be standing on our toes. And in order to do that we need to do all that we can to unlock discretionary effort across our organisations. I feel proud to be working for the Institute of Management. We are a values-led, strength based organisation building management and leadership capability in NZ organisations. We’re 70 years strong and the future’s looking bright.

To support our values, and our culture of continuous improvement at IMNZ we have recently implemented the ‘Paki Paki’ awards. We’ll be recognising those who are living the values and those who are achieving business excellence. The team at IMNZ is fantastic to work with and for.

Aristotle said, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” I say, together we can be amazing. Sounds good. Feels great. Let’s do it. 


Jane McCarroll is the marketing and membership manager at IMNZ. The Institute of Management NZ.Helping leaders step up and lead since 1946.


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