Why Employees Leave

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One of the biggest challenges in successfully managing an agronomy retail operation is keeping your top employees. Every day, we visit with retailers across the country that are lamenting over the loss of a key employee and need us to find a suitable replacement. Unfortunately, when we ask these organizations about why the employee left, they are almost always focused on the wrong reason — MONEY!

Higher compensation may seem like a perfectly common and logical reason for employees to leave. In fact, a recent survey has shown that 89% of employers feel that money is the primary reason that employees leave. However, when the departed employees were interviewed, 88% of them left for reasons other than money. That’s correct — only 12% of employees leave for better compensation!

Not Listening

There is a quote that best explains this scenario: “Managers will not hear, what employees are not saying.”

Think about this for a moment. This is a powerful quote that really speaks to that heart of this problem. If a manager is not 100% engaged with their direct reports, it is very unlikely that they will understand the true reason why that employee is leaving, and they will certainly be too late to prevent that employee from departing. Let’s face it, a disengaged manager will be the last person to find out an employee is leaving. At that point, a counteroffer is your only hope. However, we can assure you that in our experience more than 75% of people accepting a counteroffer from an employer to stay will be gone in less than 12 months, with the remaining 25% leaving in the next 24 months.

Why? Because it probably wasn’t about the money and the real reasons that motivated them to leave haven’t changed!

The best way to understand why employees leave is to look at some of the data that has been compiled in recent industry surveys by the Gallup organization. If you are one of the 89% of employers that feels your employees are leaving for money, you may be surprised at the results.
•  16% of employees left due to limited career growth or opportunity.
•  13% of employees left due to lack of respect or support from their supervisor.
•  12% of employees left for higher compensation.
•  10% left because they felt their job duties were unchallenging.
•  9% left as a result to their supervisors lack of leadership skills.
•  6% left for better work hours.
•  5% of employees left for unavoidable reasons (birth of child, family relocation, illness of family member, etc.).
•  4% left due to a lack of recognition.
•  4% left because of favoritism (to other employees) by supervisor.
•  3% of employees sought a new position as a result of a supervisors poor employee relations.
•  3% took a new opportunity due poor working conditions.
•  3% of employees left their position due to lack of training, or to find an opportunity that provided more training.
•  2% of job changers say they left due to “supervisors incompetence.”
•  2% of employees left an organization because they didn’t trust or support the senior leadership.
•  1% took a new position because they believed their supervisors lack of technical skills were impacting their success.
•  1% of departures were a result of discrimination.
•  1% left due to harassment.
•  1% sought better benefits.
•  1% became disgruntled and left due to co-workers attitudes.

This list is a very good representation of our industry. As recruiters, we talk to hundreds of disgruntled employees each week, and the reasons (and percentages) listed here are quite accurate. As you review this list, there is one glaring thing that should stand out to you — over 75% of employees leave because of a supervisor’s actions, or lack of engagement with that employee! Think about this. How many employee departures could have been prevented if the manager was engaged with the employee and could work through the concerns BEFORE they looked for a new opportunity?

It’s understandable that it’s often difficult to stay engaged with every employee when you have many reporting to you. However, there are some definite warning signs that should alert you to an employee feeling they have unmet expectations:
•  They ask fewer questions than they used to.
•  Sudden change in demeanor.
•  Avoid greeting you or making eye contact.
•  Stop participating in meetings or discussions.
•  They ask a lot of questions about a particular issue, and you have your doubts about their willingness to meet the expectation.
•  Increased absence.
•  Decrease in performance.

At The Ag Retail Level

The physical demands and drastic swings in workload and time commitment of the retail agronomy business can make employee retention a nearly insurmountable challenge. However, the key to preventing that turnover is to understand what truly motivates your employees and what you can do to keep them motivated. When you consider the gradual unfolding process of employee disengagement, and their desire to seek a new opportunity, there can be only one conclusion: The need for managers to initiate action to engage and re-engage employees is urgent, and is a daily opportunity.

Retaining Employees

In 2009, Ag1Source provided an article to CropLife detailing how companies could keep their best employees in challenging times. Here are the 10 major points to consider on that topic:
10) Compensation
9) Culture
8) Expansion of responsibility, Growth
7) Promotion
6) Training
5) Take me home
4) Personality Matches Job/Organizations
3) Personality Meshes with Supervisor
2) Leadership
1) Work-Life Balance

As you think across your current group of salespeople for example, they probably fall into three groups. Here are some situations and questions you can ask to show you are engaged with your team. We’ll group these questions along their stage of development within the business.

First, the newbies that started with you in the last 24 months. Their needs from a supervisor fall into the coaching and teaching areas more often than not. Your engagement can keep them from leaving you by coaching them past the hard work of spring or wondering where they go from here once they figure out being a sales agronomist.

Second, your sales agronomists that have been with you for two to five years and have most things figured out. This group needs less coaching on product and services and more on share of wallet or territory expansion. You will probably have less contact with this group than the newbies, but one-on-one conversations about “where can you get your territory and how can I help” will allow them see your engagement and desire to keep them around.

Third, your top salespeople that have been around for a while still need that pat on the back, but as we talk with sales agronomists with big books of business, they usually want management to remove problems for them. This group doesn’t need much coaching or teaching, they simply want to know where the organization is going and what their role is to be. Ask them how you can remove obstacles to their performance or the company’s performance.

It’s easy as managers to fall back into command and control types of communication with our business. Spring can be tough on us all and barking orders can be all too easy. However, across our employee base, they all need to hear you are engaged throughout the year, not just looking for someone to march when commanded to do so. Engage all of your employees, but especially your best so you know their career goals and ambitions and you’ll keep them around for the long haul.

Waschek is a partner in Ag1Source, the largest agricultural recruiting and personnel solutions organization in North America.

Esfeld is a partner in Ag1Source, the largest agricultural recruiting and personnel solutions organization in North America.

Werner is a partner in Ag1Source, the largest agricultural recruiting and personnel solutions organization in North America.

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