What made you leave your last job?

25. August 2021

By Stephan Breitfeld 

Part of my job as an executive search consultant is a good eye or 6th sense for who is (and who is not) ready to move on from their current job. Some of the observations I make there are also relevant to identify what you need to do to keep your most valuable employees on board. Because in the end, what makes them leave and come to you, might also make them leave you.

The usual suspects

It might not come as a surprise: a lot of the reasons are obvious and remain stable over time. People leave their jobs because they a) hate their boss and/or their colleagues, b) see no opportunities to get ahead and c) get a better offer. Also, timings show a certain pattern: work anniversaries, personal milestones (turning 40 or 50) or larger social gatherings like class reunions can prompt the need to assess the current job and to compare it to “what could have been”.

The early bird retains the worm

What can you do? It’s a good idea to get ahead of the development. When an employee hands in his/her resignation it’s usually too late. The mind is set on leaving and often there is a new contract already in the pocket. You need to catch the frustration before it becomes a decision. There is a lot of AI being used and a lot of snooping being done to detect the willingness of an employee to leave his/her job but apart from what you might think about that, you need to be regularly checking in with your employees.  

You need to sense when your employees start to get frustrated and make offers to change that. If they are unhappy with their missing opportunities, make them an offer to change jobs within your company. This is usually way cheaper than trying to match the offer from a competitor with a counteroffer. Detect the pattern of bad management when you see many people getting frustrated under the same supervisor/boss. Change that dynamic. Analyze what the triggers are and get them removed. Get ahead and stay agile.

The(ir) job

And then comes: the job. Apart from the standard factors horrible bosses and better pay/promotion, a big part in people changing job plays their actual job. Or more precisely: the nature of what they do every day. When their work doesn’t match their preferences or skills, when they “grow out of” their position, when the job doesn’t fulfill them anymore. Those more abstract factors are – I hate to break it to you – increasingly decisive, especially for younger talent. You need to design your jobs more around the people and less shove people into jobs. That way they will be more able to dive into their strengths, develop passion for what they do and find and create a career path for themselves that will keep them invested.


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