Why employees leave, and what to do about it


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Here we are in the final quarter of 2022 and what a year it’s proving to be. One of the most difficult, as an employer, that most of us can recall. With what is essentially a fully employed market and very little in the way of immigration to provide relief, the employment market is incredibly competitive. We are many thousands of staff short across most industries, and realistically there is no quick fix.

Many employers, after months of trying to fill roles, have now given up, closing parts of their business operations or reducing hours. There is no guaranteed formula for managing through this talent shortage, but retaining staff is key.

It’s a candidate led market and there are a lot of choices out there for candidates.

As recruiters we often hear employers complaining about their best employees leaving – and they really do have something to complain about. There are few things as costly and disruptive to the work environment as having good people leave your organisation, particularly in current times. Now is the time to invest in maintaining staff rather than training staff.

Exploring this further, there are ways to mitigate the loss of staff. Firstly, we need to understand some of the behaviours that see good people looking for new opportunities. So, here are some reasons people are leaving:

Overworking your staff

Good employees tend to give and give. That’s what makes them good and sets them apart from the others. However, nothing burns good employees out quite like a massive workload, huge targets and unrealistic expectations.

It can be counterproductive to the overall productivity of the business also. Research has shown that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more.

The other aspect to consider in burnout is loss of time with sickness etc as overworked staff are more likely to become sick and require days off work. Consider the work-life balance options that may be available in your business. For many employers working with reduced staffing numbers, burnout within workplaces is prevalent.

No recognition or reward

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. It’s up to managers to communicate with their teams to find out what motivates them; For some, it’s a monetary reward, for others, it’s public recognition.

Rewards don’t need to cost the business money. People enjoy feedback – they like to know how they are performing in the role, what they are doing well and what they are doing better. Keep the communication lines open.

There is a perception they ‘don’t care’ about their employees

There is a saying that ‘the people in your business are your biggest asset’. More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their superior.

Whilst it’s easy to blame staff turnover issues on a variety of reasons, managers often tend not to look deeper into the reason people leave. It is often said, “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”

Smart companies employ managers with high levels of emotional intelligence and make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human.
Not honouring commitments

When making promises to people, there is a fine line between making them very happy and watching them walk out the door. When you uphold a commitment, you grow in the eyes of your employees because you prove yourself to be trustworthy and honourable – two very important qualities in a leader. Walk the talk in your business.

Hiring and promoting the wrong people

Good, hard-working employees generally want to work with like-minded professionals. When hiring mistakes are made, it can be a major demotivator for those stuck working alongside them. Again, as the saying goes, “All the people in the waka must be paddling in the same direction …”

They don’t let people pursue their passions

Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction. But many managers want people to work within confined boundaries in a role. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is often unfounded.

Failure to develop people’s skills and creativity

The good people in your business are more likely than not wanting to continue their career development by learning and upskilling further. Talented people are generally quite goal orientated. Clear training and development, including a career progression pathway, will assist with keeping employees engaged in your business.

Failure to challenge people intellectually

Great employers challenge their employees to accomplish things that may seem inconceivable at first. Instead of setting mundane, incremental goals, they set lofty goals that push people out of their comfort zones. Then, good managers do everything in their power to help them succeed.


It’s long been known that people don’t leave roles solely due to wages – however with the increasing cost of living, inflation, and increasing interest rates, more and more employees are looking for new opportunities based on wages alone – why would you not if you could earn significantly more?

Some sectors are seeing salaries increasing by 20-30% and we are not seeing signs of this slowing at present. It’s an incredibly difficult situation for employers who are simply not able to offer more.

Bringing it all together

To conclude, keeping your best employees is about keeping them engaged with the business, the goals of the business and the brand. Recognition and reward for work well done, good remuneration and opportunities for work life balance are critical.

We are currently operating in a very competitive employment market and employees have more choices available than ever before.

An employer – employee relationship is a two-way partnership, and how you treat your people will be directly reflected in the staff turnover and bottom-line productivity of your business.

Related: How healthy is your workspace?

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Kellie Hamlett
Kellie Hamlett
Director, Recruitment & HR Specialist, Talent ID Recruitment Ltd. She can be contacted on kellie@talentid.co.nz or 027 227 7736. Talent ID are Recruitment Specialists and can support you through your recruitment process.

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