Financial Data
Updated 29 Feb 2020

7 Realistic reasons why your best employees are leaving the company

Companies that lose good employees experience direct and indirect cost implications. Remember, in our digitalised and fast-paced world, it is still ‘people’ on which success is built. 

Dennis Armstrong, 26 October 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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Business owners that are losing staff on a regular basis don’t often realise the cost implications of replacing high-performing individuals – not only in terms of hard costs for advertising and/or recruitment agencies, but also in terms of onboarding and training, contacts and relationships. 

It is important to remember that you are in the ‘people’ business, for both your staff and customers. People buy from people and your employees are your biggest asset; from sales to production. Arguably, half of the deals closed are based on your people being liked, and creating a great value proposition for your customers. 

If your salespeople, for instance, are not inspired and have a bad day, they won’t sell - so keeping them motivated is vital to the success of your business.

Related: The true impact of disengaged employees

How’s your employee engagement?

The adage that ‘people leave managers, not companies’ is strongly reflected in the 2015 State of Employee Engagement in South Africa survey. With a near 50/50 audience split between management and staff, the report highlights interesting comparisons between those at the helm, and those rowing the boat, so to speak. These contrasts included:

  • 35% of regular staff felt their direct superiors led by exampleand communicated well, as opposed to 77% of executives who felt channels of communication were good.
  • 70% of regular staff had doubts regarding the accuracy of information shared with them, as opposed to 20% of executives.
  • 45% of staff indicated they did not have the tools to do their jobs effectivelywhile only 14% of executives shared that opinion.
  • 42% of staff reported a general disinterest in their jobs, unsure of where their focus should be.By contrast only 11% of executives felt the same level of disengagement.

Imagine 4.2 out of every 10 staff members in your company not being productive, not being innovative, not embracing change when required and contributing to team performance. Imagine how that impacts your bottom line. Now ask yourself if it could all, largely, be of your own doing?

Collaboration, communication, culture

Why -do -employees -leave -a -company

The breakdown in the relationship between company management and staff can often be attributed to poor communication and a shortage of quality leaders in the group. A strong management team is one that offers the right blend of skills, experience, personalities and connections. 

In my business, we run a strengths-based program across our sales and production teams to ensure we have the best characteristics for a specific job down pat, and then we alter the team dynamic accordingly. The reality is that leaders need to be good communicators, fair in their dealings and strong in their ability to get the most out of the collective they are managing. 

From CEO to secretary, everyone in your organisation needs to understand where your company is heading, what their respective roles and responsibilities are, and how their contribution impacts the business. Collaboration needs to be encouraged, opinions needto be shared – even if controversial and against accepted norm – in fact, especially so, as‘your way’may not be‘the best way’.

A culture of innovation and performance, based on strong team values, can only be built if management and staff are on the same page, pulling in the same direction, living by actions, not just words.

Related: Key metrics business owners should monitor

If you are struggling to keep talented staff, chances are that one (or more) of the following reasons have prompted their departure:


Clarity in career path and/or structure for advancement is a key ingredient in keeping staff motivated and focused. People need to know they are moving forward, learning and growing. If they don’t find that path with you they will seek it elsewhere.


Of course, there are times when people have to suck it up and push through for the good of the business. However, making a habit of loading more and more work on the same people is bound to lead to (costly) mistakes. Continuing in that fashion leads to a downward spiral that can have only one conclusion – the employee will leave.

Vague visions

Having a vision is fine if you have your ‘Road to Eldorado’ mapped out in a set of strategic, and achievable, goals. Without that connection, that direction, you have nothing people can truly believe in.

Profits vs People

Far from being an airy-fairy, touchy-feely affair, without good people, you will not realise the profits you could be generating. Without good people you will have a culture of underperformance – a disengaged labour force that ‘just gets by’. 

“Helping people to reach their highest potential and purpose, naturally, has a positive impact on the bottom line of business. Companies that focus on people over the bottom line will be profitable in more ways than one.” – Richard Branson

Lack of recognition

No one is saying break the budget and dish out massive bonuses (if you cannot afford it), but there are simple ways to reward and encourage even greater performance.

Personally I know how tough it can be to look back and congratulate staff on what we have achieved, when so much focus is on the future and where we should be going - but it’s something I work on very hard and I encourage you to do the same.

Lack of trust

How management behaves sets the tone for staff. If your dealings do not reflect the highest standards, and do not speak to your values, you can expect two things to happen:

  1. The best staff will leave
  2. The worst will stay and follow your lead.

Rigid hierarchy

This boils down to collaboration, communication, valuing inputs and opinions throughout the organisation and individual teams. Of course every organisation needs structure and, in the end, the buck stops with leadership team – however staff must be empowered to make decisions; that’s why you hired them in the first place, isn’t it?

  • In the above mentioned survey, 50% of non-managerial staff indicated that they were encouraged to share ideasand thinking with management.
  • Not surprisingly, only 29% indicated that their colleagues were quick to adapt to change– often in the absence of their input being asked for – or valued.

Related: Three ways to coach – not criticise – employees

Walk the talk, and engage your staff

Nobody suggests that your place of work should resemble a day at the spa, but it can also not be a day in the desert, dragging tons of rock towards a half-built pyramid. You won’t get it right all of the time, but when you are balancing the work environment well, it’s a victory in its own right.

Remember that strong leaders are good at planning and delivering, communicating and relationship-building, innovating and decision making. Find people like that, lead people like that, and watch your business surprise both friends and foes.

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About the author

Dennis Armstrong

Dennis Armstrong is Group Executive at incuBeta and Managing Director of several companies in the online marketing space, including the recently launched NMP (SA) – a full service digital agency borne from the marriage between three specialist solutions companies, each bringing expertise in specific fields of digital marketing and technology. Dennis’s expertise include Marketing and Business development. He manages over 200 staff and is directly involved in growing some of the biggest digital accounts in South Africa from search, to SEO and display. Dennis is hands-on and available to advise on all digital marketing requirements.

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