When I look back in time, I have resigned three times in my career so far. Each time was for a different reason and I don’t know whether right or wrong, but none was for an increment. In fact, I took a salary cut in one case. We are people with different priorities and take our decisions accordingly.
My own career path is one reason I don’t completely buy the argument that people leave just for salary. They might do that if the present salary is nowhere close to market average but otherwise I have my doubts. The other reason is human beings like status quo. Change doesn’t come very naturally to us. There have to be strong reasons for someone to venture into the unknown, even for switching jobs.
Resignations, especially the critical ones or of old hands, are a blow to small and medium organisations. In an ideal world, organisations would like to have the flexibility to hire and fire, and have zero employee initiated resignations. After all, there are costs to manage and each unwanted resignation brings interruptions in the smooth operations. More often than not, it is more than just an interruption because people are not readily available to fill in the vacant shoes.
However, we live in a real world with people who have aspirations. You can’t avoid resignations. So let’s look at the 3 most common reasons that force an employee to resign, and see how best we can manage them.
1. Career growth
There are two aspects in career growth. One is the usual growth in terms of scale. For instance, are the responsibilities of the employee increasing? This largely depends on whether your organisation is growing. If the responsibilities will largely remain the same for next 2-3 years, it increases the probability of a capable and ambitious employee to quit.
With no clear growth trajectory, people get worried about their career. This worry is largely fuelled by future employability than the present circumstances. That prompted me to leave my first job and do an MBA. The work that you assign to your employee should ensure his future employability according to his potential and aspirations.
The other aspect of career growth is gaining new experiences. While working, sometimes employees come face-to-face with work which is different from what they are currently doing, and find it interesting. Sometimes monotonous work leads to boredom, so people want change. At other times, the quest for purpose may make the present job meaningless. Whatever may be the case, this aspect of career growth is self-induced. The only thing an organisation can do here is be flexible. Be open to role changes, lateral movements, give freedom to try out other things which the organisation doesn’t do presently. This not only engages the employees but may also provide new avenues to the organisation to grow.
2. Work environment
If we want the employees to stick with us, least we can do is ensure that we ourselves don’t become the ones that push them over the fence. Factors like organisational culture, boss, work pressure, colleagues; together form the work environment. When making new hires, check for this fitment, especially the often ignored organisation culture to ensure that the employee stays. You as the employer have an edge here with the knowledge and control to assess fitment.
I still remember when one of my friends from US was visiting India. As a prank or now we could call social experiment, he called each of us from an Indian number and posed as a head-hunter. I was the only one who was not interested in finding out more details about the new job. I was the odd one out among my friends because when I left my second job I ensured an alignment of mutual expectations. There was a strong alignment with the purpose of the organisation and the way things were done there. Yet I left even this job after a couple of years. And this time it was because of my personal aspirations. My then boss, also the founder of the organisation, is a good friend and continues to guide me.
The important question to ask yourself is do you have the right environment that will attract the people you want in your organisation? It might not be the one that you want but you would have to create this environment and retain it. And this effort would be meaningless if you don’t stubbornly ensure fitment of the prospective employee with your organisation.
3. Personal choices
Apart from the professional reasons, employees have a long list of personal compulsions as well. Location, money, and working hours are the most common ones. If the solution to counter these choices rests with you, then act on them before you are forced to.
Just last month, I took another sim for my data usage. For a very long time I had been paying Rs 250 per month for 1 GB of data. Eventually after months of a better alternative being available, I took it and stopped data on my previous sim. Next day I get a sms saying avail the new offer of Rs 150 per month for 2 GB of data. Wasn’t I right in feeling cheated? I am sure they didn’t convene a high level meeting to get me back as their customer for data and hence offered me this revised package? This option was always there but was not given to me… What do you suggest – should I go back and accept this changed plan?
If your answer is no, please think why should your employee stay back when you make that counter offer on his resignation? Even if the employee accepts due to other reasons, most probably to avoid change, would this employee not feel cheated? Will the loyalty or dedication be same as before? So be proactive and don’t wait for that resignation.
All of my resignations came about due to my personal journey. I doubt my employers could have single-handedly stopped them. But I am sure they saw it coming and my exits have been smooth. Don’t make it difficult for the person leaving. It’s a small world – this person might want to come back after a few years, or help you in different other ways. I have seen that happening.
On the other hand, effect of resignation on the organisation is as real as the resignations themselves. The only long-term solution is to take succession planning very seriously to ensure minimal disruption when this certainty does happen.
If you are facing unwanted attrition in your organisation, maybe it is time you reached out to experts. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Madhukar Kumar is a leadership coach and believes in the philosophy of “Know Thyself”. His non-judgemental listening coupled with thought-provoking questioning has helped his clients to uncover authentic leadership. Academically, he holds an engineering degree from NIT Surathkal and an MBA from IIM Calcutta.