HR Management··5 min read

3 Common Reasons That Top Performer Employees Quit

Reasons That Top Performer Employees Quit

Much to the dismay of every business owner, even top performer employees are migrating with the herd. Recently, BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) has put out the latest report regarding turnover rates, and few are surprised. By the end of the summer, job openings increased to 10 million, according to the report. That’s a 2.7 increase, while layoffs remained the same, but hires rose to 6.7 million.

Problems have existed with employee satisfaction for years. A 2013 Gallup poll reported that “only 30 percent of employees were involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their workplace.”

The implication is that there is a disconnect between the workers and managers, as it seems workers are migrating to other positions. So why are top performers heading elsewhere despite their salary raises? If the root cause doesn’t point to material gain, maybe the problem goes deeper.

Why Top Performer Employees Quit

Linkedin writer, Kaustav Chakravarthy, believes that though there may be appreciation and some form of gratitude in the form of a small gift, people want to know that their work is fulfilling and that their goals are well defined. They also cite that high-performing employees need high-performing managers. Managers should offer what they recognize from sources as a theory of motivation: autonomy, mastery, or a sense of purpose.

Autonomy is an interesting one. It is the ability to self-manage without someone constantly micromanaging. When one is being micromanaged, this system of accountability implies that there is no trust between employees to handle job tasks. This can create tension in the workplace and understandably increases apathy.

The freedom employees have to perform their job duties - self-management - has increased drastically over the past two years. It isn’t a novel idea, especially with the rise of opportunities to work online in the past decade. Autonomy is displayed differently depending on the company: some give autonomy over when to do their jobs, and some give autonomy over how.

Mastery involves the pursuit of passion. There has always been a debate to work for passion or money. What happens when you’re a top performer and have reached a place where you’re financially stable? People want time to develop personal hobbies, especially if their job involve repetitive tasks with no real meaning. High performers burnout and lose motivation quickly.

Sadly, people take on jobs (many that take a sizeable chunk of time out of your life) where work life is the only kind of life. This is exacerbated in cultures where hard work is praised over self-care, as well as low-income populations. A lack of improvement without the bribery of money leads to boredom and an unchallenged psyche.

Which leads to purpose. Purpose makes up a large sect of what makes life worth living. It is the foundation of one’s drive, which pushes people to go beyond what is expected of them. When there is genuine interest in the field of work, it’s easier to take on challenges, as well. An employee that feels as though they are a part of something bigger is likely to feel that they matter.

Identifying Top Performer Employees

Common top performer characteristics will reflect in those employees who enjoy either newfound autonomy, unrestricted mastery, or a regained sense of purpose. They are, according to Entrepreneur:

Notice that these are great characteristics that can be gained from this theory of motivation, specifically autonomy. Any manager can begin building on these aspects with new employees. As a result, there are more top performers at work ready to contribute. And when there is a better work ethic, more employees can manifest top performer skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and decision making.

Managing Top Performers

So where would one begin? Autonomy can begin with including being included in decision-making. Of course, these boundaries are set by managers. Within those parameters, the employee chooses how autonomous they can be. It doesn’t necessarily mean working without peers in isolation. In fact, a system of accountability is necessary. Undoubtedly, much leadership is involved in this process.

Some fields are shown to benefit greatly from autonomy. In the nursing field, autonomy brings non-traditional methods of medical care to the public by allowing nurses more autonomy with the expansion of telehealth.

The point is that some give is necessary for higher production and an overall happier and more committed employee. Of course, not everyone will adjust, which is why communication is stressed; but who better to experiment with than top performer employees? Trust is crucial, especially for a business unfamiliar with the benefits of autonomy. Lastly, investment. What resources will it take to reach our bottom line?

Mastery, as well, takes cooperation on your part as much as the employee. First, if mastery is the desire for growth (I.e. academic, creative), how can I harness and apply that? For starters, leading by example is a great way to begin. It is also an honest way to lead; projecting that “we are all striving to be our very best” is ideal because it is true.

No one has fully arrived, despite being at the very top. There is always room to learn from peers, take classes, improve that skill, or just seek advice on a wiser way to work on tasks.

Now, is it possible to instill a sense of purpose in your subordinates? Unlikely, but if there is any aspect to their job that relates to community service, saving the environment, that point must be emphasized. Goals that are aligned with a higher purpose are motivated to work in solidarity with others to give back.

Truly, this will not be easy. Harvard Business Law notes that “most leaders agree that employees do not “get” their organizations’ purpose. This is because purpose is personal and emotional.”

You can see this displayed in hospitals, non-profits, or even gyms. Having that close interaction with customers elicits an emotional response and brings workers closer to a sense of satisfaction. This is because the payoff is immediate. Success, on the other hand, is never immediate, only gradual.

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