When even satisfied employees quit

It is not always aggrieved or disgruntled employees who think of moving on. Even the satisfied ones often consider quitting

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Employee satisfaction has always been a key indicator of a healthy and productive workplace. It was also said that employees with high satisfaction level rarely quit.

However, this saying doesn’t hold true any longer. Satisfaction doesn’t guarantee long-term employee loyalty. Even satisfied employees may wish to leave for various reasons, and hence, talk of quitting despite everything appearing to be going well for them at the workplace.

While the reasons why satisfied employees may choose to leave an organisation could be professional or personal, Udbhav Ganjoo, head – HR, global operations, Viatris, points out, “The age, tenure and specialty of the employees, as well as the size and age of the organisation also play a role in such decisions”.

Growth opportunities

“The most common professional reason is the desire to explore better career-advancement possibilities,” feels Ganjoo. Employees may leave to pursue an opportunity that aligns better with their career goals and will accelerate their career growth.

Sometimes, employees also feel the urge to try out a different career path, but their organisation is unable to give them that opportunity. This may lead them to consider quitting. Some employees may even be keen to switch to an entirely different sector.

These days, even highly satisfied employees may decide to move on for better compensation or a new, sometimes more grand title.

“An environment of free and powerful communication is required, where employees feel free to talk about their aspirations and career opportunities.”

Tanaya Mishra, VP & head – HR, Endo International

“The new crop of ambitious employees today have their own goals to pursue. Some seek to pursue higher education, while others desire to launch their own startups. No company has control over such situations or urges.” According to him, sometimes, a bad mix of individual aspirations leads to even satisfied employees quitting.

Unavoidable circumstances 

There are also many personal reasons that may urge an employee to quit. These are sometimes controllable but sometimes not in the hands of the company.  “They may leave for personal reasons such as relocation, family commitments, or health issues,” observes Tanaya Mishra, VP & head – HR, Endo International. She recalls an experience where one of her employees wanted to shift to his hometown to take care of his family, and hence, had to leave. “We couldn’t stop him as we had no branch or office there, and therefore, had to let him go,” she recalls.

In other situations, an employee may be satisfied on other fronts, but may be intrigued by the dictatorial environment. Mishra says, “In family-owned businesses or companies, the environment can get slightly dictatorial at times, making it difficult for employees to stay on. In such environments, employees may wish to move to a company that aligns better with their values or has a culture that appeals to them.”

Impact on organisations

Negative image

If satisfied employees leave for better career-advancement opportunities, it indicates that their employer is unable to provide them with the right career path, or a competitive pay package, or opportunities to grow and develop. “This can be interpreted as an organisation’s incompetency to meet employees’ aspirations,” opines Ganjoo.

It also shows that the organisation is rigid and unable to provide the flexibility to satisfy an employee who was successful there.

Employees leaving for better work-life balance may also indicate that the organisation is not supportive of employees’ personal needs. Post the pandemic, people prefer to work in the hybrid mode and require flexibility. However, when companies fails to offer the same, it may indicate that they are not engaging with employees and not understanding their needs.

Talent gap 

When satisfied employees leave, “It creates a gap of talent within an organisation,” points out Mishra.

“For organisations that require some niche skills, especially in the IT and pharma sectors, it becomes challenging to find new talent quickly to replace those who have left. In the absence of such niche skills, the organisation may even collapse,” she observes.

Loss of critical knowledge

“Satisfied employees who have been with the company for a long time often have valuable institutional knowledge that is critical to the organisation’s operations,” observes Ganjoo. Losing them can lead to inefficiency, loss of effectiveness and a setback in the company’s progress.

 

“It’s important to ascertain the root cause that triggers such quitting. Unless the company acts on the pain points, this trend will never end.”

Udbhav Ganjoo, head – HR, global operations, Viatris

 

Damage to reputation

Losing satisfied employees can also damage the company’s reputation both internally and externally. After all, employees who leave will share their reasons for leaving with others, leading to negative word-of-mouth advertising. It also creates a negative impact on the morale of the remaining employees, as they may feel uncertain about their own future with the company, or may feel that their contributions are not valued.

How to stop satisfied employees from leaving

Losing satisfied employees can have a significant impact on the organisation, and it is important for companies to take steps to understand why they are leaving and address any underlying issues to improve employee retention and satisfaction.

“It’s important to ascertain the root cause that triggers such quitting,” adds Ganjoo. Unless the company acts on the pain points, this trend will never end.

Communication

“An environment of free and powerful communication is required, where employees feel free to talk about their aspirations and career opportunities,” says Mishra.

“It’s important to check whether the company is losing key talent – ones with all the niche skills – that is important for business growth,” opines Ganjoo.

In such situations, they can reach out to the existing employees and even the ones leaving for an open discussion. It is important to try to understand their reasons to leave and then take necessary corrective action.

Flexibility

“Companies can offer employees the flexibility to help fulfil their personal responsibilities,” says Mishra. An employee with grown-up kids may not require a lot of flexibility, but one with elderly parents or very small children may need flexibility to take care of them. Mishra suggests that companies can also offer such employees better medical facilities and insurance cover, she adds.

Empowerment

Lastly, an organisation must ensure that even satisfied employees are empowered, respected, and given growth opportunities. Satisfaction doesn’t necessarily mean that the employee is complacent. “Companies must access and act on the reasons that are controllable by them,” advises Ganjoo.

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