Six Reasons Your Best Employees Quit You


There’s a saying that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers – and today they are leaving more often than ever. According to recent Department of Labor statics, the average tenure of an employee in the U.S. is now only 1.5 years. What do these numbers mean? Are managers doing that bad of a job engaging and retaining their people. Is this churn and burn dynamic the new norm?

Wherever the macro trends are headed, the ability to engage and retain talented employees is a critical skill for managers. Here are six reasons good employees quit you and how to keep them – none of which involves throwing a pile of money around:

1) No Vision

Most employees don’t get out of bed each morning trying to hit a profit number. In the majority of companies there are only a handful of people that truly care about it or, in some cases, even understand exactly what it means to hit that number. As a manager, don’t confuse your financial objectives with vision. Vision feeds financials and not the other way around.

For example, Walt Disney was the master of painting a compelling vision of the future. He dreamed up Disneyland while his two young daughters were riding the carousel at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Sitting on a park bench with other parents, he envisioned a place where both children and adults could play together. Today, Walt Disney’s vision is worth $128 billion and is his company is the largest media conglomerate in the world. Successful managers sell their employees on a vision of the future.

2) No Connection To The Big Picture

Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement survey asks the following question: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” Their extensive research shows that there is a direct correlation between how employees rate that one question and employee retention, customer metrics, productivity, and profitability. Gallup concludes that “The best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose, help them feel they belong, and enable them to make a difference.”

One example of this dynamic is Google. While almost no one understands exactly how Google’s search engine works, its mission is clear: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It is a simple, actionable, and meaningful connection to the huge company. Successful companies and managers understand that business strategies may change, but a mission does not.

3) No Empathy

No one joining the workforce today expects to get a gold Rolex after 50 years with the same company. Employers let hundreds and thousands of people go each year while employees are just as likely to leave companies for other opportunities. Generally speaking, there is very little loyalty on either side. But there is an almost ridiculously simple and inexpensive solution for that problem: Take the time to listen to your people.

This is not just talk therapy – they should leave the conversation believing that you will take whatever action may be helpful and possible or at least logically explain why nothing can be done. But by leaving your door open to employee concerns and suggestions, leaders encourage them to feel that they have a stake in an organization that considers them important and cares enough to listen.

4) No (Effective) Motivation

In the 1990s, I spent several years working as a producer and director of Off Broadway productions. This wasn’t particularly lucrative work and I had to take on waiter jobs to pay my rent. But for theater aficionados like me, waiting tables was just a side job to enable me to do what I loved. In what I considered my “real work,” the rewards frequently consisted of internal gratification or audience applause. I certainly wouldn’t have turned down a big payday, but I could walk away from a poorly paid performance satisfied that I had done good work.

On the other hand, as a waiter I measured my success in cash, by the tips I had made. I rarely ended a poorly paid shift simply happy to have provided really good service. What’s more, because my job as a waiter offered nothing more than an opportunity to walk away with cash in hand, my connection to my employer was also monetized – a surprisingly weak connection.

In his 2009 book Drive, author Daniel Pink examined decades of social experiments that described the phenomenon that I had experienced in terms of “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” motivators. The “extrinsic” motivators consist of traditional carrot and stick rewards such as cash bonuses or punishment – the reward environment in which waiters work.

The “intrinsic” motivators are internal desires to do good work or create a successful product – the goal of many people working in the theatre. Pink’s argument is that, in the modern workplace, the “extrinsic” system of rewards is often a less effective motivator, but one on which too many managers still rely. In fact, there is no greater myth in managing a team or company than believing financial compensation is a sufficient incentive to engage and retain top talent and drive high performance.

5) No Future

In her Forbes article “What Employers Need To Know About The Class of 2012,” Jacquelyn Smith cites a recent study that shows that the majority of graduating students are looking for career advancement over anything else. This is certainly not a new concept, but a big disconnect from today’s burn and churn, transient employment market.

Creating career paths that are well communicated and understood by employees is not something most companies do well. Even in the best-case scenario where managers are holding regular performance reviews with their employee, employees often don’t understand how to move either horizontally or vertically in an organization. Of course, not every employee is going to end up as the CEO. Likewise, a person who is brilliant at product design won’t necessarily succeed in sales. But, for any employee that is worth retaining, a manager must make clear to them how and where they can move forward on their career path.

6) No Fun

For many employees, instant gratification is the new norm. The evolution of film, television, the internet, social media, and handheld devices means that everything is on demand all the time and wherever we may be. As a result, putting in eight straight hours of work at the same desk is less and less attractive to many employees. But this doesn’t mean the work force is lazier, it’s because defining work in such a traditional manner doesn’t make sense to employees in today’s constantly interconnected and fast-paced world.

For businesses, this means that attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent depends on reinventing their work environments, blurring the line between work and play. Companies must embrace a culture of increased autonomy and innovation, and engage employees around a powerful mission and purpose.

In 2003, Best Buy’s H.R. leaders began piloting a new approach to this engagement problem. Slowly, department-by-department, they rolled out a program called ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) that relied on increased employee engagement by reducing work to a baseline: productivity. That was it!

Employees were released from a world of mandatory meetings, nine-to-five schedules, and long commutes. It was a radical departure and the results were emphatically positive, engagement rose, causing a spike in performance. The pilot continued until it was adopted throughout the entire Best Buy headquarters operation. In 2006 the company was included on Fortune’s list of America’s Most Admired Companies.

Of course, ROWE was designed to relieve the tedium of office work and there are serious limitations to this specific program. It is hard to imagine how a schedule-free, post-geographic work environment could be successful for a restaurant or a roofing company. And, sure enough, Best Buy was unable to roll out a version of ROWE to help combat the company’s 67% turnover rate at their retail stores. But the biggest lessons of ROWE’s measurable success – thinking about work as fun and flexible – can still be applied to any size and type of business, creating more productive work environments at every level.

– by Louis Efron

Originally at



Thu 30 Jan 14


The Right Way to Answer “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?”


Thomas Jefferson once said that “honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”. Though truth-telling abounds in grade school platitudes, it seems scarcer the older we get. But this decline in honesty — let’s call it dishonesty — isn’t necessarily innate. Dishonesty can be taught. In my experience, I’ve noticed that, of all culprits, college career centers are exceptional traffickers of such miseducation. In the process, they’re hurting their brightest students’
chances of making it in the world of startups by convincing them to give dishonest answers to tough interview questions.

Full disclosure: I work at a startup, and it’s my job to quickly build a team of the right people. Throughout my earlier career in larger companies, honesty and being self-critical have always been obvious qualities to look for in candidates, but it wasn’t until I joined Medallia that I realized their special significance for startups.
Brandon Ballinger’s now famous blog post about his experience with Y Combinator’s Paul Graham shows why. To cut a long story short, Graham told Ballinger (to his face) that his startup idea sucked — a tough-love approach Ballinger now extols. Why? Well, in a startup, it’s much more comfortable to be a “team player” than “the bad
guy,” as Ballinger describes it. The real hard work in a startup, however, is being able to openly admit that the current strategy is just not working — no matter how uncomfortable it is, or how much has been
invested in getting to that point.

In other words: one of the biggest dangers for a young company is that a roomful of smart people who aren’t being honest could easily be steering their rocket ship into the ground.

And yet college career centers continue to operate in a 20th century world in which top talent was funneled into careers in mature, staid organizations and industries. These are cultures where people are much more likely to divulge their net worth than a weakness. While a mature organization might have once been able to get by with a “don’t stick your neck out” culture, that attitude is simply lethal to startups.

Nonetheless, the importance of this simple truth seems to still be elusive for the Office of Career Services at many of the nation’s top colleges and universities. Besides guidance on basic items like resumes, cover letters, how to dress, and how to eat, many of these schools are providing either no advice or bad advice on how to adequately answer important questions. Take a very common question that I always like to ask, for example:

What is your greatest weakness?

Even if you’ve only had just one professional interview in your life, then you’ve probably still been asked some version of this question. Do you remember how you answered? Did you say that you work too hard? That you have perfectionist tendencies? Or that you’re too passionate? Be honest.

The truth of that matter is that a quick search of career center websites indicates that students are being encouraged to apply this type of spin to their answers. Even for those that advocating for honesty, there’s often still the contradiction that one’s answers must always be positive. The result of which? Answers that focus on lesser skills (but still skills) rather than actual problems or challenges. One school goes as far as to call it an “angelic weakness.”
And if you’re pressed to give a real answer about a flaw, nearly every career center in the universe has apparently decided that “public speaking” is an appropriate response.

Others are more direct at giving the advice that everyone seems familiar with — to make weaknesses into strengths (and vice versa). Northwestern tells grad students, “Turn a negative into a positive.” Boston College advises students to “Turn your weakness into a positive (for example) ‘Because I tend to procrastinate, I have learned to work well under pressure in order to always get work done on time.’”

This is terrible advice. Responses like these tell me little about how a candidate faces challenges and immediately implies a lack of sincerity. It doesn’t demonstrate to me how they think — beyond their ability to creatively avoid being honest or self-critical. It indicates to me that they’re not willing to stand up and say what’s not working —
the opposite of what a startup needs. That’s why my recent interviews with college graduates have all started to follow the same pattern. I start with two sentences: “Forget what your career center has taught you about interviews. I want to have a real conversation with real answers, and I promise to do the same.” The candidates take a minute to evaluate whether I’m somehow tricking them. If they lean into their discomfort and take me at my word, the level of conversation improves dramatically — we have a great time getting to know one another in an authentic way. I’m not really looking to find out whether their organizational skills could use improvement, or that they struggle with presenting to large groups or even leading large teams. I’m trying to find out whether they have self-awareness; whether they are able to be critical; and most importantly, whether they’re able to tell the truth — when it’s

For those candidates who don’t buy in, however, I spend the majority of the interview trying to pry off their layers of canned responses. I leave the interview wondering: Who are you? And what’s worse — I’ll never know. Because they’ll never get the job.

– by David Reese

Originally at



Thu 16 Jan 14

11 Ways To Become an Early Riser Like Most Successful People Do

So you’ve noticed all of those happy and productive early risers who always seem to be on top of things. You probably hate them a little–they’re just so damn productive! But a small part of you has probably wondered, lying in bed at 11 a.m., how they do it. Maybe you’ve even thought you’d feel more energized if you could just manage to get up without feeling like crap. Here are a few tips of the trade on how to become an early riser and feel good while doing it.

1. Go to Bed Earlier

Probably the biggest detractor from getting up early is not getting enough sleep. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you don’t go to bed so late, you won’t need to sleep late either. Do you really need to be staying up until midnight or later, particularly on a work night? I’m willing to bet that you’re not actually doing anything productive or beneficial. The TV shows and social media can wait; stop wasting your time. You’ll be surprised by how great you feel once you get into an early sleep routine.

2. Have a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Your body thrives on routine. That’s why you get hungry at certain times–your body has been trained to expect it! Establishing a proper sleeping schedule is no different. Furthermore, having a routine will make it easier to get up early. The bad news is that you should start getting up at the same time everyday, including weekends. I know this may be a struggle, but if you don’t do this, your body will be constantly confused about when it should wake up, and getting up early will be all the more difficult.

3. Never Eat Before Bed

I know that a quick pre-bed snack can be tempting, but this is an incredibly bad idea if you want to wake up earlier and feel rested at the same time. Sleep is a time for your body to rest, repair and recharge. It is not a time for digestion. This is because it takes up far too much energy, which can make falling asleep more difficult. If you do manage to visit the land of nod, food digestion will rob you of the strength you’re supposed to be regaining. Even if you do get a full eight hours of sleep, you’ll wake up feeling tired and drained. You certainly won’t feel like getting up early. In short: put the cookie down.

4. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

This may be an obvious one, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Less caffeine means that you won’t still be riding its high at 11:30 p.m. I would start by eliminating any kind of caffeinated beverage in the afternoons. I know that this can make life difficult when the mid afternoon sets in, but you need to resist the urge! If you’ve started going to bed earlier you hopefully won’t get these kind of tired attacks anymore anyway. If you really feel like you need some kind of ‘pick me up’ try an energizing snack instead.

5. Never Drink Before Bed

A cheeky little sip before bed may seem like a good idea, particularly if you haven’t yet cut out that afternoon coffee. Despite what people say, drinking alcohol before bed will not help you sleep well, even if it does make you pass out. What it will do, however, is increase your deep sleep cycle and rob you of REM sleep. Because you this, you will feel tired when your alarm clock goes off and be all the more tempted to hit the ‘snooze’ button. As a side note, REM sleep is also needed for proper learning and memory function, so you definitely want to get enough of it.

6. Have a Good Reason to Get Up Early

Getting up early requires motivation, at least initially. Give yourself a good reason to do it. This could be anything from getting tasks done to having something to look forward to. I personally recommend a combination of both. Get up because you need to get stuff done, but make sure you also give yourself a little motivational rewards, whether it be allotted time for a TV show, or a nice brisk walk.

7. Turn Your Reason into a Challenge

Now that you have a reason to be up, make it a challenge! Don’t let yourself fall into a rut or break the routine. Tell yourself that you can and will get up early to complete these tasks and that you’re capable of turning this into a habit. The only person that can truly hold you back is yourself. For those of you with a competitive streak, try using Wake N Shake. It’s an app that makes you and your friends compete and earn achievements for getting your butts out of bed and doing stuff.

8. Start Working Out

Exercise is a fantastic tool for waking up early, firstly because a good workout in the afternoon or evening will leave your body rested and in need of an early sleep. Secondly, working out early in the morning will make you feel energized and ready to conquer the rest of the day. These two ideas may seem to negate each other, but I can assure you that they’ll work in both circumstances.

9. Make Sure Your Alarm Clock is Out of Reach

The oldest trick in the book is sometimes the most effective. Force yourself to get out of bed by putting that pesky alarm clock out across the other side of the room. For added incentive, I recommend downloading a humiliation app such as BetterMe that will post on your Facebook wall that you were ‘too weak to get out of bed’ if you hit snooze. Not embarrassing enough? Go for Aherk. This app will post embarrassing photos of you to all of your social media accounts if you don’t reach your goals. Sure, self blackmail may seem easy enough to dodge, but once you have it set up you can’t get out of it.

10. Go to Bed Calm and Relaxed

Going to bed wound up and stressed will only serve to keep you awake, regardless of how tired you are. Try to go to bed calm and relaxed. If you need a little help in this area, I would recommend yoga, meditation or even a simple relaxing tea such as chamomile.

11. Have an Exciting Breakfast Planned

When all else fails, food is the answer. Seriously, I’m far more motivated to get my tired ass out of bed if I know I have something delicious to eat for breakfast. Now, just because I say ‘delicious’ and ‘exciting’ doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. Personally, I can get excited over a smoothie and juice made from fresh fruit, but then I’m a freak who has her own blueberry bushes. If drinking your breakfast isn’t your style, a simple bacon and eggs or some crunchy muesli can do the trick. Just make sure it’s something that you’ll look forward to, that way you’ll be more likely to get up for it.

– by Tegan Jones

Originally at



Thu 16 Jan 14