3 Reasons Why Your Top Talent Is Leaving and What You Can Do About It

strong company culture

Retaining top talent is always difficult. Suitable pay and benefits are just table stakes. Companies need to think clearly about what keeps employees engaged and excited to stay. Today, there is still considerable confusion about why top employees even leave their jobs.

An article written by Leigh Branham (talent management consultant) points out the disconnect between the reasons managers believe employees leave and the real reasons — “One study found that 89 percent of managers believe that most employees are pulled away by better pay. Yet Saratoga’s data reveals that, in 88 percent of voluntary turnovers, something besides money is the root cause.”

Building and sustaining a strong company culture around purpose and individual impact, transparent communication and connectedness and collaboration is more important than ever. This is especially true for the ever increasing number of Millennials in the knowledge economy but this is by no means limited to a single demographic cohort.

What does it mean to have a strong company culture? HR & talent management technology reviewer, Software Advice’s recent survey uncovered various definitions of company culture and what top talent expects from their employers. For instance, 30% of respondents would be most likely to apply at a company that values honesty and transparency; and surprisingly only 11% said that a “fun” office environment would convince them to apply.

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What you do to attract and keep the best makes your work culture the kind of environment that is desirable for everyone. Let’s hone in on some of the reasons top talent may be looking to leave your company!

1. Transparency

As previously mentioned, one-third of the survey respondents declared they value honesty and transparency in an employer.

Transparency is important at various levels. For people at work, the first imperative is that they are clear about their own goals and priorities and understand how their works fits with their team and organization’s objectives. The increasing adoption of the Google-popularized methodology of OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) is addressing this important concern. The more uncertain people are about the purpose and impact of their work, the more people resent having to spin their wheels. There are several good software tools available to help teams create transparency on goals and help everyone in the team contribute to and see the progress on goals.  This is a very healthy trend (popularized by Google).

But transparency is also important to people at an organizational level. Even if I am an individual contributor I care about what the leadership is thinking, how the company is growing, the challenges it faces and how I fit into the overall picture. The more open the company is in communicating with its employees, the more people will be invested in its future to ensure its success and help meet challenges. We all have a need to be heard and be part of a dialogue to make things better. More and more companies are communicating with employees and letting them voice opinions more openly through enterprise social networks like Yammer and Chatter.

“If companies are seeking to attract candidates using their company culture as their primary recruiting hook, letting it be known that your company is home to an honest and transparent culture might just be the most effective way to build your employer brand,” said Erin Osterhaus, HR researcher at Software Advice.

2. Collaboration

Most people prefer to work in collaborative environments. Paradoxically, even as we crave connectedness, camaraderie and support, we also desire autonomy and control.  This contradictory aspect of work is extremely critical to understand and harness.

A work culture must encourage collaboration, as research suggests that we perform better and feel less anxiety in collaborative work cultures. However, rigid processes and wasteful team meetings intended to enhance collaboration can constrain personal preferences and reduce a sense of control. They are often deeply resented, so it is important to strike the right balance.

The best collaboration tools help people in teams engage with each other to accomplish priorities more effectively and support colleagues. They don’t impose an overly rigid work structure that hinders the core purpose of communication and collaboration. This is another reason for the popularity of OKRs in growing organziations.

3. Recognition & Feedback

Most high performance people work hard and aspire to excellence. A culture that respects and celebrates individual and collective success empowers people and increases their desire to excel and make an impact.

Feedback is often talked about and its virtues praised. But a great culture makes frequent feedback a part of its DNA. Everyone hates surprises and no one wants to work in a thankless environment.

Praise and positive reinforcement, only when honest and specific, is important and should be done as soon as good work or behavior is observed. But it is just as important to give timely feedback if something did not go well. Do it immediately, do it in a positive manner and always suggest a specific action that will be helpful next time. Managers hate doing this and many do it poorly but this is not an optional managerial skill. The best people will respect a culture that gives deserved praise but sets high standards.


In a time when competition for talent is global, top performers will be seeking companies with a culture made up of values that reflect their own. This makes is vital for leadership to be proactive in building the best company culture they can to retain their top talent.

By making your mission clear and sticking to your values, you’ll attract and retain the right employees for your company.

 -Fawad Zakariya, Co-founder & CEO

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