A. Getting away from a failing company
B. For more total (including incentive and bonus) money
C. Lack of career growth and development, often blocked by a bad boss
D. More suited geography or better location
E. For a better fit with their skills – discovering and banking on their strengths

The correct answer is C, with a large body of evidence from management research going back to at least 1990 that suggests we’re very sure of this.

Money is not the major reason why employees decide to leave their employers unless their compensation is far less than what can be earned elsewhere. When they are paid within a range that meets or exceeds their minimum threshold, salary is not a main driver for people to seek other job opportunities. Everyone has a different threshold.

What typically drives employees to look elsewhere is getting away from a “bad” boss, especially one who is seen as blocking advancement and achievement and not listening or delegating effectively.

People also move on because they want opportunities to advance, learn, grow and be noticed when they do that.

What does a “bad” boss look like?

Several boss behaviors that motivate employees to leave include:

  • Lack of attention, recognition and feedback
  • Job demands that produce excessive or undesirable constraints on the individual, such as role ambiguity, conflict, and overload

How to foster employee career growth and development

Take a structured approach to employee growth and development. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of managers’ time or cost a lot of money because, ideally, career development should be driven by the employee, supported by the manager, and incorporated into daily work.

For example, meet employees individually to ask about their career aspirations. This should be done separately from a performance review. Ask them to brainstorm what skills, knowledge or experiences they need in order to achieve their career goals. Together, explore how the organization can support their development needs, first largely from job assignments, followed by mentoring and then formal training. Mutually agree upon a development plan. Review it quarterly or twice yearly.

How to provide sufficient attention, recognition and feedback

  1. Meet your direct reports individually (try once a week) to discuss priorities, tasks and how they’re doing overall
  2. Review progress regularly. Depending on the activity you’re monitoring, “regular” can mean daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually
  3. Notice when they’re struggling and provide support
  4. Notice when someone did something well and recognize them for it. For some people, a simple “Thank you, I noticed you did X. I know it was difficult so well done” is enough to send them over the moon and motivate them to go above and beyond. Others prefer public recognition in front of peers
  5. Give feedback promptly. Don’t wait days or weeks after an incident occurs
  6. Deliver feedback in a candid yet diplomatic manner so that you correct ineffective behavior while still maintaining positive working relationships
  7. Listen to employees’ opinions. When you implement their ideas it skyrockets employee engagement. When you don’t, explain why so that they feel understood and that their ideas were considered carefully

How to manage role ambiguity, conflict and overload

  1. Set clear roles, responsibilities, goals and objectives. This is less about having rigid job descriptions and more about clearly, proactively communicating so that team members know what tasks need to be done, by whom and why
  2. When conflicts arise between employees, address them in a prompt, fair manner and delegate effectively, ensuring the team is not. is not overloaded.

Challenges of small business owners

As a small business owner you may find it challenging to implement these practices because you’re wearing many different hats and may be overworked yourself.  However, remember that your team exists to help you build the business. When you invest time and energy in becoming a “good boss” – one that inspires others to go above and beyond to achieve outstanding performance – that is what enables you to take your business to the next level!

Bernice Lee is a multiple award-winning coach who helps business professionals around the world to be more happy, fulfilled and successful in their work. Before starting her own company in 2013 as a coach, corporate trainer and speaker, she worked as a human resources manager in General Mills and Fidelity Investments in the United States and Hong Kong. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Yale with a specialization in organizational behavior and a masters degree in human resources management from Cornell. Bernice splits her time between Hong Kong and Canada. www.coachbernice.com