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This book is about the hidden, elusive motivations that cause capable employees

to start questioning their decision to join your company, start thinking

of leaving, eventually disengage, and finally, leave.

The true root causes of voluntary employee turnover are hiding in

plain sight. If we really think about it, we already know what they are:

lack of recognition (including low pay), unfulfilling jobs, limited career

advancement, poor management practices, untrustworthy leadership, and

dysfunctional work cultures.

So, in what way are these root causes hidden, and from whom? Surveys

tell us they are hidden from the very people who need to be most aware of

them—the line managers who are charged with engaging and keeping valued

employees in every organization. The vast majority of line managers,

in fact, believe that most employees leave because they are ‘‘pulled’’ away

by better offers. Of course most do leave for better offers, but it is simplistic

and superficial to accept ‘‘pull factors’’ as root causes.

What these managers fail to perceive is that ‘‘push factors,’’ mostly

within their own power, are the initial stimuli—the first causes—that open

the door to the ‘‘pull’’ of outside opportunities. The important question

that remains unasked in so many exit interviews is not ‘‘Why are you

leaving?’’ but ‘‘Why are you not staying?’’

Over the years, I have listened to hundreds of departing employees

emotionally describe the sources of their dissatisfaction with, and disengagement

from, their former employers. And, I have been intrigued by the

fact that so many managers see things so differently. Eventually, in an effort

to authoritatively document the root causes of voluntarily employee turnover,

I contacted the Saratoga Institute in Santa Clara, California, now a

division of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and considered by many to be the

world leader in third-party exit interviewing and employee commitment

surveying. Saratoga was founded in 1977 by Dr. Jac Fitz-enz, a pioneer

in human resource practices benchmarking and human capital return on

investment.

Saratoga Institute maintained a database of 19,700 exit and current employee

surveys it had conducted from 1999 through 2003, a five-year period

that started during a war for talent and ended during the buyer’s

market that followed. Saratoga’s survey data included companies in a wide

range of industries—financial, industrial medical, technology, manufacturing,

distribution, insurance, health care, telecommunications, transportation,

computer services, electronics, consumer products, consumer

services, business services, consulting, and ‘‘other services.’’

I was pleased that the Saratoga Institute was interested in the premise

of this book and willing to let me analyze the data and verbatim comments

from these surveys. The ‘‘seven hidden reasons’’ I identified through this

analysis are remarkably similar to the turnover causes I described in my

earlier book, Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business. When you read

about them, you will probably not be surprised to see any of them among

the top seven. The real surprise is that even when companies know what

the root causes are, they aren’t doing nearly as much as they could be doing

to eradicate them.

Too many companies are still relying on the tangible, easy-to-implement

solutions that revolve around pay, benefits, and trendy perks, when

we know the most powerful solutions revolve around the more challenging

intangibles, such as good management and a healthy corporate culture. This

book is ultimately more about solutions than it is about the reasons employees

disengage and leave. You will find in these pages 54 practices for engaging

workers and bonding them to your organization. You will find that

some of these practices fit your current needs and situation better than

others.

The good news is that you don’t have to implement all of the 54

engagement practices. All you have to do is implement the right ones—the

ones that will best engage and retain the employees you need most to

achieve your business objectives. So please feel free to skip from chapter to

chapter, picking and choosing among the practices that best fit the needs of

your company and your key talent.

I also invite you to visit the Web site of Keeping the People, Inc.—

www.keepingthepeople.com—and anonymously complete one or both of the

confidential surveys you will find there. Your response to these surveys will

serve to support my ongoing research into employee engagement and what

managers believe about the real causes of turnover.