Why People Really Quit Their Jobs

Retention has always been attached to the hip of Talent Acquisition… but loosely. I’ve always looked askance at recycled insights about retention that typically say nothing new but, this time I was pleasantly surprised at the solid learning, evidence-based approach and the possibility of something new that TA could actually use from the Harvard Business Review article: Why People Really Quit Their Jobs, authored by three FaceBook ‘People’ professionals (Lori Goler, Janelle Gale and Bynn Harrington) as well as an extremely visible and accomplished Wharton professor and author, Adam Grant.

Two reasons this article on retention is worth a read

The first is that Lars Schmidt (Amplify Learning Lab) and Jeremy Shapiro (Measuring Human Capital), two TA content consumers I enjoy following, both shared this HBR article., This caused me to pause and read it… twice. (Lars and Jeremy are both worth following and at the top of a long list of folks whose curation I enjoy.)

The second is much more nuanced. Adam Grant was listed as the 4th author behind three practitioners and anyone who reads academic journals, including HBR, knows that isn’t the way things are usually done and it must have been intentional. Cool move that piqued my curiosity.

Key takeaways

Hopefully, by now you’ve read the article for yourself. It’s not long. Read it again. Here are a couple of my takeaways:

  • “people don’t quit a boss — they quit a job. And who’s responsible for what that job is like? Managers.”
  • People who “eventually” stayed at Facebook “found their work enjoyable 31% more often, used their strengths 33% more often, and expressed 37% more confidence that they were gaining the skills and experiences they need to develop their careers.”

The authors went on to discuss the possibility of managers customizing job experiences to enhance job engagement (and retention). And, rather than close the barn door after the fact with exit interviews, they proposed the use of entry interviews to “accommodate personal priorities” that lead to improved retention. Inferred in all this, by the way, was research.

How Talent Acquisition can be involved in retention

Learning how much effort Facebook’s HR/People put into this caught my eye and suggested to me that TA’s role could easily be the tip of this spear and include:

  • Sitting down with a hiring manager as part of the intake interview when a position is approved.
  • In addition to determining what is needed for the position, a well-trained recruiter ought to be able to assess the manager and the team’s capacity to support/reward job design that incorporates a new hire’s needs.
  • Developing an entry survey as part of the offer/pre-boarding process (versus the exit survey) as a critical component of an improved OnBoarding program. Longer term, an exit interview could reflect on the entry interview to examine gaps more effectively.

Of course, critical input from TA Branding, Operations and Analytics as well as some silo collaboration with HR is seriously in order. Training for sourcers/recruiters and hiring managers is a must as is the need for incentives built into performance dashboards. And that is just to start if ‘attached to the hip’ has any hope of a correlation in improving retention (and for some that is a substitute for quality).

Still, the possibility of making better decisions by helping selected candidates consider the personal priorities of a job they are choosing in the context of their career and their career in the context of their life is a purpose worth striving for and brings us at least one more step closer to decision making that is two-way.


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