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Why Do Well-Paid Employees Quit?

August 30, 2023

Beyond the Paycheck, Speak to Why Work Matters. People, Purpose and Paycheck Can Align

Engaged volunteers who feel that their efforts matter — that they are changing and improving people’s lives — often contribute much more and stay involved far longer. I’ve been part of several outstanding third-party health groups during the past three decades, such as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Let’s Win for Pancreatic Cancer and Marfan Foundation. These organizations, worthy of attention and support, have served as unintended professional training models; they demonstrate how “bigger than one person” aspirational goals can positively influence how employees experience their workday.

These experiences — for-profit and not-for-profit workplaces— and interactions with colleagues have reinforced that “purpose” does not come from a singular place. Most gratification comes from interacting with people at all places of life’s journey and through thick and thin. But people vote with their feet when it comes to the workplace. Beyond the money, there is something more — people and purpose.

It’s All About People Before Profit — The Two Don’t Conflict — But Must Align

People matter — and they must know it! Beyond impacting productivity, the experience of belonging and being part of something greater influences people’s ability to navigate challenges and stay engaged when the going gets tough — and it almost always does.

Great employees are paid volunteers. Partners in the work should feel connected to the company by more than an employment agreement and dependable paycheck. Appreciation and information inspire. Yet, these are too often underrated — forgotten — compensation factors.

Understandably, successful companies are judged through economic filters acceptable to owners and shareholders. Guess what? More than good economics is needed to sustain employee perseverance and performance. Successful start-ups often operate in the red until they turn the corner and (hopefully) become priceless “unicorns.” Mission, values, and culture elevate people — make them want to show up each morning and are as important as pocketbook economics when developing high-performing, productive cultures.

Naïve thinking for business leaders? Not at all. How many of the best employees announce their departures suddenly because of poor interpersonal relationships, insufficient appreciation, or the feeling that their leaders do not “walk the walk” on company values? On the other hand, engaged employees feel safe and will speak up when considering a new job offer or when something that touches their hearts is bothering them. Company leaders and their employee community must recognize that values and company social impact — purpose — are inseparable. Both are key to creating a workplace culture that ensures motivation and high performance.

Here are my “musts” in building high-performing cultures that transform workplace stress into power performance:

  • Remember, people want to contribute and have fun. Work is not a burden. You don’t have to live by the adage, “That’s why they call it work.” On the contrary, seek to abide by Peter Finn’s“work hard and play nice” theory. Finn has been called one of his sector’s most purposeful leaders. As leaders or community members, remember that your response to stress and anxiety is a retention domino. Be transparent about your stressful experiences, and don’t pass the pain along if you’re kicked. You almost always have a choice in how you react! Just let people know what’s happening; you’ll often find empathy is their initial response and a desire to help you face the challenge close behind.
  • Respect people’s ideas and approaches. Diversity extends beyond race, religion, gender identification, and physical ability. Inclusion makes people feel safe and engaged. It does not pit people against each other or the enterprise. Mutual respect is essential to elicit diverse opinions, leading to stronger ideas and bonds. When people lose that understanding and respect, leaders must step in fast and set parameters that honor everyone’s points of view.
  • Make it possible to work together in harmonyCollaboration isn’t just a concept. It’s a process that needs to be nurtured through resource allocation, budgets, and incentives. Mindful people are collaborative intuitively, but office structures and turf often beat collaboration out of people. If you want to get the most out of your work community, make it easy and fun for people to participate, help each other, and share ideas quickly. Disagreement can be a positive when people are supporting the same goals and outcomes and see different ideas as a way to reach higher.
  • Make the workplace safe, but don’t play it safe when making giant leaps forward. Everyone should feel that coming to work and sharing ideas is comfortable — that their suggestions are sought and welcomed. Remember, it’s okay to take risks. Many organizations are risk-averse. Often, staff at these companies stifle other’s good ideas to a point where the best and brightest leave to be bold elsewhere. Doing nothing — taking no risks — means no leaps forward. Leading takes courage, including taking risks and championing new ideas.
  • We need a paycheck to pay our bills. We need to make a difference to sustain our emotional well-being and purpose in the workplace. Fuel idealism! Enable people to see that purpose is not a mystical concept. It is the reason we’re sharing this rotating planet — to improve things for others. Most forms of work — whether in the service field or administration — become tedious. As a leader, colleagues take their cue from you! If you retain your fire to make a difference, they will keep their fires burning, too, and avoid the burnout that often occurs when work is divorced from its meaning.

As you seek a great job that taps your inner desire to perform and be productive, ask questions about workplace culture and mission long before joining a place of employment. If you are in a position and are uncertain about staying or going, consider the opportunities alongside values and company culture. If the community is thoughtful and purposeful, speak about your needs! Your paycheck will surely pay your bills, but after a few direct deposits, you will think about what will fuel your purpose.

TAGS: Purpose & Social Impact

POSTED BY: Gil Bashe

Gil Bashe