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Have you been hanging out on LinkedIn during the past year at all? If so, you’ve definitely seen the same post and image circulated over a million times – saying that “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” This all stems from a Gallup poll in 2017 that indicated this was the case.

That’s complete crap and not at all a fully developed reason as to why employees leave. Like most polls, it’s all about the questions that you ask, who you’ve surveyed and it’s a snapshot of incomplete information.

It’s not wrong or a lie, but it’s an easy statistic for us to get behind. It’s a fully formed thought that allows us to ignore ALL of the other reasons and the complete truth about why employees leave companies.

Experienced employees and your key talent leave companies because your employee experience is flawed.Experienced employees and your key talent leave companies because your #employeeexperience is flawed. #HR #employeeengagement Click To Tweet

People do not leave companies because of one reason, person or moment.

We think so, because we’ve asked the wrong questions during exit interviews; we’ve read statistics that make us feel better; or we’ve pushed the blame to something we in HR, think we can fix (that’s not about us) – more leadership training!

Instead, people leave companies because they have reached their limit where their negative experiences with the company outweigh the positive experiences – their balance scale has tipped from being able to manage the negative occurrences, to no longer having the “suck it up” in them to do so.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: Have you ever arrived at work super excited for the day? Perhaps you didn’t have any meetings planned, you were excited to get some actual strategic work done for the day and things were starting out awesome. And then you get an email from your manager about something annoying. You go from super excited to, “I’m over this day. Dunzo. Don’t want to do work anymore.” Those are the PG terms. ?

We have all had those moments. And that email, changed our experience at the company. It’s not about our manager, it’s that our manager created a bad touchpoint. And furthermore, the company’s senior leaders allow for that manager to lead so poorly.

Or consider this: When you onboarded into your current role, was your excitement from the time you accepted the offer until you started work, maintained and nurtured? Did you feel welcome on day 1? Did you have access to IT systems? Did you have what you needed to know how to get started? Was there a fully detailed plan to help bring your excitement through, to week two and beyond?

The way that we experience our company on a daily basis, creates different touchpoints and feelings with our company. It’s how we view and experience our relationship with the company.

And each time we have a positive experience it counts. Same with a negative or neutral experience. They add up. And over time, we evaluate how we feel about the company and whether or not it continues to make sense to invest our time.Each time we have a positive, negative, or neutral experience it counts. They add up. Over time, we evaluate how we feel about the company and whether or not it makes sense to invest our time. #employeeexperience Click To Tweet

If we continue to believe that employees leave managers, not companies – why aren’t our current employee engagement approaches working? Why has engagement stayed around 30% over the past 30 years, as my new friend and colleague Jill Christensen discusses in her book?

We’re focused on fixing the wrong things. We are hopelessly trying to create more engaged employees or better trained managers, so that employees will feel connected enough with our company to stay, to care. And then, as a company, we continue to deliver bad experiences which negate all of the work that we’re trying to do.

If we look at this through the customer experience lens, we would never put up with this type of behavior from the companies we spend money with.

When we have a bad experience at a restaurant, we consider that before going back again (and if you’re me, depending on how bad of an experience it was, you’ll likely never eat there again).

When you go through the drive-through and it takes 20 minutes to get your food, you’re annoyed and asking why things are taking so long, what’s broken with their process and questioning why you decided to pick up fast food in the first place.

When you walk into a retail store and are not greeted or feel snubbed, do you still drop your money there, or find a place where you can spend it with a smile (then picture having your very own Pretty Woman experience)?

Each touchpoint that your employees experience with your company – which includes their direct manager, senior leaders, tech, HR, and so on – creates a library of information that adds up to how they think and feel about the company.

And each individual has their own gauge or balance scale, of what their own expectations are, how they have experienced your company, and what they are willing to continue to experience for what they are receiving.

We can’t create blanket engagement – because it’s different for everyone.

Employee engagementFor me, when I was working in corporate jobs, there was a very low tolerance of how many negative experiences it took before I was looking for something new. Things like my manager, how much money I was making, Total Rewards perks – were important. But they only became glaring issues to me, when I felt as a whole, the company was providing me reasons why it was no longer a good “fit.”

When compared to my mom, who has gone down a completely different career path than me, our experiences and experience expectations are drastically different. She has been at the same company for 20 years – and the only thing she truly cares about is her work environment (is it light and bright, and is there a window she can see the outside world out of), the people she works with, having health insurance and being able to take days off. Literally, that’s it. She doesn’t care about the work she does (she’s had so many work changes, that’s normal in the company she works at), she’s cool with her pay, can adjust to any new manager (which are many), and she is truly happy to have her job and show up to work every day.

This contrast is why our current approach to employee engagement and passing off the reasons why people leave, are never going to work.

From an employee’s perspective, the word culture and fit has little meaning.

You probably can’t quite describe it either, other than the stated culture statement you have or what your company says the culture is. To the employee though, culture is how the experience the company – and if they feel like it matches their own expectations of what they need to continue to spend time there. Their positive experiences continue to outweigh their negative experiences.

In order to truly understand why your key talent is leaving, you need to ask better questions while they are employed – and when they are exiting.

Currently, your exit interview, if you’re even doing them, is focused on, “Why are you leaving?” How and why would you answer that question? Well, let’s see… I have a long list of reasons of why I started looking for a new role, do you want that list?

Most of us don’t quit or seek out a new job because we had one bad moment or day. We don’t quit in a huff or in a moment of drama – although I still think doing that once would be fun.Most of us don’t quit or seek out a new job because we had one bad moment or day. It's the #employeeexperience and journey your company is providing over time. #HR Click To Tweet

We leave because we have a list of things that bug us. And our need to feel connected with that company, the employee experience and journey they are providing, has gone past the point of no return. It’s a list of negative experiences over time.

If we focus on the right thing, our overall employee experience, we can create engaged employees – which leads to retention of key talent and all of the reasons we’ve been working so hard to create “engagement.” But we have to get out of our own way – and stop focusing on finding “the one reason” people leave.