What makes staff leave an organisation?

During my career I have had a chance to interview a number of staff that were leaving the organisations I was working with to ascertain the key reasons why the staff were leaving. The reasons the staff advanced were many but can be summarised under two heads namely controllable and non-controllable reasons. The controllable reasons are those that can be addressed or resolved by management with the aim of addressing the staff discontentment.  Non-controllable are those reasons that cannot be addressed by management as they are beyond its control. Majority of the reasons advanced by staff were of a controllable type. This article deals mainly with the controllable reasons that management can easily address with the aim of stopping or delaying the number of staff that are leaving an organisation.  It is important to note a decision by a staff to leave an organisation is not made suddenly but is as a result of a number of staff issues that have not been promptly addressed by management. Therefore management in   a number of situations is responsible for staff leaving the organisation due to lack of action on its part to address staff issues.  There is also a tendency of some management to treat all resources at the disposal including people, technology and process using the same approach.  For sure an approach for handling computers cannot be the same as for staff. The staff have a mind that makes them respond to the external environment either positively or negatively depending on how they have been handled by management .The staff are therefore an active part of an organisation. The technology, process and other resources cannot deliver on the mission of an organisation without the intervention of staff. Staff are responsible for combining the various resources in an organisation aimed at achieving its goals.  It is also true that all staff will in the long run leave an organisation but their departure can be properly managed for benefit of both the organisation and staff. The key controllable reasons that make staff leave an organisation quite often at short notice are summarised as follows;

Staff are not valued

In some organisations staff are not considered important at all, they are treated like machinery and other resources. These organisations spend minimal resources in acquiring, training and retaining staff when compared to other resources. Management does not often involve staff in the strategy formulation process but expects them to implement a strategy that they do not understand. In a number of organisations the communication channel with staff is ineffective and staff depend on rumours. These organisations tend to develop comprehensive procedure manuals to guide staff but supervision and guidance from management tend to miss.  Staff in these organisations tend to leave and join other organisations that appreciate their value.

Lack of career opportunities

Staff join an organisation looking for opportunities to develop their career and will tend to stay longer with organisations that offer career opportunities. Staff are interested in training programs that will enhance their capacity to succeed in life. They will work hard even under difficult situations in order to achieve their career development goals. Therefore good staff will not stay with those organisations that do not offer good career opportunities. The challenge is often with some organisations that train staff when they do not have adequate opportunities for promotion. The trained staff will sure leave the organisation in search for promotion opportunities.

Uncompetitive pay

Some organisations tend to forget that staff are on the employment market offering their services to potential employers at a competitive price. Since the employment market is not perfect some organisations take the advantage to offer them uncompetitive remuneration packages. For sure potential staff will accept the uncompetitive package in order to be in employment. Once the staff are in employment, they will use the employment platform to search for better offers. The underpaid staff will leave the organisation as soon as they get better offers from the market.  Therefore uncompetitive remuneration package is among the main causes of why staff may leave an organisation.

Staff not empowered

I have come across situations where senior staff are given a position without corresponding powers or authority. These staff only make recommendations to other staff at head office to approve. They will not take any action until their request or recommendation is approved.  The staff promoted to these positions tend to leave the organisation as soon as they realise their positions lack corresponding powers and authority.

Poor brand

Organisations with good brand or name have the potential of attracting good staff from the market that wish to build their careers. The organisations with good brands are often associated with good career opportunities. Therefore staff may stay longer with an organisation that has built a good brand because of the opportunities to build their career. Some staff will leave an organisation as soon as they realise it has a poor brand or its brand is losing value.

Boring job positions

New staff join an organisation in search of challenging and interesting career opportunities. No one wants to be in a career associated with routine and boring activities. A number of staff will leave an organisation because the positions they hold are boring and not challenging. To encourage staff to stay longer with an organisation, management must make sure that all positions in the organisation offer challenging and interesting career opportunity to staff.

Not living the values

There are also organisations that have wonderful written values and policies but are poor at implementing the same. It is not enough for management to talk about the wonderful values and policies of their organisations without putting them in practice. Staff will tend to leave organisation that have a poor value and policies implementation culture to join those that have a better implementation culture.


A number of issues that make staff leave an organisation are controllable and can be addressed by management. Therefore management is responsible for staff leaving an organisation due to failure on its part to promptly address staff concerns.  Management on their part tend to blame their lack of action on the policies of the organisation. What a lame excuse! The policies can be changed.


John Muhaise Bikalemesa

Director: Big Drum Advisory Services Limited