Exit Interviews: Why Talented People Jump Ship



For recruiters and hiring managers, the best feeling in the world is when a new hire settles in and starts to make an impact. You may have considered a hundred qualified candidates, but when you find the one who fits seamlessly with their new employer, and creates mutual long-term value, you know your experience and instincts have paid off.


Recruiters want every hiring process to produce this kind of result – but alas, there is no such thing as a perfect batting percentage. High performers can quit without much warning – if making a great hire is the best feeling, this is the worst.


When talented people leave early, it creates a ripple effect. Morale goes down, and stress goes up. Other team members work harder to stay afloat.

That’s before we get into the cost of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a replacement.


So how can we minimise the chances of this happening? Only by exploring the most common reasons why talented people jump ship.


1. A lack of appreciation


There’s a scene in a popular TV series where an employee gets into an argument with a supervisor. “You never say thank you,” the employee says, to which the supervisor responds, “that’s what the money is for!” It makes for a funny screen moment, but in terms of retaining top talent, this type of thinking won’t get us very far.


Money matters to employees, and it always will – but high performers want more than a pay cheque. They want to feel like their contributions are making an impact, and this feeling doesn’t happen automatically. We’ve found that employees feel most appreciated when supervisors show appreciation in small, consistent ways. Listening to employee feedback is a form of appreciation. So is giving positive feedback, or writing a ‘thank you’ note. Material perks like year-end bonuses help, but it’s important to remember that money is only one link in the chain of solidarity. Feeling appreciated is probably the biggest part of what gets employees to invest themselves in a company. Without that, they’ll entertain other options – even while you congratulate yourself on a successful hire.


2. A lack of opportunity


All the thank-you notes in the world won’t matter if a high performer doesn’t see tangible opportunities for their own career development. Trainings, certification, conferences, networking opportunities – if employers are not actively encouraging these things, talented people will open their ears to companies who can give them more.


A greater employee focus on perpetual motion – rather than a plan to settle in to a company for life, and retire at 65 – means that employers have to give more. We can’t expect high performers to stay with us for their entire careers – but if we provide enough forward momentum within the company, we can keep them around for a long time.


3. A cramped style


We’ve spoken to countless top performers who left because their natural way of working was stymied by an overly-restrictive workplace. It’s true that every organisation needs procedure, but it’s equally true that people have different styles.


An individual’s best performance can only rise to the surface if their style of working has room to exist within the procedural framework.

When this doesn’t happen, the employee feels a lack of trust and autonomy over time. They wouldn’t be a high performer if they didn’t have the skills and talent to get results, yet their every decision is micromanaged. This creates a feedback loop of stress and anxiety that will lead them to seek greener pastures.


Conclusion: The Irony of Recruitment


It’s ironic that every recruiter’s goal is to make sure that high performers are not successfully recruited again, at least for the foreseeable future. This means securing an opportunity, and a connection, that allows employers and high performers and to thrive mutually. Employers traditionally have power in this sense. They can provide the material compensation that ultimately defines employment. But when push comes to shove, talent and skill are the only power that matters.



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