Employee Engagement: Understanding Why Employees Leave

In April 2021, our Human Resources and Membership teams launched the beginning pieces of our HR Toolkit. This is a sneak peek of the section on Employee Engagement.

Employee engagement is commonly defined as the employee’s commitment to the organization, how enthusiastic employees are about their work, their passion for the organization, and even their emotional attachment toward their work, position, or organization.

What most of these definitions leave out is the human connection. Engaged employees are not just employees who are involved in and enthusiastic about their work and committed to their workplace. They are also employees who have built relationships with their peers, feel seen and heard by their teams and managers, and trust organizational leadership.

There is a lot of research that shows that employees stay or leave their organizations because of their direct manager. This is something often heard in human resources and shared in one-pagers, research, and articles.  

Here are some articles and research that highlight employees leaving organizations because of their direct manager: 

Employees do not only leave bad managers, but they also leave organizations that fail them.

These articles highlight employees’ reasons for leaving organizations:

As you read through those articles, did you notice any themes? Several of them still pointed to a bad manager being a reason but they also pointed to multiple other factors that are related to how the entire system of the organization failed them.   

Those factors included unrealistic and unmanageable workloads, lack of feeling valued and appreciated, lack of recognition, burnout, and no upward mobility, just to name a few. 

Employee engagement is not just a direct manager’s responsibility, it is not just HR’s responsibility, and it is not just the Leadership team’s responsibility. Employee engagement is everyone in the organization’s responsibility. Why? Because the impact of one employee leaving affects everyone in the organization.

Read these articles about costs of turnover in an organization:

Additionally, take a moment to read these resources about employee engagement statistics: 

Most of this information may not be surprising or new to you. If you are an HR professional or a manager, you have probably read this information and have thought about employee engagement multiple times. You have also probably felt the impacts of employees leaving and the scramble to fill positions quickly and the tension of making sure the hiring process results in strong applicants replacing staff who have left.

Understanding the foundation of what employee engagement is and is not, will inform how to create employee engagement strategies which are discussed more fully in our HR Toolkit.

Reflection questions for those in Human Resources:

• Did anything from the above articles surprise you? 

• If you were aware of most or all this information, have you noticed trends or patterns in your organization? If yes, what are they?  

• Reflection questions for people managers: 

• What resonated with you about why employees leave?  

• Have you received any direct feedback from employees about how you can better support them?  

• If yes, have you implemented that feedback? Why or why not? 

Additional resources for employee engagement strategies including: manager trust building, peer-to-peer engagement, pulse surveys, engagement plans, implicit bias, and more can be found in our HR Toolkit. All Mission Capital toolkits are a free benefit offered to all members.

Unsure if you are a member or would like more information on accessing this toolkit? Email us at membership@missioncapital.org.

Related Content

WeThrive: Meet the Leaders from Cohort 1

Hear from CEOs & EDs about their experience in WeThrive and what they have to say to their BIPOC peers about participating in future cohorts.

Learn More

Building a Pipeline of Interim Executive Directors

Our Senior Consultant, Matt Glazer, writes about our revamped Interim Executive Director program and how you can be a part of it.

Learn More

Mental Health Resources from Our Conversation with NAMI

We hosted an event with NAMI to talk about mental health support and stress management for the nonprofit sector. Here are the resources we gathered.

Learn More