Alibaba’s Jack Ma is well known for citing inadequate pay and employee grievances as the only two reasons that staff would leave a company. Here’s a few other reasons a person may be tempted to leave their current employer, and the questions they would ask themselves when considering a switch.

1. Poorly designed performance review systems.

“Is there a future for me in this company?”

To provide its employees with a sense of career progression, the company’s leaders need to know where the company is heading. If the company has the potential for rapid growth over a short period of time, there will be many new job opportunities, roles, and responsibilities created in the process – providing lots of room for employees to learn new skills, be exposed to new areas, and gain promotions. In such high-growth environments, fair and regular performance reviews should be held to ensure that employees’ efforts, contributions, and experience are acknowledged and rewarded frequently.

How can performance reviews be conducted effectively? First, the company needs to determine in measurable terms what “success” looks like for the company. It could be revenue figures, customer satisfaction rates, reaching a product development milestone, and so on. Next, these high-level metrics should be broken down into smaller pieces and each employee’s performance goal should tie to at least one of more of the company’s overall metrics.

Often, when employees feel that their future in the company is uncertain or bleak, chances are, the company has not spent enough time defining and articulating either a) the company’s success metrics, b) the employee’s performance goals tying back to the overall measure of success, or c) a combination of both. It is often the brightest talents that leave first when performance review systems are poor.

2. Lack of opportunities for professional development.

“Is this a place where I can grow my skills?”

Regardless of whether your employee’s dream career is something that your company can offer or not, she will be looking for opportunities to learn skills that she will ultimately be able to use in her dream role. If so, as much relevant experience and mentoring as you are able to provide is crucial to keeping her engaged.

What is she able to learn in your company during her time there? The common practice for professional development consists of 70% on-the-job-learning, 20% mentoring, and 10% structured training courses. But more importantly, companies should help each employee define how their scope of work directly ties back to their company’s and personal goals, and provide opportunities for them to learn from seniors and top leaders in the company.

3. Weak community and work culture.

“Do I enjoy working here?”

How do you cultivate a strong sense of community and work culture within the company? Many companies practice things like celebrating staff birthdays and holding team building events to boost morale, but the companies with the best culture simply create environments where creativity, community, and collaboration can thrive. From bean bags, to standing meetings, to open office floor plans, companies are realizing that when the office feels cozier and when people feel like they are working with friends, their commitment to the company and the dedication they have to their work increases.

Also, many companies are beginning to design benefits and incentive schemes specifically to attract and retain the best talent. Perhaps the most famous of those companies is Google, but plenty of young start-ups are already practicing policies such as unlimited days of leave, flexible working hours, and other similar policies.

4. Unfair salary and compensation.

“Is my pay enough to sustain me (and my family) and is there enough stability here?”

Let’s face it. While money is not everything, employees still need to feel like they are being given fair compensation. Occasionally, employees move to a new company not just for a pay increase, but for a bigger scope of work that could lead to them commanding higher salaries in the future. If you’re hesitant about a person’s abilities, why not offer them more responsibility first, and see if they can manage it? If they are able to perform, by promoting internally and increasing your staff’s salary, you save yourself the time and costs of hiring externally.

When all else fails, then the final and only one strategy left is to look for replacements for your talent. When you start to notice too many people leaving, however, it might be a good idea to evaluate how your company is faring in terms of the four areas mentioned above.

In short, to keep your best talents, ensure you do the following:

  1. Clearly articulate company goals and align it to each employee’s performance goals.
  2. Help your talents discover their personal career goals and how they can gain the relevant skills and experience by working with you.
  3. Create a culture where employees feel like they belong.
  4. Pay your talents what they deserve.

Do you agree with the above four questions / areas as major factors affecting an employee’s decision to leave a company? Share your thoughts!