Why a great workplace won’t stop your employees leaving (and that’s ok)


Facebook and Google are both rated in the top 10 best places to work in 2018, according to a new Glassdoor list.

Counterintuitively, earlier this year, a Business Insider report found that employees stay just 2.02 years on average at Facebook and 1.90 years at Google.

So why are all these employees leaving so quickly? Shouldn’t a great place to work encourage people to stay? Does that ‘great place to work’ accolade really mean anything at all?

Determining a ‘great place to work’

First, let’s look at some of the factors which contribute to a ‘great place to work’. According to Glassdoor, the winning companies have four things in common:

A mission to believe in:

  • Employees have a sense of purpose and understanding of how they make an impact
  • A motivating mission that inspires quality work

Strong culture:

  • Clearly defined and shared set of values that fosters community
  • Engaged leaders that view positive culture as part of a good business strategy

People focus:

  • Employees are engaged and empowered to do their best work
  • Emphasis on employee growth and development


  • Open and clear communication, from the top down
  • Honest feedback is valued and encouraged

Sounds great right? So, why would anyone want to leave somewhere like this.

Your employees are in demand

What if your employees leave because you provide a great place to work?

What if your mission, culture, focus on people and transparency create the conditions needed for your employees to thrive?

Take a look at the list again. You enable your people to excel, deliver quality work, develop and grow.

Chances are, by doing that you help them become more in demand from other companies just like you.

And that’s also ok, because now that you’re such a great place to work, you’ll continue to attract the best and the brightest. They will in turn help your company to progress and succeed even moreso, with their new ideas and expertise.

Great places to work help create great employees

I think we need to change our attitude towards job tenure and retention. The best employees may not stay for long, but that’s ok.

Instead, we need to help people to reach their greatest potential, during their time that they are with us, in order for them to make the greatest contribution.

A focus on mission, culture, people and transparency isn’t just the right thing to do by your people – it makes business sense too. And that’s a great place to work in anyone’s book.



In defence of the annual staff survey

CC image courtesy of Michael Coghlan on Flickr
CC image courtesy of Michael Coghlan on Flickr

Is there still a place for the traditional annual employee survey?

I think there is.

I’ve been hearing a lot of backlash recently about annual surveys: that a yearly check isn’t enough; that employers should know how their people feel without surveying them; or that senior managers just pay lip-service to the results.

All of this can be true. But it doesn’t mean that the annual staff survey in itself is flawed.

Done right, the all-staff survey should be the piece that gives you the powerful set of data about your people that you can benchmark year on year.

But if that’s all you do, then no wonder you’re not seeing the benefit.

The survey should always form part of a continual cycle of seeking employee feedback. A programme of activity that includes smaller pulse checks, focus groups and discussion about employee issues in as many of your internal channels as possible. And it shouldn’t replace regular check-ins between managers and individuals.

Most importantly, is what happens afterwards. Does feedback get actioned? Does the business improve? Do employees see a genuine intention by the business to show that their feedback matters?

Unless you take action as a result of employee feedback it really doesn’t matter if you survey your people once a year or every single day.

So. If you can’t sustain that, don’t do it.

All surveys need to start with the will of the business to improve and to be a better place to work. They need to be supported by clear processes for acting on the results, and the resources to back this up. ‘We’re too busy to look into this right now’ cannot be an option.

Better still, you develop a culture where everyone feels accountable for business improvements and where everyone is empowered to make those improvements.

It shouldn’t just be the responsibility of leadership; that just isn’t sustainable.

As internal communicators, we need to continue to press our organisations to look beyond the annual employee survey. To build continual improvement into the way we work and as something that everyone is truly responsibly for.

An alternative definition for IC

My uni days are a distant memory now (image: telegraph.co.uk)
My uni days are a distant memory now (image: telegraph.co.uk)

Back in 2004 I was elected Education Officer for my Student Union in Sheffield. It was a full-time job and the purpose of my role was to listen to, and represent the views of students back to the University and the Student Union.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the parallels between student representation and the purpose of my role now in internal comms. I think there’s a lot of great tactics I used back then that can be used in IC to give us the edge when it comes to carrying out our role effectively and adding value to the business.

1) Listening

This was always the core of my role as a Student Rep.

I went out and spoke with students to understand their issues. I held regular meetings with small groups to discuss something in detail. I had an ‘open door’ policy whereby students could drop in anytime to talk about something affecting them.

Or they could easily contact me via email or phone – particularly as I handed out postcards with these details on and wore a ‘Education Officer’ t-shirt or jumper around campus.

Parallels to internal comms: So, how many of us can truly say that listening to employees is at the core of our role now? Not just something carried out seasonally: the annual staff survey and various ‘soft’ invites for feedback (in the staff magazine for example). How can we expect to know where the gaps in understanding of the business strategy are (and thus what to communicate), unless we are making listening to employees part of our everyday work.

We need to make listening core to the IC function.

2) Representing back to the business

My role at Sheffield Students’ Union was to be the voice of more than 20,000 students back to the University. I was the one with the seat at the table in high-level Committee meetings or Councils; the one with the privilege of having the ear of those who made the decisions. It was a big responsibility and I made sure I prioritised the key issues facing students and spoke out about them when I could. I helped bring about change, made things better for students and spoke up when management were planning things that I didn’t think would work.

Parallels for internal communications: Increasingly IC has a seat at the table too. We have regular meetings with senior leadership. We’re privy to decisions being made and strategic planning. And because we have the advantage of having our finger on the pulse of employee life, we can represent employees to senior leadership and bring about change too.

We need to focus on being the voice of the employee.

Summary and tips for the role of IC:

Traditionally, the role of IC has been to facilitate better communication.

But for real value, we now also need to be conduits for information – play our part in listening, analysing and filtering. A bridge between employees and management.

In other words – Employee Representation Pros. How’s that sound?