According to the HR professionals surveyed, "opportunity for promotion" was the top reason a high performer might want to leave. Another survey, this one completed by the employees, found that in reality, on-the-job stress is the top reason they might leave a company.
My guess is that this misalignment would be true at many companies today. Why? For one, many companies are still using the same employee engagement strategies (and surveys), the same benefits plans, and the same HR policies they have used for years.
Now, I will concede that it's difficult to accurately get feedback from employees. I think, for most people, being brutally honest on a survey at work or about work is difficult. I would also submit that many people have never stopped to think about why they might leave, or considered all the reasons they might leave and decide which is really the most compelling.
However, what's more telling is that stress, the #1 reason from employees, did not even make HR's top five.
I have a theory here: HR is looking holistically at the overall world of employees, and what could affect an employee -- not a person. The employee thinks more about himself and his individual situation, feelings, and needs (such as, he might want more pay and upward mobility.) But this doesn't matter when he is already stressed to the breaking point.
But that also points to another possible disconnect -- forgetting the "human" in human resources. There's probably been a lot written about that already (especially with the easy play on words). But I think it's valid here.
HR should always strive to connect and engage employees as individuals to understand how it's really going in the trenches, not just on the annual performance reviews.
Having said that, I'm sure those in HR are reading this and saying it's no easier on them with scant resources and high stress of their own.
This is where HR and executive leadership need to step in and help HR build the resources to engage employees. Whether this is adding staff or outsourcing other areas to free up HR staff, focusing on talent acquisition and employee engagement are critical to the success of any company now and in the future. Employee engagement should be closely tied to your talent strategy.
If you've been following any of my posts on the talent deficit, you can see how this is one of the factors that's fueling the inability of companies to maintain the level of talent they need to be competitive and profitable.
Until we stop doing things the way we always have and provide resources for HR to focus on finding and retaining quality talent, the talent deficit will roll on.