Are your employees quitting or no longer involved? Look in the mirror for answers!


In recent years, we have been introduced to a number of new concepts in the post-COVID workforce. The first was the Great Resignation, with an estimated 20% of employees planning to quit their jobs by 2022. And more recently, Quiet Quitting, where employees don’t actually quit their jobs, but instead do the bare minimum of deliver work. to keep their employers happy, without putting in a minute of extra effort. To me, these are both problems with the employers, not the employees. Because if employees were truly happy, respected and engaged in their jobs, they wouldn’t feel the need to quit their jobs, either outright or with a mindset while still employed. This post will help us diagnose if you have issues that need to be resolved in your business to help turn this tide.

A few unhappy employees as a case study

Let’s look at a few industries where quitting appears to be at an all-time high: K-12 education and restaurants. These are two industries I know well, with my wife a 2nd schoolteacher and I own a company that serves the restaurant industry. In both industries, it’s pretty clear to me why people quit; they are asked to stick their necks out with very little pay where it is so much easier for them to switch industries and make more money elsewhere materially. Not to mention how dysfunctional these types of companies can be, without many ways to voice or act on their new ideas, where companies are poorly managed, often with a lot of bureaucracy. Why would anyone want to work in that environment? Anyone who does is because they feel they have no other options based on their skills or because it is simply their passion to give back to their communities, without compensation or job satisfaction being their ultimate drivers. Which is not a nice position to be in, both for the employee and for the employer.

Reality check

How do we solve this? We start with common sense that 20% of employees are not laying down the workforce at large, they are firing YOU!! There must be something you are doing that they are not happy about and that needs to be fixed. That could be something like a low salary level, their mundane duties, your company culture, lack of upward career mobility, a bad boss, lack of work flexibility or whatever. So if you are experiencing high levels of employee turnover or engagement, it’s time to look in the mirror and monitor everything you do, with a post-COVID mindset of what employees are looking for. Let’s dig a little deeper into that.

Study compensation levels

Going back to our case study above, can restaurant workers really earn a living wage at $15 an hour? That’s just $30,000 a year, in a world where inflation is off the charts. After taxes, that’s only about $2,000 a month. Let’s say half of that goes to cover their rent, and the other half, or $33 a day, is left over to cover all of their other living expenses. That math just doesn’t work. Not to mention, they have to work in person while all their other friends get more flexible jobs that allow them to work from home.

And the same for the teachers. They teach our children and build the future of our country. I find it disgusting that movie stars and sports athletes make $25 million a year, and that teachers’ starting salaries are around $50,000 for a LOT of work, dealing with hostile parents, and working in dysfunctional workplaces where the rules change every year. Enough, teachers need more respect and a material wage increase to justify those working conditions. We as a society need to better appreciate the roles they play, and we all need to join in with slightly higher property tax bills.

What does this mean for you? Stop thinking of your industry in a vacuum and stop using historical wage levels as a base benchmark. You may need a drastic salary increase to retain and attract new talent in today’s market. And employees will seek employment in other industries if they are not satisfied with the pay levels in your company or industry. So, if you’re studying average wages by job, do it in different industries. And I wasn’t talking about studying fringe benefits here, but you should do that to make sure you’re in line with the market. A good benefits management company can help you benchmark yourself against other employers.

If you determine that you cannot profitably pay salary increases at market rates, you may have a material problem. But hopefully raising your prices to better pay market-based salaries will help you fund these increases. God knows my restaurant bills have gone up because restaurants pay their staff more in an effort to keep them. But if price increases can’t be digested by your customers, you may have to face the hard fact that your business model may be broken and may not survive without a material change in model metrics.

Study job flexibility

Due to COVID, everyone prefers a more flexible work environment, starting with the option to work from home. So don’t get stuck in the Stone Age where everyone has to be in the office every day. That gives the staff more flexibility to save on commutes, parking costs, gas costs, car costs, etc. You don’t have to ‘see’ them to know if they are doing well. You will see their success in the data that comes out of their work (e.g. sales results, tasks completed).

Study corporate culture

If your staff grumbles behind your back that they work in a “toxic work environment”, you have a big problem and you need to “close the gap” before the whole “bucket” runs out. Survey your staff, directly or through an HR advisor. Ask what they like and dislike about the company, then lean on your strengths and fix your weaknesses. Be sure to calculate your net promoter score from your employees, not just your clients, and aim to keep that number at 8.5/10 or higher.

Study Management

You may love one of your managers, suck you as their boss, but their direct reporting associates may hate them. Be sure to complete 360-degree assessments of your employees so they have a chance to talk openly about their boss as their performance is assessed. Nothing will make a person run for the door faster than being micromanaged, disrespected, or berated by a bad manager. So maybe you should say goodbye to someone you like, for the greater good.

Study career paths

People want to stay in companies where they can see upward mobility in their careers. They give you a few years in their current role, but what comes next? Is your company growing, to create new layers of management in which to grow? If yes, great. But if not, the employees may get bored and decide to look for a new challenge. So set up plans for each function of the company where they can easily understand how their responsibilities and compensation will increase over time, to give them “brackets” of wanting to continue working with you in the long run .

Study daily tasks

No one wants to work in a job they don’t like. So ask yourself: would you like that job? If not, find out what it takes to make that job more fun. If it’s mundane, mind-numbing tasks for eight hours a day, figure out how best to make the role more stimulating – perhaps by sharing mundane tasks with a wider team that does more strategic tasks for the bulk of their work.

Closing thoughts

So this concept of the big resignation and quitting is really nonsense to me because the focus is on the employees, not the employers. These people have to work to pay their bills. You just have to figure out how they want to work for YOU, not look for the door to work for someone else who better appreciates, respects, challenges and motivates them. After this internal tutorial, if the mirror isn’t broken, keep it up. If you’re staring at a pile of broken glass, it’s time to start over and rethink everything you do.

George Deeb is a partner at Red Rocket Ventures and author of 101 Startup Lessons – An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.