Why Your Best Talent Leave - And How to Keep Them

Team Management

There are many reasons why top talent leaves a company. Even when you have “good” turnover – someone leaving who was a bad fit for the organization – it can be a painful and expensive experience.

Ultimately, you want to have a healthy turnover rate that keeps fresh minds coming into the organization, top talent staying in the organization, and organically weeds out employees who aren’t providing value.

When top talent leaves and non-productive employees stick around, the whole company suffers. The good news is that you can keep future talent from walking out the door by identifying core issues that cause unwanted turnover and building unique solutions for your organization. If you want to, eventually you can also automate a lot of this using performance management software.


Employee engagement is crucial to retaining top talent, and the processes a company follows has a huge impact on engagement. In order to keep great employees engaged and motivated to stay, create structures that allow high performing employees to work with other top talent. This will leverage their creativity and drive in service of the organization.

Some of the processes that cause top talent to leave are:

  • When a company hires/promotes the wrong person: A top performer wants to be around other top performers. A hiring culture of personal favours or higher-ups ‘tapping’ their friends to join the company means that, in may cases, top talent does not get to work with the people who will challenge them. Focus your hiring process on the skills and perspectives a candidate brings into the organization, not their personal connection to the boss.
  • When a company has no growth opportunities: Top talent is always looking to grow their skillset, so growth opportunities - whether professional development, personal development, or career progression - is crucial to retention. Programs could be internal (lunch and learns) or external (tuition reimbursements), but should be focused on ensuring top performers can grow in their careers, not just their current roles.
  • When a company doesn't care about their employees: Top talent wants to know that the company values their contributions. If your company doesn’t, great employees will move to a company that does. Consider recognition programs that value contributions of high performers, creating a goal for all employees to strive towards.
  • When a company fails to show the big picture: Top performers regularly look for ways to contribute beyond their job description. A clear big picture means they can find ways to add value; lack of clarity reduces productivity and creativity as employees may head in the wrong direction with their work.
  • When a company does not give employees independence or decision making ability: Top talent needs the flexibility to think on their feet when it comes to delivering a high quality outcome on a tough challenge. Decision making structures that make employees feel micromanaged will develop into a culture of employees “faking” performance so their managers are placated, leading to disengagement and lower productivity.


As startups add management layers for the first time or develop a second layer of management to scale-up, it’s crucial to understand how managers affect top performers’ ability to deliver their work.

Great employees might leave because of dis-engaging processes, but when it comes to managers, top talent leaves:

  • When employees don’t trust their managers: Top talent has to be able to trust management, and vice versa, because much of a top performer’s work will be based on their experiences, previous work, and subject matter expertise, not a step-by-step process. Trust is earned when it’s clear to employees that management gives credit when credit is due.
  • When managers play favourites and don’t offer feedback: Top talent is always looking for feedback because they want to learn and grow; they also expect to see their work acknowledged. Managers who recognize efforts and outcomes not only celebrate good work, but also create opportunities to give feedback in a safe, non-confrontational way.
  • When managers have a negative attitude: Top performers want to focus on getting their work done, not dealing with poor attitudes. Negative attitudes at work can seep into everyday conversations, making office culture feel toxic and unwelcoming; this is particularly true when it comes to managers, who often set the tone in an office.
  • When managers rely on tough reputations to get results: Top talent is turned off by a manager with a reputation for being hot-headed because they cannot do their job properly if they have to navigate their manager’s temper. Instead, train managers to be comfortable with the ambiguity that comes from working with high performing talent.
  • When managers take feedback and comments personally: Top talent at all levels sometimes needs to deliver harsh feedback, and a manager-level employee who takes feedback personally creates a barrier between them and their employees that reduces trust and top talent’s ability to make decisions. This is often a personal issue for the manager, but working with them to understand how to receive feedback is just as important as training them on how to give feedback.

When it comes to employee turnover, organizations want to do right by their people. Studies will tell you multiple reasons why employees quit, and each reason is true in its own way. In your journey to solidifying culture and scaling your organization to find and retain the best talent, remember to address the root causes instead of addressing the symptoms. Your employees will reward you with their loyalty, hard work, and creativity.

Experience Knit in Action!

Book Your Free Demo!