At Randstad US, researchers conducted a survey to nail down the top reasons why people quit or consider quitting. Here are some of the findings that caught my attention, as published on the Randstad US website: 

  • More than half (59 percent) of the respondents felt their companies view profits or revenue as more important than how people are treated.
  • Sixty percent of respondents had left jobs, or considered leaving, when they didn't like the direct supervisors.
  • Fifty-eight percent had left jobs, or considered leaving, because of negative office politics.
  • Fifty-eight percent of workers said their companies didn't have enough growth opportunities for them to stay longer term.
  • Sixty-nine percent said they would be more satisfied if their employers better utilized their skills and abilities.
  • More than half (57 percent) said they needed to leave their current companies to take their careers to the next level.

Perhaps even more of an an eyebrow-raiser, Randstad US found that "58 percent of workers say that they'd stay at jobs with lower salaries if that meant working for a great boss."

That was a wake-up for me. To drill down further, I reached out to Jim Link, chief human resources officer at Randstad North America, to talk about tips for great leadership and a great workplace that may help reverse these trends.

"Working for a great boss" defined

I asked Link to unpack exactly what "working for a great boss" means so that people in high leadership roles know what to shoot for in their hiring and development. I wanted to find out clear indicators about who great bosses are and what great bosses do. I came away with six important and key takeaways from my interview with Link. 

1. Great bosses display empathy.

Link pointed out that there are many different management styles out there, and that's OK, but the great ones are distinguished by empathy: "Great managers don't just give feedback--they listen to feedback, with the strongest leaders being the most empathetic and emotionally intelligent," said Link. In turn, "there's a tremendous link between empathy and retention."

2. Great bosses connect and collaborate.

Link explained that in other Randstad research, employees have expressed a strong desire to work with managers with the ability to stay connected to them. He told me, "Employees want a collaborative work experience and for their managers to facilitate that."

3. Great bosses develop their people.

Link said, "Another trademark of great managers is the ability to drive a culture of innovation, learning, and continuous improvement on their teams. People want to advance in their careers and for their skills to be utilized." This is in line with the studies that have concluded that bosses must first understand the strengths of each team member, which can only happen through strong connections and relationships. Link said great bosses "will challenge and further their employees' existing skill sets and let them exercise their strengths in new projects and opportunities."

4. Great bosses value the emotional and lifestyle needs of employees.

This takeaway came from having asked Link a question about the employee experience. One of the findings from the study concluded: "If the full spectrum of values--emotional, financial, and lifestyle--aren't being met, workers will easily find opportunities elsewhere." Obviously, we get the "financial" piece of the equation, as we have lives to live, bills to pay, and mouths to feed. But I was intrigued by what companies should be doing to meet the "emotional" and "lifestyle" aspects of an employee's experience. Link's answer was so rich and compelling, I'm letting it fly here, unedited. He said:

One newer competency I've seen emerge as critical to great managers is the ability to lead toward decompression. This impacts the emotional and lifestyle aspects of employee experience head-on. We're dealing with a new generation of workers who've grown up in an always-on, always-connected world. They are almost programmed to be responsive in real time and to take micro-actions. Great bosses will be able to help them disconnect, during the workday for creative "think time" so they continue to be emotionally fulfilled by their job and after the workday to maintain work-life balance and prevent burnout. In other words, to lead employees toward decompressing on the short term and focusing on the longer term.

5. Great bosses provide a flexible work environment.

To ensure a great employee experience that helps employees balance their work with their personal values and priorities, Link told me that great bosses provide for more flexible and agile work arrangements, "giving employees the leniency--as long as they're performing--to get work done in a less traditional structure."

6. Great bosses reward their people financially.

The research found that 82 percent of employees expect pay raises every year to stay with their current employers. Being a devil's advocate, I asked Link if working for a great boss and having emotional and lifestyle needs met change this expectation of having a pay raise every year. Here's Link:

While a fairly high percentage of people indicated they would stay with a great boss even at a lower salary, no one wants to feel stagnant in their career and pay is intrinsically tied to that. It's such a tight job market that if people aren't being rewarded for their performance financially, they will look elsewhere. With companies so desperate to hire, people are very likely to get that pay raise by jumping ship.

While things like salary and paid time off are important, Link drives the point home to emphasize the greater importance of the employee experience at work. "If the full spectrum of values--emotional, financial, and lifestyle--aren't being met," said Link, "workers will easily find opportunities elsewhere."