Conventional wisdom has shaped the collective public opinion that "People leave managers, not companies." While a mountain of research data proves this point as evidence and fact, sometimes conventional wisdom must be challenged in other ways.

Facebook's HR and People Growth team did just that and decided to do their own experiment. When their People Analytics team tracked why their employees were leaving, a different and surprising conclusion surfaced. 

It's the job, stupid.

It wasn't "the manager" that caused employees to quit. What Facebook found can be summed up in three words: It's the job.

Because Facebook has spent years honing the skills of hiring and developing the best of managers, employees of Facebook are generally happy with their bosses, which makes their discovery that much more intriguing. 

So what about the job makes them exit, stage left? Tasks and responsibilities--the very grind-it-out elements of work itself--were the actual reasons people quit.

As Facebook further analyzed the data, they found some clear differences in the people that stayed, as published in the Harvard Business Review.

This is where managers play a huge part in retaining the best employees, whether at Facebook or elsewhere. Here's what Facebook recommends managers do to keep employees happy and engaged in their work.

1. Design jobs around people's interests and passions.

Humans are wired to follow their passions, and many employees are looking for ways to bring their passions into their jobs. That's why managers are key in helping to craft the kind of meaningful jobs employees will enjoy in the long-term.

2. Conduct "entry interviews."

Wharton professor Adam Grant contributed to the Facebook HR study, and introduces the practice of the "entry interview." From the HBR article:

In the first week on the job, managers sit down with their new hires and ask them about their favorite projects they've done, the moments when they've felt most energized at work, the times when they've found themselves totally immersed in a state of flow, and the passions they have outside their jobs. Armed with that knowledge, managers can build engaging roles from the start.

3. Play to people's natural strengths.

Managers must recognize what unique strengths and natural gifts their people bring to the table. Once you do that, the Facebook HR/People Growth team recommend:

  • Creating new roles and job assignments that leverage those strengths and gifts.
  • Giving knowledge workers the time and resources they need to seek and share crucial information and knowledge that will get the work done. 
  • Building a searchable database of experts once you, the manager, know who does what. The goal is to put employees' strengths on display so that people know whom to contact.

4. Create work that integrates with people's personal lives.

Managers should pay attention to ensure that the work doesn't conflict with employees' personal or family lives and that work/life integration benefits both sides. For example, if a new promotion requires more travel that negatively impacts the caretaking of aging parents back home, managers must be flexible and consider tweaking the job so it seamlessly meshes with personal commitments.

The Facebook People Growth team stated that managers who support employees in this manner "find that their people not only deliver but also stay longer--they're proud of where they work." 

Published on: May 22, 2019
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