Ever wonder why people really leave their companies? You may be thinking that the core issue comes down to money.

Let's face it: Pay is important to help keep good talent from leaving. But it's not the most important thing.

What we've found is that, as important as salaries, bonuses, and perks are for motivating people, the real reason top talent are headed for the exits comes down to three words:

Bosses don't care.

Three caring ways that will keep your employees from leaving

Gallup research over the years has concluded that 50 percent of employees leave their jobs "to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career."

This haunting fact stares in the face of so many firms irresponsibly placing the wrong people into positions of influence. And then we wonder how we keep getting it wrong.

Start here: Hire leaders, not managers. Actually, not just leaders--human-centered servant leaders. Here's what they will do, day in and day out, that separates them from mere bosses.

1. They care by giving employees autonomy.

One of the biggest mistakes most companies make is restricting smart and creative employees to the confines of a static job description. What younger employees desire is the freedom and autonomy to not only meet their work expectations, but also to pursue meaningful work and work schedules that intrinsically motivate them.

"The End of the Traditional Manager," a boldly entitled Gallup report, states that today's decentralized companies are defined by flexible workspaces and flexible work time. For example:

  • 74 percent of employees have the ability to move to different areas to do their work.
  • 52 percent of employees say they have some choice over when they work.
  • 43 percent of employees work away from their team at least some of the time.

The evidence is clear that workers with more autonomy will increase their performance and be more engaged in their work. But there's a critical balance, which Gallup points out: "Employees still need manager support during difficult situations. Managers can't offer autonomy and disappear."

2. They care by checking in with "stay interviews."

Exit interviews are mediocre at best. What's the point of conducting one when your about-to-be ex-employee has emotionally checked out from the job and has his mind on his new position with another company?

Fact is, most people aren't 100 percent honest in exit interviews because they have no confidence in the confidentiality of the process.

Enter the stay interview. With stay interviews, leaders hold recurring conversations with their employees to find out how they are feeling about the organization, asking questions like: "What motivates you to stay here?" and "What may cause you to leave?" Leaders will typically find frank feedback and new information to help them create strategies and solutions to problems that will keep their people from leaving.

3. They care because it's the human thing to do.

This seems like total common sense, right? I mean, it's just inherent in our human nature to care for others, right?

You'd think. But caring for people in transactional workspaces is simply not common practice. This is unfortunate, because caring for others is an important human prerequisite for any leader to retain and engage their best people.

John Maxwell is famous for saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Once leaders begin to let their employees know that they truly care, employees will begin valuing their work and their successes as people. Otherwise, anything a leader says to "motivate" someone to be more productive, more this or more that, becomes a disingenuous platitude, to which people will have an adverse reaction.

The future of caring at work

Leaders who truly care stay involved with employees and support them along their career path, have career conversations early and often, and asking focused questions like, "What skills do you need to learn?" and "Whom do you desire to learn from?"

These periodic conversations, when backed by action and follow-through, send a clear message to employees that their careers matter. It provides them a platform to voice their goals and ambitions, and the safety to give and get feedback.

Giving your employees a high awareness of their place within the company and the value of their successes wins their hearts and minds.