I had recently resigned from one of the world’s largest logistics company, a company reputed for its service and quality excellence, global presence and competent expertise to provide innovative supply chain solutions to any customer. It is a company that is profitable and continually growing. So while there are many such companies that seemed to be a company that one should work continually, the irony is that people will still leave the company.
All company leadership wants to have low (not zero) attrition rates. The primary reason is to have the know-how sustained in the company, with opportunities for that know-how to continually improve and grow the business towards excellence. It is inevitable that employees can lose the momentum to add value to the company, and from my perspective, would then be the key reason why one would leave a company.
The cuckoo clock that I have featured in this article is my second clock. Yet, it took a longer time (almost ten hours) for me to complete it. While I was excited at the start to try out a new paper medium and to leverage from my past experience, I realized that it was still a different experience. This time, I realized I grew impatient at certain stages of the fold, especially when I could not quite get the fold right. That portion of the paper weakened and was at risk of a permanent tear. Coincidentally, the potential tear was at the neck of the antelope head portion. I wanted to ensure I did better than the previous model and was careful to ensure that it would be better…I guess I achieved that but it took much more effort to achieve the better result. There were situations when I wanted to abandon the fold and it was only from focusing on the end result that I persevered. When I completed, it, I wanted to give it away as a token to my staff but kept it as a reward to myself and made other simple models for each of my staff instead. I hope you could see some resemblance from one venturing to work elsewhere and over time, the intentions to leave a company.
Let me share the various reasons why I left the companies that I had worked in. The first company was a Japanese IC packaging company where I was there as a Materials Engineer. My role was to qualify components that would be used in the manufacture of products as well as qualify the vendors that supplied the parts to the company. I enjoyed the culture and learning opportunities in that company. However, I started having rashes due to allergies from the semiconductor materials. Other issues were frequent migraine due to inspecting materials under powerful microscope (400x magnification). Main rationale for leaving the company was physical environment.
Another company that I worked was an American manufacturing company of telecommunication devices. I worked there as an incoming quality supervisor and later took on additional portfolio of managing incoming quality of mechanical and packaging materials. However, I was not given an engineer title to support my role and was not given a fair performance review for time spent on the engineering aspect. I left the company to join a hard disk drive company as a Quality engineer.
My career growth in that company was good and within four years, I was the Quality engineering manager. The leadership in that company was well respected and they certainly took care of employees well being. The work culture was based on trust and informal meetings, such as coffee breaks, were one of the best ways for cross function collaborations. The company founder decided to retire and sold his business to another big player. Unfortunately, more and more senior leadership from the big player started to fill leadership positions. Although I was one of the few (from the former company) to receive a promotion, I did not sense the empowerment was given to former company staff. I decided to quit to work in a company that I can start up the QA department from scratch.
I was fortunate that a local company was starting its mobile device manufacturing and I was recruited to be its QA manager. The start up team was from a Hong Kong company that a local player acquired. I benefitted from the full autonomy to design internal QA processes from the lessons learnt from my other companies. However, over time, the business was impacted due to the product reliability and quality issues. I did not approve several of its products and was asked to waive them for shipment. While there were risks to be mitigated, the ownership of the quality and reliability issues fell on my shoulders. While influencing engineering to work on the manufacturing process to be more robust, I ended up working every day for long hours with the operations team, to inspect failures and prevent them from going to the customers. I left the company when I did not see myself helping the company making further progress to deliver quality to the customers.
As I was also planning to get married, I wanted to work in a company that was less operational, and joined an European company as a Total Quality Management manager. This was when I added more value to the company as an internal consultant. The company benefited from such a role as there would then be an internal staff, performing like a consultant, reviewing the business processes and organized improvements thereafter. Compared to an external consultant, I could then analyze the company better, made changes and be around to sustain the changes. The company later had a business organization change, moved its manufacturing operations out of Singapore and transformed itself to be more business and R&D focus. I was asked to take on a HR portfolio because I had a technical background and would blend well with the R&D team. I took up the role as it would then give me more opportunities to influence the people managers to do a better job, in return, satisfy their employees who would be motivated to exceed customer satisfaction. This would then bring in better business for the company who would gain better margins and would provide sufficient returns to benefit the employees.
What led to my eventual departure from this company was the downsizing of the company. The headcount was far too small to warrant two senior HR leaders and I decided to move out of the company after making plans for a successor. I went on to work for a local but sizeable company as a HR Business Partner manager. Worked there for several years, moved internally within the HR structure until the company was acquired. I enjoyed working with the colleagues in that company and most of those who had worked there, would agree that it had one of the best HR processes in place. Due to the company being acquired, there was a need to streamline the HR leadership. I felt that it was time for me to venture on my own and to build a career involved in market research. It was also a time when my family needs was a main focus and hence decided to leave the company.
My recent departure from the logistics company was due to the organization structure change above my level. The HR regional leadership at that level was structured to handle fewer countries and as a result, would then have the bandwidth to manage a local country HR leadership role. As such, my role was displaced and I was tasked to do a smaller portfolio that did not quite fit my value add to the company. I felt that it was not an appropriate structure for the company to have two Directors in a small department and decided to vacate with the hope that junior level staff would then be recruited. The HR department would need more ‘hands and legs’ to make the HR team effective. While it would be a challenge for me to leave without a job, I would rather see my team obtain a balanced work life by having more resources added to the team.
In summary, people leave their employers for various reasons and not all attributable to the company itself. The aim for all companies is to have a win/win situation so that attrition will not be a bad thing for the company. While the target for each company is to have low attrition rates, the aim is to ensure sustainability. Companies have to put in place programs that will excite the workforce to take on challenges and yet allow their employees to have balanced work life when they needed it. Aspirations for growth is necessary at times but more importantly, is whether the company can continue to give the employee the opportunity to add value. Trust by the leadership is important and failure by the leadership to enable their staff to get work done would only reduce the employee’s engagement to add value to the company.