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We know that training our employees and providing them with good benefits are all positive incentives to encourage them to stay and grow with the school. But what if you’ve done all that and good staff members still keep leaving for other instructing jobs?

Employee retention requires a dedicated investment of your time and money, so when someone you’ve nurtured drops the resignation bomb, feelings of frustration, betrayal, and anxiety become prevalent. The process becomes cyclic and never-ending. The hiring process is labor intensive, and training is tedious and redundant for everyone in the operation.

When an employee leaves your company for higher pay or a better opportunity, often these are just convenient explanations so they don’t burn a bridge with a boss they may need for a future job reference. Perhaps the real question is, “Why are they looking for new instructing jobs in the first place?” According to a Saratoga Institute survey of more than 19,000 employees, more than 80 percent of employees surveyed said their departure had more to do with negative factors in the company than greener pastures elsewhere.

If you want to keep your school from becoming a revolving door with a continuously running ad in the help wanted section, make sure you understand that it’s not just what to do to keep your employees happy, but what not to do. The following are the top reasons employees leave small businesses--and things you can do to mitigate or eliminate them.

  • Poor management—It is possible to be professional but still show you care about your employees. Listen, show respect, schedule jobs fairly, and most importantly, always ensure safety over cost.
  • Poor communication—Hold regularly scheduled staff meetings to keep everyone informed, allowing time for input and suggestions. Take employees to breakfast and ask them what really matters to them and what you can do to help them build their future dreams.
  • Salary—Pay your staff at market rate or what their contributions warrant; job review and pay raises should be scheduled a minimum of annually.
  • Lack of recognition—Hand out appreciation awards monthly; whether it’s a marked parking spot or free lunch, they’ll enjoy being rewarded.
  • Favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism—While it’s common to have friends and family members involved in our schools, if there is someone who could do the job better and could help the company in a more meaningful way, don’t allow that person to be driven away. Keep your eyes wide open to the manner in which friends and family conduct themselves in their jobs and toward employees to ensure they aren’t taking liberties or creating conflict.
  • Lack of training—Create benefits for employees and students by offering type-specific and avionics training, additional certificates and ratings, or other training you deem important to the health of the employees and the business. Consider offering flight lessons to the nonpilots and flying proficiency funds to CFIs looking to build time.
  • Excessive workload—A good rule of thumb: Never ask an employee to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.
  • Lack of tools and resources—Replace insufficient, malfunctioning, and outdated equipment and supplies.
  • Lack of teamwork—Build team skills and mutual caring by organizing local, fun activities for the team that actually interrupt your regular business hours.


When clients and students routinely see the same faces and get to know the personalities, they get that old Cheers “Norm!” moment, feeling at home and comfortable when entering your doors. Having a student’s training interrupted because the instructor left for another instructing job is bad for everyone involved. Studies by The Small Business Association (SBA) show that customers will give their business to those places that retain long-term employees, and they are 85 percent more likely to refer others.

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