Why Employees Really Quit – and the 2 Things That Will Keep Them

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Last week I wrote about a Salary.com survey showing that even though employees report being happier in their jobs, more of them are reportedly looking for a new job.

I also wrote about Jessica Stillman’s perspective that, even though employees say “low pay” is the number one reason to leave, raises aren’t necessarily the answer.

Two very prescient commenters to that post pointed out that more pay is the “easy answer” when asked “Why would you want to leave?” It’s also the “I don’t want to burn any bridges” safe answer employees give in their exit interviews as to why they actually are leaving.

The real reasons employees leave

But that doesn’t mean it’s true.

Of course, we’d all like more money in our paycheck, but pay alone often isn’t enough to get us to go through the process of searching for a new job. What does? We need to look at the next two items employees cited on the Salary.com survey for the real reasons employees put themselves through the hassle of finding a new job:

  1. No possibility of advancement;
  2. Being under appreciated.

Interestingly, these are the same two reasons cited in an APA (American Psychological Association) Center for Organizational Excellence survey I wrote about earlier this month. That survey found that:

The majority of workers (67 percent) continue to report that they are satisfied with their jobs. Yet, less than half continue to be satisfied with the growth and development opportunities (47 percent) and employee recognition practices (47 percent) offered by their employer.”

What employees are clearly saying

Do you see the theme here? The same two unmet needs are cited by employees who are satisfied with their jobs.

Think how much more productive, engaged and – yes – happy, employees would be if we could just figure out how to help them advance their careers and be recognized for good work. Reading between the lines, employees are clearly saying:

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I’m in a rut. I know my job and I do it well, but I’m bored and nobody appreciates the work I do anyway. I might as well go find a new challenge somewhere else.”

As I said in my Compensation Café post: Social recognition is one of the most powerful tools in the manager’s tool kit to both help employees feel more appreciated for the work they do and to assess employee job fit, contribution and potential areas for advancement.

When the entire work community is involved in noticing and appreciating the good work of others, leaders gain much more information on where team members excel and contribute best. This information, when gathered in a strong system of record, can now be used for more effective talent management and advancement of careers.

Are you in a rut? Are your employees? What are your two greatest unmet needs in your work?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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3 Comments on “Why Employees Really Quit – and the 2 Things That Will Keep Them

  1. This is very true. But building the right path of growth within a company is very challenging. There are a lot more entry level positions as opposed to leadership ones. It means that not all can be accommodated up top. There are going to be people who will stop moving after certain time in their career.

    Its Life 🙂

    SA
    Founder
    http://screen.paango.com

  2. A UK perspective: We conducted research in February 2014 which yielded interesting results related to this. It showed that 55% of employees leave because of a perceived lack of development opportunity and about the same amount (56.8%) admitted that they didn’t proactively do anything about managing their own career.

    So it’s a big driver in unnecessary attrition, yet more than half don’t bother to take action or responsibility for it. The same survey found that only 17.5% of line managers were having frequent conversations with their teams about career development. If this last number was higher, would the first one be lower?

    It’s important to get managers talking to their teams about their careers and to help people realise that developing (or advancing) in their career isn’t necessarily about upward progression – it can also be about moving sideways or adding things into your role to broaden your skills and enjoyment of work while adding value to the business. At the very least it makes you a better candidate for one upward advancement if that is what you really want.
    Steven Ross, Penna Plc

    1. We are finding the same results here with our research at TNS Employee Insights. Part of the onus rests on management’s shoulders for not following up with their subordinates’ career path and actually making it a reality. The rest is on the employee to get the training he or she needs – company paid or not – and then prove they have the credentials to move ahead into a better position, higher or laterally. I agree what you said that individuals must take ownership/responsibility for their own career development.
      Managers are too busy to monitor individuals’ career goals on a regular basis. They check in with them at review time and that’s about it. However, an employee can request monthly chats with their manager to ensure guidance and career path is being followed.
      Let’s face it, there’s the dreamers and then there are the doers. Those of us who dream about moving higher, aren’t doing what we should to get there and those who are hungry enough, methodically take the measures to attain their goals.

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