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

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Editor’s NoteIt’s a TLNT holiday tradition to count down the most popular posts of the year. This is No. 20. Our regular content will return next Monday. Happy New Year! 

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.

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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:

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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