The 5 main reasons people leave their jobs – and how to retain them 

Christian de Waard

Organizations are constantly having to think about how to keep employees engaged and productive. Despite social and economic uncertainty, employees – especially those in certain white-collar jobs – have some flexibility when it comes to where they work.  

The 5 main reasons people leave their jobs – and how to retain them 

Salary remains a core concern, especially as inflation rises, but workers are also looking at how they can improve their work-life balance. Recent innovations such as hybrid work and four day working weeks are examples of the sort of working models that much prospective talent is looking for. 

The rise of quiet quitting 

As the BBC writes, “While the pandemic served as the trigger, the seeds of the Great Resignation were sown well before – and until the deep-rooted factors causing workers to quit are addressed, resignations are unlikely to subside.” Fortune magazine reported in July of this year that “4.3 million workers quit their jobs in May—and a new McKinsey report suggests that 40% of people in the workforce are still very unhappy with their jobs and looking for new opportunities.” 

2022 has also seen the arrival of the “quiet quitting” phenomenon. This became a popular topic thanks to people on TikTok who posted videos of themselves working from home, while talking about setting boundaries and being conscious of what their role is meant to involve vs. what they’re asked to do. Some employer got worried, of course, as Time reported. But while many employers are talking about productivity as a metric for judging employee performance, burn-outs and stress won’t generate innovations or engage employees in the long term.  

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In this context, it as important as ever for organizations to not just react to difficulties but to look forwards and prevent future disruptions. Given the financial cost and the cost of loss of expertise when an employee takes the exit, it is very important that organizations retain their talent by keeping them engaged and listening to their concerns. 

Gathering feedback from employees to increase retention 

Effectory has been working for 25 years to help organizations gather data which can help them identify risks to employee engagement, and in turn employee retention. With feedback collected directly from employees in a strategic way, organizations can predict what might encourage talent to leave and work to mitigate these risks.  

We had a sense of some of the main causes for employees to exit an organization, but we wanted to get a global overview. That’s why we looked at motivations for leaving an organization as part of our Employee Experience Review research. Composed of responses drawn from 57 countries across 6 continents, the Review is the comprehensive overview into what employees around the world are feeling about their professional lives and the organizations they work for.  

Here’s what we discovered about employee retention and factors that cause employees to leave. 

Why people want to leave their organization 

For everyone who has been actively looking for new work opportunities, a majority of those in South America (57.9%), North America (64.7%), and Europe (62.9%) say that their desire to leave could be prevented by their organization. That adds extra emphasis to the need for organizations to take these concerns seriously, because if addressed, they can prevent a loss of talent and expertise.  

Reason 1: Atmosphere at my organization 

This was the most common reason for employees in North America and Europe to be wanting to leave their organizations, at 23% and 24% respectively. 

An organization’s atmosphere will generally refer to the company culture that the employee experiences on a daily basis. Relationships with colleagues, the approach of management, and how well supported they are to perform their tasks will all play a role in producing the overall atmosphere. 

Reason 2: Training opportunities 

This was the most common reasons for employees in South America, but it is also prominent in the Middle East. 

Training and development is one of the main ways the people can progress both personally and professionally. It is also an important way to develop skills, so that organizations can train the leadership of the future. Providing employees with a sense that they’re long term interests are being taken into account is a great way to engage and retain them. 

Reason 3: Not being able to work independently 

This answer scored quite across all continents. It seems that no matter where people are, being able to have a good mix of both autonomy and support at work is crucial.  

This factor should be even more stressed in our post-lockdown world. With many workers now working remotely or in a hybrid model, there’s lots of opportunities for employees to feel disengaged or like their managers or leadership aren’t paying their concerns proper attention. 

Reason 4: Leadership 

It seems that employees in North America and the Middle East are looking for organizational leadership that inspires them. Leadership could also come in the form of making important decisions that give the organization stability or create policies that improve working conditions. Regardless of what good leadership looks like to you, employees seem to want a sense of both direction and support from those higher up the organizational hierarchy. 

Reason 5: Acceptable workload 

The appearance of this reason in our research reflects the quiet quitting phenomena we discussed earlier. Over work, too tight deadlines and uncollaborative teams can make peoples’ working lives miserable, and have very negative effects on their personal lives, too. Employers may always be thinking about output, but overworking people is not the same as increasing productivity. 

Decrease turnover by listening to employee feedback 

All of the reasons employees give for wanting to leave their jobs can be responded to with proactive measures. It is striking that many of the reasons employees give for wanting to change their job are things that organizations can work on and improve, sometimes for no or very little financial investment. 

We’ve written elsewhere about the connection between retention and engagement, and about why and how organizations should use employee feedback to increase engagement and decrease turnover. 

The role of the entire Employee Experience on employee engagement and satisfaction also needs to be considered. HR in organizations such as Grupo Catalana Occidente are transitioning to thinking more holistically and seeing how all the different elements of a person’s time at work (whether in the office or while at home) play a role in how engaged they are and how likely they are to remain in their role or the company. 

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