Retaining Top Talent Series | Part 2: Why Employees Leave

By Marilyn Weiss | Employee Experience

Feb 20

This is the second in a three-part blog series about why people stay at companies, why they leave, and what organizations can do about it. Today, I focus on the many factors that contribute to why people choose to leave.

I recently wrote about the reasons employees choose to stay at their companies. This week, as I’ve turned my attention to the many reasons employees choose to leave – by nature, a more negative topic – I’ve felt overwhelmed at times by what an uphill battle retaining top talent can seem to be, with the data showing us how many companies are still getting this wrong.

Here are the main reasons I’ve found in my research for why employees decide to leave organizations:

Lack of investment
The research overwhelmingly shows companies have a major issue here, with 50% of respondents to one survey indicating they don’t believe they contribute to the company’s overall goals, or don’t understand how they benefit their organization(1). Only 20% of employees say their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do excellent work(2), and even fewer – 14% – believe their companies are helping them reach their full potential(3). Not surprisingly, all of this adds up to employees who are 3x more likely to look for a new job because they don’t believe they’re growing or developing(4). A lot of this comes down to ineffective bosses, which I’ll address in more detail below.

Lack of advancement or challenge
Directly related to not feeling invested in, lack of advancement could be considered the nail in the coffin for causing employees to leave their employers. The statistics here are particularly staggering: Did you know nearly 1/3 of employees believe they need to leave their current employer to advance their career(1)? Even more – nearly 40% – leave because they want to tackle new challenges, which they presume can’t be found at their current organization(1). A Korn Ferry study takes it even further, finding the top reason people planned to look for a new job is because they were flat out “bored” in their current role(5)!

Negative culture
As they say, culture eats pretty much everything else – for breakfast, lunch or dinner, depending on who you ask! It’s one of the most important reasons an employee stays or leaves. The data supports this, with 70% of people saying they will choose not to work at a top company if it means having to endure a bad culture(6). Nearly a quarter of employees say their company culture doesn’t fit with their values(5), and even more say they observe a disconnect between their organization’s purpose for existing and its daily actions(7). Challenging cultures even seem to inhibit the work itself, with more than half of workers agreeing that their “internal office culture creates a lot of barriers to executing good ideas(8).”

Ineffective managers
Bad bosses may get an unfair share of the blame for people leaving companies, given the information I’ve already shared here about the many other factors involved. But I’d be remiss not to mention bosses, because they do play a significant role. Not surprisingly, employees who are unsatisfied with their bosses are 4x more likely to interview for other jobs(4). There can be many reasons for this dissatisfaction, from lack of recognition, to ineffective delegation, to an education system that teaches people how to manage but not truly lead. In fact, LINX WorkForce Innovations is planning a blog dedicated specifically to the idea of management vs. leadership because it’s such a vital topic.

Now that we’ve covered why employees stay and why they leave, I can’t wait to bring you Part 3 in this Retention Series soon, where I’ll shift into problem solving mode and discuss what to actually do about all of this. In the meantime, what has made you leave a job in the past? What’s missing from my list?

1 Ceridian Pulse of Talent survey
2 Gallup State of the American Workplace report
3 LifeWorks: Taking Care: How to Develop and Support Today’s Employees
4 TINYpulse Employee Retention Report
5 Korn Ferry: Breaking Boredom: What’s Really Driving Job Seekers in 2018
6 LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report
7 EY: Deriving Value From Purpose
8 American Express OPEN Get Business Done survey

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About the Author

Marilyn has a passion for Workforce Wellness. As co-founder of LINX WorkForce Innovations, she is keen on discovering and amplifying the “Voices of Employees” who are the “Consumers of the Workplace,” so that the right WorkForce solutions can be co-created the first time. Previously, she co-founded SIVO Insights where she provides thought leadership and creative thinking for Fortune 500 companies by uncovering consumer insights and experiences. For every endeavor, she believes in the power of a strong company culture, based on authentic connections, innovative approaches and a growth mindset.