There’s this common assumption that today’s employees, especially those of the Millennial crowd and younger (born in 1982 or after), are frequent “job-hoppers”. More specifically, that they quit / change jobs way more often than past generations did and that they are typically always on the look out for themselves and their next career step rather than staying loyal to one company.
What you might find surprising is that this assumption is actually incorrect, statistically. Employees today, on average, stay longer with a company than they did 25 years ago. In 1983, the average employee tenure was around 3.5 years. Today’s average employee tenure is 5.1 years.
That’s great news right?
Well, yes, in theory, but it’s likely little consolation to companies who still face frequent employee turnover of team members who stayed nowhere near 5 years (more like just a year or even less!). And to be fair, if you dig deeper into what makes up these overall average employee tenure statistics, you’ll find that a multitude of factors like industry, age, gender, education, race and ethnicity play a role in employee tenure.
What actually matters then, and what’s actually much more valuable for companies to understand is….
What are the reasons WHY employees stay or leave their jobs in today’s job market?
All things considered, why do good employees quit?
What Makes Good Employees Quit
There isn’t always just one “smoking gun” reason that makes a good employee quit, as it’s typically a combination of things that weigh on their minds and impact their decision to quit over time. But what we’ve learned by asking our network of HR experts and company leaders is that there is definitely a distinct set of common reasons that drive employees to want to leave the organizations they work at.
Here are those 16 common reasons good employees quit, according to company leaders and HR professionals who have seen it from both perspectives:
1. Lack of trust and autonomy
“Keeping good employees begins and ends with trust. Leaders who don’t trust their employees often micromanage them, constantly questioning their decisions and requiring them to seek approval on everything they do. High performing employees don’t typically need this level of oversight. Instead, they thrive in environments where there is a high level of trust and autonomy.
Leaders who struggle with trusting their employees end up creating restrictive work environments that leave employees feeling stressed, anxious and unable to do their best work. Good employees don’t want to work in a job where they’re not trusted by leadership. If you want to attract and keep great employees, it all begins with you. Your job as the leader is to trust and guide your team, to support them in their roles and let them shine. When you learn to let go and trust your team, they will deliver at levels you never even imagined. You’ll not only attract, but keep, better employees who are motivated, enthusiastic and produce great results.” -Ashley Cox, PHR, SHRM-CP Leadership Development Expert and Founder of SproutHR
2. Not being appreciated or recognized
“From my 20+ year of experience in the world of staffing and recruiting, the primary reason that I have seen for someone leaving a company is not being appreciated. This lack of appreciation can come in many forms including being underpaid, not receiving positive feedback for a job well done, broken promises, especially those around end-of-year bonuses, valid complaints that are shrugged off and reasonable change suggestions that go ignored. When leadership makes these mistakes, the environment in an otherwise healthy company can start to feel toxic and encourage a mass exodus of high-quality employees that are difficult to replace.
The most memorable example I can recall occurred about 10 years ago when I placed a marketing manager inside a company that was growing at a rapid pace. Within six months, I received an email from her asking if I had any new roles available. I was surprised to hear this because her probationary period had just ended and the manager who had hired her had sent me an email thanking me again for finding her. It turned out that the company had promised a bonus pool of 10% of profits to be divided up at the end of the year based on seniority and job level. Everyone in the company believed that this pool was intended for lower level workers but when the time came to determine the percentage splits, the senior management decided they deserved around 8%, leaving 2% for the rest of the team. The company lost 30% of its workforce within the next six months and struggled for years afterwards.” -Rich Franklin, Founder and CEO of KBC Staffing
“Companies lose good employees primarily because they do not recognize their talent in time. The employer should be aware that he is dealing with a skilled person and motivate him to engage in the development of the company. Talent management is about identifying and supporting the development of the most talented employees to implement the company’s plans.. The lack of talent management in companies means that the most talented employees usually leave their companies.
Unfair compensation [relates to this reason too]. It is essential to recognize the value of a good employee and supply him with a fair salary, bonuses, and extra benefits. Those that feel underpaid will also feel underappreciated and will start looking for the compensation elsewhere.” -Piotr Sosnowski Co-Founder and VP at Zety
“A good employee will always leave if they feel they are not being appreciated. Studies, and our own experience has shown, that salary and benefits are high on the list when it comes to retention, but if an employee doesn’t feel as if their contributions are being taken into consideration or they’re being highlighted for the good work they’re doing, they will more than likely look for a new position. Think of all the employees you have hired and what ways you’ve worked to ensure they feel validated and challenged in their job. If you have a high turnover rate with people moving on to seek similar positions at other companies, this may be the reason. -Ricky Joshi, Co-Founder and CEO of Saatva Dreams
“Good employees will leave a company if they don’t receive recognition for their contribution, and feel unappreciated. No one wants to continue to work hard and bring value to a company if their efforts are ignored. A thank you from management goes a long way. Recognizing employees for their contributions doesn’t have to include monetary incentives. It can be as simple as a private conversation or email message.” -James Feldstein, President of Audio Den
“In my experience from the side of both that employee that wants to leave and the employer that has witnessed talent quit it the main sticking point is not being appreciated or listened to.
I have found that praise, where it is due, goes a long way. It takes very little for a company to praise and recognise achievements among its staff. It is the acknowledgements of your hard work that grow your loyalty to a company. It makes your feel valued and recognised. A extra holiday day, a small bonus, even a thank you card from the boss makes all the difference. Lack of recognition for even the smallest of things is a big bug bear. ” -Gina Hutchings, Head of Marketing Communications at WSA – The Communications Agency
“Employees will often leave companies when they no longer feel they are valued. Employee engagement is extremely important in today’s workplace, but it should go further than bringing pizza to work or a company outing. Managers need to get to know their employees’ experience and what knowledge the employee could bring to the table. Start including employees in business decisions when able. It tends to go further than a slap on the back thanking them for their hard work.” -Jill Thornell, HR Manager at Tennessee Tool Works
3. Lack of respect
“Good employees quit/leave for a variety of reasons, but in my experience it stems from one main source…respect. If an employee isn’t receiving the respect they know they’ve earned and deserve then you will be hard pressed to get them to stay.
Respect could mean how they’re treated by managers and coworkers, or the types of assignments and projects they receive to work on. When people say they left a job because they weren’t paid enough, it normally means the company didn’t respect their work and abilities enough to compensate them appropriately. Again…it’s all about respect. If an employee’s abilities aren’t respected enough to receive appropriate compensation or be given projects that challenge and utilize their abilities and skills, they will leave. If they are mistreated by others within the company, it’s because of a lack of respect.
Remember: People don’t leave good jobs without a reason, and the reason is often based on a lack of respect from someone within the company and how that lack of respect is handled.” -Samantha R. Strazanac, CEO and Founder of Strazanac Solutions
4. Little to no opportunity for growth and development, no advancement opportunities
“One of the top things most applicants are looking for is future growth or promotional abilities at a new company. If you are part of a large organization, you can probably speak to the promotions past incumbents of the position have received. Career pathing may be a little trickier for smaller organizations who have only seen steady job growth over the years. That being said, any sized organization can still create a plan for positions that include training opportunities, certification opportunities, managerial opportunities, etc. Showing a candidate that the company is invested in their growth will allow him/her to see a potential future with the organization and provide a sense of future job security. Without these efforts, companies will continue to lose good employees to competitors.” -Robin Schwartz, PHR, HR Director of Career Igniter
“Good employees always want to continue moving up, forward, earning more, learning more, etc. If they aren’t offered continuous opportunity to grow their skills, grow personally and learn new things that interest them, grow their salary, or earn enough in compensation and benefits to make them feel comfortable, then they will look elsewhere for a career and company that does offer these things.” -Stephanie Troiano of The Hire Talent
“Employees will leave when they feel that the opportunity to advance their career is not present at their current employer. If they do not know where their next opportunity will come from, or they see their colleagues getting promotions and they feel stagnant in their position, they will look for opportunities elsewhere. Employee engagement is at an all time low – 67% of employees report that they’re not engaged in their jobs. Good employees who are engaged need to be identified, nurtured and challenged to grow in order to retain them.” -Richard Pummell, Human Resources Lead at DevelopIntelligence
“A major reason people leave, especially in growing startups, is lack of career path/ clear growth opportunities. I work with startups and growth stage companies and often in startups the workforce is growing and changing along with strategy. It can be hard for employees to identify what their next promotion or role should be because the position they would be best for, does not exist yet! I encourage managers and leaders to ensure they are giving employees their time to discuss individual’s career goals, helping them to identify growth opportunities themselves, and truly mentoring employees. I also encourage employees to identify future business needs and challenges that they are uniquely skilled to help solve. Or can focus on development so they will be in the future.” -Nancy Noto, Founder, Sr. HR Consultant at NPN Consulting
“The reason why good employees quit is because they are not being developed. Employees recognize that there is a lack of opportunity in their organizations. Employees value their careers and wants the opportunity to advance. Managers who provide their employees opportunities to develop their careers are in a good position to retain their employees. Managers must learn how to find opportunities to develop their employees, advocate for their employees to gain development opportunities through project teams and collaboration initiatives, and share their employees with other managers so that employees can learn how to navigate the enterprise organization and develop relationships with other key stakeholders.” -Petal Bovell-Proffitt, Founder of DISC Bodhi
“Good employees often quit when they feel like they’re not sufficiently learning and growing. According to research by the Gallup organization, when asked what do they most want from their new job, all employees and especially Millennials say opportunities to learn and grow top their list. So when leaders neglect to provide such opportunities, regardless of promotability, they ultimately fail to engage and retain their top talent.
Investing in learning and growth opportunities can help with retention of top talent. Many companies worry that this is beyond their budget, but there are so many ways for developing employees in a way that is tailored to their unique learning preferences, organizational budget, and time constraints-all while using existing resources and opportunities. To create more development opportunities on a shoestring budget, think outside the classroom. Mentoring, special projects or teams, and social learning opportunities are just three examples of ways that employers can create non-training, low-budget development opportunities for all employees.
For example, you could help an employee engage in volunteer opportunities that create intense and varied learning of competencies like leadership, project management, public speaking, or financial acumen. Or, an employee could serve on a special team within your organization that is geared toward improving a process, solving a problem, or developing a new service. This gives them fertile ground to develop competencies like teamwork, organization, or even particular technical acumen.” -Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow and Creator and Host of The TalentGrow Show
5. Feeling underutilized
“Most great employees often leave a company because they frequently feel as though they are being underutilized and not challenged enough within the workplace. Companies would only hope to hire on self-motivating employees to carry out the work that needs to be done. But sometimes managers aren’t giving their employees the support they need.
Great employees still need to be challenged by their superiors. If they aren’t, they might deteriorate from being the best employee there ever was. For example, experienced or ‘good’ employees might be stuck with asking themselves, ‘how else can I be challenged at work?’.
This feeling of being underutilized and not being challenged will fester over time. Employees will learn to settle with what work is in front of them because the work they are doing is no longer stimulating as it once was. It is up to both the employee and higher up, of how else to set standards, so the employee is to evolve into the best employee possible. An employee who is about to leave a company needs to rediscover the purpose of their work, to stay true to the company. Great managers should help strong employees rediscover their purpose in work, so they are more committed to the company long-term.” -Jacob Dayan, Esq., CEO and Co-Founder of Community Tax
6. Bad manager
“It may seem cliche, but high-performing employees often leave a company due to frustration with their direct supervisor. Maybe this frustration is rooted in disagreements over work philosophy, lack of resources, lack of professional development or lack of opportunity to move up or on within the organization. This is why it’s so important for team leaders to recognize what motivates each of their team members as individuals, and adapt their management style according to ensure each person on the team is staying engaged and will be provided with sufficient challenges and opportunity to keep them on the team for the longer haul.” -Kris Hughes, Senior Content Marketing Manager at ProjectManager.com
“[A] common reason that good people leave is a bad manager. Better managers equal more engaged employees. Companies of all sizes need to give managers opportunities to grow their leadership skills rather than just use the ‘sink-or-swim’ approach. There are lots of ways to grow leadership skills outside the training classroom and on a tight budget, such as using a volunteering role outside the company to grow leadership skills, pairing up with a mentor, or even serving as a mentor before they’re promoted so that they can hone their leadership skills and be more ready for the promotion.” -Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow and Creator and Host of The TalentGrow Show
“Good or great employees do not leave the company; they quit because of the manager!!
This is a fact and if you want to figure out the secret sauce of retaining great talent then they need to empower managers on how to shine the spotlight on what makes the *individual team members feel energized and strengthened* so they can continually keep them in a high performing state!
This actually starts at the hiring process but where most managers fail to retain good talent is that they *slowly begin to take for granted what is excellent in this person and begin to put the focus on energy on what seems to be lacking or needs to fix*. We forget why we hired them to begin with and forget to shine the spotlight on what makes them great!” –Holly Dowling, Award-Winning, Global Speaker & Inspirational Thought Leader, Change Management & Women’s Enrichment Expert
“Unfortunately, a bad manager is one of the most common reasons good employees quit. If your manager makes your work environment toxic, it’s only a matter of time until it wears you down and makes what would otherwise be a perfectly fine job, well, not perfectly fine.
I used to work for a small IT firm, and my boss would constantly fly off the handle. He had a huge temper problem and managed with fear, not fairness. He lost many good employees while I worked there – no one wanted to deal with that. I lasted a year before quitting. I couldn’t handle fearing for my job on a weekly basis.
It’s incredibly important to manage fairly and remain professional. Emotions happen, of course, but berating employees verbally isn’t ok. If an employee comes to you stating their manager is conducting themselves unprofessionally, it is absolutely worth looking into, or you may find yourself losing employees because of them.” -Roxanne Williams, Marketing Director at Full Stack Talent
7. Poor management
“If the team lead or a manager is not able to motivate an employee, point him in the right direction or provide proper and relevant feedback, he will feel lost after a while. What comes with it not having a clear structure of duties or goals set. We at Zety, have introduced an OKRTs (Objective-Key Result-Tasks) system that allows each and every employee to set up his own goals that are intertwined with the team’s and company’s targets. The employee is able to challenge anyone’s OKRTs and get his own goals challenged by team members. Seeing where we are going and looking far at the horizon get us all motivated and not willing to leave the paths we take.” -Piotr Sosnowski Co-Founder and VP at Zety
8. Poor communication
“A good employee leaving an organization is also a failure of communication. An astute manager should be able to read the employee and get an early warning that something is not right. Employees who are not happy will bring issues to the attention of their manager, but if there is no interest or follow-through after a while they will shut down. This is the time when they start to seek new opportunities in order to escape an untenable situation.” -Richard Pummell, Human Resources Lead at DevelopIntelligence
“A hostile environment and poor communication. We spend a significant portion of our day at work. This should be a place where we feel uplifted and free to unleash our creative powers. Very often the employees deal with perks’ jealousy, unfair or unfriendly treatment or in worst cases- bullying. Even an employee with the best set of hard skills might not be equipped with proper skills to deal with a hostile environment. This results in such employees leaving the companies.” -Piotr Sosnowski Co-Founder and VP at Zety
9. Feeling over-stressed or over-worked
“One of the great ironies of the American workplace is that the highest performing employees are often burdened with the most unreasonable volume of work to perform. This leads to a stress level that isn’t controllable, and these high performers naturally look for better fits elsewhere in time.” -Kris Hughes, Senior Content Marketing Manager at ProjectManager.com
“One of the major reasons good employees quit is when they are overworked.
It is easy to unintentionally overwork good employees because obviously, they are good at what they do. Overworking any employee can be counterproductive because it can lead to inefficient work. If you do want to increase a good employee’s workload, think about offering promotions or raises as well. Another reason good employees quit is not rewarding the good work they do. If you have a good employee make sure they know they are appreciated.” -Andrew Rawson, Chief Learning Officer at Traliant
10. Lack of support
“Good employees typically want to operate in a high-performing environment. When they feel coworkers are dragging them down, or that management is not supporting them or helping pull them up through the organization there is a feeling of stagnation and possibly frustration. The old adage that people don’t quit a company, they quit their manager holder hold here – either scenario would represent a situation where managers did not get engaged and address situations or help the employee develop in some way.” -Richard Pummell, Human Resources Lead at DevelopIntelligence
11. Work-life balance
“I have been a recruiter for over 20 years and we ask every candidate why they want to leave a job. One of the more common reasons is work life balance. Many employers are not aware of this because it is not something employees want to admit to. Candidates are considering company culture more seriously when looking at new positions in an effort to evaluate if you are expected to work 50+ hours on a regular basis or travel extensively or if you can actually use your vacation time. People want more time with their families and to avoid burn out. Startups are notoriously bad about expecting employees to work non-stop and through the weekends without vacations. It is unreasonable to expect employees to keep up that type of pace in the long run.” -Debbie Winkelbauer, CEO at Surf Search Inc.
12. Uninspiring or unhealthy work environment or company culture
“Several of my employees have said they have left previous jobs because they needed a more positive working environment. A negative atmosphere in the workplace is a common reason for many good employees to leave a business. No matter how many perks or rewards a business may offer, they won’t count for much if, when the employee is in the office, there is a toxic environment. There are plenty of stresses and strains that come with running a business; however, you can’t take this strain out on the people who work for you – they are trying to help you out and do their jobs, so you need to meet them halfway.
A toxic environment can really affect an employee’s mental health and outlook on their job; it can make them question their worth and job security, which often makes them feel like they would be happier in another company. In all businesses, but particularly in smaller businesses, there is often the need for a small team to take on large amounts of work. It is
the boss’s responsibility to instil faith and confidence in their team, to make them believe in their own talents and abilities – this will bring in positive results. If the leader approaches it from a negative perspective, then instead of the employees focusing on how they can do a great job, they’ll focus on how they don’t want to do a bad job – a very negative shift of attitude.
This type of atmosphere can lead to employee burnout and valued members of staff leaving for the sake of their own survival. Nobody should wake up dreading the environment they have to be in for the next eight hours.” -Frances Geoghegan, Managing Director of Healing Holidays
“Employees [often] leave when something about the working environment is off. Most good candidates can deal with structural or organizational changes in management and the like, even if they don’t like it. They can deal with it and know how to get along with people. If their co-workers are disruptive, or the company and management is doing something shady or dishonest, a good employee will gracefully find their way out of that situation and look for something that aligns more with their values.” -Stephanie Troiano of The Hire Talent
I believe that many great employees will choose to leave a company or quit their job because of the company’s culture.
Often, there will be signs that the company culture is toxic up front, such as a revolving turnover rate, employees not knowing their bosses (or even other coworkers) all that well, and the overall energy is negative. Great employees will know that there are other companies out there they can go to where this will not be a problem and where their ideas and roles will be respected and valued. -Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com
“Never underestimate the power of a positive, fun, interactive working environment! Loud laughter in the hallway? Be glad you hear it. Horseplay in the parking lot? It’s a good thing. Those (sometimes seemingly pointless) birthday parties in the break room, the company picnics, holiday parties, and annual outings to the ballpark? Write the check and smile. (And make sure that you’re in attendance.) Laughter, playfulness, and camaraderie among employees are the most accurate barometers of a cohesive, familial, stick-around-a-while workforce.” – Denise Dudley, Author of “Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted” (SkillPath Publications), Professional Trainer, Keynote Speaker, Business Consultant, and Founder and Former CEO of SkillPath Seminars
13. Seeing good employees leave
“A seldom considered reason why good employees leave is….other good employees leaving. There’s a saying that employees join companies and leave managers. It’s true, but the reverse is also correct. When you watch the long term movements of top notch employees you’ll begin to notice a pattern. They often leave in waves.
For example, you have a high-performing head of marketing who leaves for one of the more classic reasons i.e. compensation, work-life balance, career growth, manager conflict, etc. Then a month or so latter, other employees – perhaps a graphic designer, web developer, and social media strategist all scoot and resurface at the marketing head’s new organization. This is a classic “it’s not you. It’s me” break up. The company may not have done anything “wrong” but the relationship was with the past leader who these employees trust to do right by them.
So what’s the fix? Sure, you can try to tie everyone up with non-compete’s and non-solicit’s, but that’s an expense proposition that often backfires. A better solution is to identify your top performers and key organizational connectors and treat them well so they become advocates for your organization, sparking retention along the way.” -Tim Toterhi, TEDx speaker, ICF certified executive coach, Founder of Plotline Leadership and author of The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job
14. Disconnect with company’s values
“Not being able to identify with the company’s values. At a certain stage of company’s growth, we came up with a set of company values that we are deadly serious about. When hiring, we actually test the applicants to see how they relate to those values. Should this be ignored, the employee would quickly found himself unhappy, lost and mismatched.” -Piotr Sosnowski Co-Founder and VP at Zety
“The #1 reason: a lack of personal buy-in with the organization. I believe the buy-in involves two components: agreement and alignment with the company’s goals and objectives (whether it’s making electrical wiring or providing social services to the underserved), and—more importantly, in my opinion—an emotional attachment to both the co-staff and to the job itself.
In my various senior management positions (including CEO), I can often accurately predict who’s going to stay for the long haul and who’s going to make a getaway—not based upon job performance, but by watching whether they’re visiting with co-workers in the hallways, attending optional get-togethers such as company-sponsored parties, and just generally looking as if they’re enjoying themselves and fitting in. Without that emotional attachment, there’s really no “gravitational force” that keeps an employee from wandering off, no matter what the pay or benefits package may look like.” – Denise Dudley, Author of “Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted” (SkillPath Publications), Professional Trainer, Keynote Speaker, Business Consultant, and Founder and Former CEO of SkillPath Seminars
15. Disconnect with personal or professional goals
“Long-term goals not aligning with short-term opportunity.
At times, a high-functioning employee may have long-term goals to work in a certain industry, or within a certain role and no matter how well they function in the role they are in it won’t be a long-term relationship. For example, I once managed a social media manager who was highly organized, a great writer, had a positive attitude, was a great team player, and generally a pleasure to work with. I felt we had a strong working relationship and didn’t anticipate her resigning, but she did. The reason didn’t have to do with any frustration about the role, but rather a desire to work in more of a traditional marketing role for which she was afforded an opportunity. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a bad skill set/role fit.” -Kris Hughes, Senior Content Marketing Manager at ProjectManager.com
“What makes good employees quit / leave a company or job?
It all comes down to fit. Good employees leave when their reasons for working remain unfulfilled or are in direct conflict with the motivations for the business. In order to keep good people, businesses need to make sure that what drives an individual is aligned with the culture into which they are brought in.
I currently work in an organization that focuses on identifying the ideal fit for employees and employers.
My passion for this came by way of a failure and first-hand experience. I used to own a business with my father-in-law. Together, we designed a very harmonious environment for me and my staff. I later left this business and decided I would get a sales job. I went to work for a major mattress company at their flagship store. The mentality was talk-less and take more money.. I was making a ton of money but felt exhausted and out of my skin each day. I wanted to talk more and provide the right value to customers. Eight months and $2 million later, I quit and couldn’t even articulate why. Now I see the job was focused on competition and sales quotas. I could do the job, but it didn’t feed my driving forces. I wanted to work in an environment where I could design an experience and help people find the right product for the value they sought.” -Todd Fox, Vice President of Distribution at TTI Success Insights
16. Changes in one’s personal life (geographic move, romantic relationship, etc)
“There are many reasons that good employees leave your team. These can include job offers elsewhere with higher pay or benefits, and a “new challenge.” You also see good employees become disenchanted with management; who aren’t providing the leadership and growth opportunities these high performing employees seek.
However, one of the least talked about reasons that good employees leave is romantic relationships. Outside the company, this is more obvious: a significant other gets a job in another city, and your star employee looks for a new job so they can move together. There is also the office romance, which if it “doesn’t work out” can create an awkward or even hostile work environment for the couple and other members of the team. There is also the challenge of success. Some work places have rules against relationships, and so a successful, committed couple that met at work may want one or both of the individuals to leave so they can talk about their relationship more publicly.”