Why Good Employees Leave – and What You Can Change to Keep Them

ADP Research Institute®

Why Good Employees Leave – and What You Can Change to Keep Them



Businesses are vying for talent in a labor market that’s tighter than ever before – and expected to become even more competitive. Knowing this, employers are recognizing the increasing importance of employee engagement to limit costly turnover.

But do employers have an accurate sense of how engaged their employees feel? Not always. In fact, new research conducted by ADP Research Institute® reveals significant disconnects between employer and employee opinions on what’s truly engaging workers – and what’s not. Several key findings of this Midsized Talent study suggest that small changes can help maximize the return on talent-management dollars – and retain top employees.

Know that numbers aren’t everything

When considering factors that retain or drive away top talent, employers tend to focus on business areas that are easily quantified, such as the scope and costs of benefits packages. But employers don’t have a clear grasp on the actual issues that employees say will push them away.

Pay is the number one reason employees leave, but the issue is far more complicated than that. For example, employers consistently underestimate employee feeling about the work itself, which tops employees’ list of reasons to stay in a job and is among the top three non-pay reasons they would leave.

Employers can make things better for employees. For example, an employer might ensure necessary equipment, such as computers, are operating well and not interfering with an employee’s ability to do great work. Or, they may work to offer employees varied responsibilities to keep job duties interesting and fresh.

Relationships matter – especially those with direct managers

A poor manager can drive a good employee out the door. When compensation is excluded from consideration, employees cite negative relations with their direct manager as the top reason they leave for opportunity elsewhere. Ongoing management training at all levels of an organization can help reduce this risk.

Though employees value strong working relationships, they don’t want to feel tethered to email or other work obligations when the work day is done. More than 70% of employees expect to be able to disconnect when they leave work; fewer say they can actually do so.

Employers can minimize work-hour related turnover by talking about scheduling during recruitment. A job candidate might be hesitant to inquire about flexibility during an interview; no one wants to appear averse to hard work. But work-hour transparency will help ensure mutual fit – and make it less likely for an employee to leave because a role isn’t as flexible as he or she expected.

A little recognition goes a long way

Company culture is one of the top reasons employees leave and is often measured in part by employee morale. But getting an accurate read of morale involves more than just evaluating whether employees seem upbeat or miserable.

As the Midsized Talent study indicates, employers don’t adequately perceive the distinction between emotions that are intrinsic to an employee (such as loyalty and confidence) and those that result from the employer’s behavior (such as feeling valued and recognized). A majority of employees feel confident and loyal; not more than half say they feel valued and recognized.

About this report: The ADP Research Institute conducted an online survey among 500 employers and 1,415 employees at midsized companies. The survey fielded in September 2016. Midsized companies were defined as those with 50 to 999 employees. The employee sample includes a representative sample of the U.S. working population, age 18 and above. The employer sample includes talent decision makers, comprised of representatives from HR and other departments.

Keywords: HR Management, Talent Management

Business Types: Research for Midsized Organizations

Roles: Research for Human Resources Professionals

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