Five Factors That Entice Workers To Stay (Or Go) During The Great Resignation
Employees are leaving companies in droves in what is now called The Great Resignation. According to the latest report by Bankrate, approximately 55% of workers are expected to actively seek new jobs in the next 12 months, which means that if corporate leaders don’t think about why, they can expect to watch their best talent walk away. Yet, understanding these five motivating factors that entice workers to stay (or go) can help leaders retain their workforce and improve their companies.
Even if money can’t buy love for one’s job, salaries will affect whether people stay or look elsewhere for employment. For example, a recent study showed that—counter to the common belief that getting paid for something reduces intrinsic motivation—getting paid for doing what you love may not hurt your drive to keep doing it. It may even increase it. Feeling underpaid where one works or simply looking for better pay elsewhere are some of the reasons why there is a correlation between company announcements about wage increases and increased attention on search engines like Indeed.
Money doesn’t always mean cold hard cash, whether that is in terms of higher salary or bonuses. It can also come in the form of benefits, such as college tuition and child-care. In a survey conducted by JUST Capital and The Harris Poll, 55% of respondents ranked higher starting wages as either the first or second priority to attract workers and fill openings for low-wage work. Forty-seven percent ranked providing comprehensive benefits, including health coverage and paid time off as the first or second priority. In a MagnifyMoney survey, 42% of the respondents who are thinking about quitting their job gave “being underpaid” as the main reason for doing so. For those who were not considering leaving, 58% gave as their reason either that they were being paid well or that they were receiving great benefits.
While money may have a significant pull, simply throwing more money at people may not guarantee that they stay, especially after a certain point. As the past year has seen people leaving their jobs in search for higher wages, people also left jobs despite high wages. Employers must consider all the reasons why employees may choose to stay or go rather than frame these economic decisions solely in terms of price.
People spend a lot of time at work and what they do becomes a large part of their identity. As such, people want to find employment they find meaningful and have higher job satisfaction when they do. According to a 2018 study by BetterUp Labs, nine out of 10 workers will trade on average 23% of their future earnings to be able to do meaningful work. Not only that, they work more, putting in an extra hour per week and taking fewer days of paid leave. In another study, nearly 80% of the respondents said that they would rather have a boss care about them finding meaning and success in work than a 20% pay increase.
In other words, when employees identify with the company’s purpose and find what they do meaningful, they are more likely to stay. They are also more likely to be more dedicated than what their employment contract demands.
Meaning at work doesn’t have to be the same—or of the same magnitude—for everyone, but it does relate to the feeling that what we do makes a difference. That takes us to the next thing that people care about—impact.
Being in a job that gives you a sense of purpose but feeling that you are unable to actually do your job is not only frustrating, it is harmful and unsustainable. When employees spin their wheels, the physical or emotional exhaustion that arises from their sense of reduced accomplishment is known as burnout. When they feel like they let themselves and others down because of a sense of powerlessness, they suffer from moral injury. In either case, employees will eventually leave either the job or the profession entirely.
The flip side of lack of impact is doing a good job but not getting validation or recognition at work. If your employees don’t feel seen or respected—or when they are not recognized for the work they do—they will oftentimes seek out places where they can have that support. In a recent survey of employees, Lattice found that 47% of all employees surveyed said they were looking to change jobs to one that provides clarity and growth opportunities. Professional development opportunities are a top priority for Generation Z and millennials.
Recognizing people for who they are and what they contribute will certainly go a long way in keeping them in the company, but it is not enough for validation or recognition to come through formal reviews and processes. It also has to permeate the organization’s culture and habits. That takes us to the last thing that employees value, the work environment.
It is not only what you do everyday that matters to most people. It is with whom you do it. Enjoying the people with whom you work adds to job satisfaction while hating your work environment creates a strong impetus to leave. A 2019 report done by Emtrain, which surveyed 40,000 employees at 125 companies, found that 29% of employees surveyed left jobs due to “workplace conflict.” That was before the pandemic. Now, burnout and job stress has exacerbated the problem of employee retention. And it is not simply because of work overload. Rather, it is oftentimes due to a loss of trust in the organization that fuels an exodus. For example, as moral injury among healthcare professionals has increased, so has frustration over the decisions of hospital leadership. In a survey commissioned by the ABIM Foundation, 30% of physicians reported that their trust in the U.S. healthcare system and healthcare organization leaders decreased over the past year.
This phenomenon is not limited to healthcare. Toxic work cultures are generated from the top, regardless of industry. And when leaders set the wrong tone, the effects will trickle down the organizational hierarchy. This has important consequences for more than just employee retention. Leaders must be concerned about psychologically unsafe work environments, because they also affect companies’ productivity, creativity, and resilience.
To lead a successful company, leaders need to keep these employee interests in mind, not only their own.