The top 5 reasons people quit their jobs: It’s not just about the money

Liz Fosslien
Head of comms and content

Today’s job market is tumultuous. In August alone, 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of the entire workforce, quit their jobs. To better understand what’s driving the Great Resignation, we asked more than 90,000 employees across large, global organizations why they are or are not looking for new roles. Our biggest finding? For most would-be quitters, we found that culture matters more than compensation

The good news is that most of the factors leading people to jump ship can be molded at the manager level. Here are the five top factors that push top talent to walk out the (virtual) door — and how leadership can encourage managers to build a culture worth sticking around for. 

1. If people aren't empowered to succeed, they're empowered to leave   

People who feel that they won’t get ahead because of inequities are 9.2x more likely to leave than those who feel supported. Rather than fight a company culture that doesn’t recognize their contributions and perspectives, under-appreciated talent will look to go somewhere that values them.

Managers can help by emphasizing inclusion and belonging. In team meetings, encourage managers to appoint one person to act as a facilitator. The role of the facilitator is to help keep the conversation equitable by making sure each person has a chance to chime in. For example, if they notice someone on video unmute, then mute, then unmute, then mute themselves, their role is to jump in and explicitly invite that person to share their thoughts. Make this a rotating role to ensure fairness.

2. Employees won’t stick around if their careers are stagnating

It may seem obvious, but employees who don’t perceive that they have growth opportunities are a whopping 7.9x more eager to leave their company, even if they otherwise like their jobs.

To offer on-the-job learning, have managers seek to give employees frequent chances to develop new habits and skills. In 1:1 meetings, managers can ask, “What are your career goals? What kind of role would you like to move towards, and what do you need to learn to get there?” Managers should then look to give their people relevant responsibilities and stretch opportunities.

Keep in mind that growth opportunities don’t always need to take the form of hierarchical advancement. Horizontal movements, or chances to explore new and different areas of the company, count as growth, too. Managers can encourage employees to identify something they’d like to learn more about and conduct a skills swap with someone on a different team. It’s a great chance to build connection while both parties grow their confidence and acquire new abilities.

3. Workers want to feel valued for their unique talents and skills

For top employees, having a “good” job with pleasant coworkers isn’t enough. They want a role that leverages their unique contributions and abilities. People who don’t feel that their work utilizes their personal skills are 6.6x more likely to leave their organization.

To empower people to invest in their unique skills, managers should be flexible when assigning projects and encourage employees to “job craft,” or shape their roles into something more satisfying. By helping their reports to carve out time, energy, or attention for an aspect of their work that they enjoy and find personally meaningful, managers can meaningfully boost retention. This is especially important for tenured employees, who are more likely to be bored of their current roles and more open to novelty. If employees are given new opportunities to use their skills, they’re less likely to seek novelty at a brand new company.

4. A sense of purpose matters more than ever

It’s hard for people to stay or be productive in a role if they don’t feel like what they do matters. In fact, employees who don’t believe their work contributes significantly to their company’s mission are 6.3x more likely to leave. Our research shows that employees have become increasingly siloed and isolated after months after working remotely, and now want to be part of something larger than themselves.

Managers can boost purpose by connecting the dots between people’s day-to-day responsibilities and the overall company mission. When assigning tasks, managers can share how each individual's projects fit into the bigger picture and the positive ways their efforts will impact the lives of others.

5. People want clear goals, and the freedom to figure out how to get there

When it feels like circumstances are beyond our control—say, a never-ending pandemic, climate change, or economic uncertainty—a sense of progress is paramount. People who don’t feel like they have clear, achievable goals are 6.2x more likely to leave their company than those who regularly hit meaningful milestones.

To help fight uncertainty, managers can give employees clear, time-bound metrics for success. As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Clear expectations help people do their best work because they know exactly what they’re working towards. After giving direction, have managers step back. Micromanaging is the fastest way to destroy motivation. Hybrid teams that report high levels of autonomy perform better, are more satisfied with their jobs, and are more innovative.

When people choose whether to stay or leave a company, they’re not just taking the narrow view of their own personal empowerment and growth. Instead, they want to feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves. By giving employees chances to grow, connecting them to the company mission, making them feel included, and aligning their unique skills with team responsibilities, managers can help keep their best people from quitting. 

Want to keep your top employees? Re-engage them before it’s too late. Request a demo today.