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Top 10 reasons why employees leave (and what to do about it)
While the global economy is on shaky ground, employees are still leaving their jobs.
According to the October 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 4.2 million workers quit. Alongside those that quit their jobs, 1.5 million workers were laid off.
While we’ve long surpassed the period dubbed the Great Resignation, we’ve learned some lessons about employee needs. It’s clear that employees are still leaving for better opportunities, even amid economic uncertainty and change. And there’s data to suggest that quitting is contagious, which makes it difficult for organizations to stop losing employees.
Yet many organizations are pressing pause on hiring. Some organizations are losing employees without a promise of backfills or additional headcount. This means it’s more important than ever that organizations are engaging their employees.
So, what makes employees want to leave their jobs? As employers, what can you do to retain and develop your top talent? Amid economic uncertainty and constant change, why is it that employees are still leaving their jobs?
In this post, we’ll talk about the top reasons why employees leave. We’ll also take a closer look at the reasons people quit by demographic — and what that means for your organization.
What are the top 10 reasons employees leave?
Top 5 reasons why employees leave
- Low pay
- Lack of career advancement opportunities
- Feeling disrespected at work
- Childcare issues
- Not enough flexibility
1. Poor pay
According to the Pew Research Center data, the top reason employees left their job was because of poor pay.
Compensation and benefits are incredibly important to employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 63% of U.S. employees said that compensation and benefits are an important factor.
2. Lack of career advancement opportunities
Coming in second, another top reason employees are leaving is due to career advancement. Or, the lack thereof.
Employees want to learn, grow, and develop. They want to be able to see a future with an organization.
3. Feeling disrespected at work
This is an interesting topic but a top reason why employees are leaving their jobs. One key factor in feeling respected at work is belonging. For example, microaggressions, discrimination, and simply feeling included at work are all components of respect.
We know that if employees don’t feel like they belong at the workplace, it’s likely they will leave. BetterUp Labs studied the impact of belonging in the workplace. BetterUp Labs found employees who feel excluded experience a 25% loss in performance and a 50% greater risk of employee turnover.
4. Childcare issues
The pandemic simultaneously spurred a childcare crisis. Overnight, working parents became teachers, nannies, counselors, nurses, and employees — all in one.
COVID-19 put a new emphasis on the childcare industry. The pandemic highlighted cracks in the industry as it pertains to working parents as well as childcare providers. BetterUp Labs surveyed more than 500 working parents in the US to better understand childcare issues. What they found was 16% of US parents say their childcare issues negatively impact their quality of work.
To go hand-in-hand with a decrease in work performance, caregiver fatigue and caregiver burnout entered the picture. Many employees simply needed better options. It’s likely many looked for opportunities that were more accommodating to childcare needs.
5. Not enough flexibility
If you scroll the corporate meme side of TikTok or Instagram, it’s likely you’ll find a host of creators posting about one thing: returning to the office.
It’s been a hot topic of discussion for some time now. Some employers have fully embraced hybrid or remote work environments, but even those in a warehouse or shift-based work. Yet others are still grasping onto the in-person experience.
The result? Employees don’t feel like they have the flexibility they were able to get amid the pandemic. And frankly, they want that flexibility back. According to a McKinsey survey, 87% of employees offered at least some flexibility with remote work embrace the opportunity.
6. Poor work-life balance
The pandemic blended work and life together into one, big mush. People stayed late working from kitchen tables, couches, and one-bedroom apartments.
As the workforce emerged from the pandemic into the new normal, work-life balance became more important than ever for employees to find. Poor work schedules and long hours certainty contribute to turnover rates. Similar to flexibility, employees want to be able to find harmony between their work lives and their personal lives.
We know that we’re on the brink of a burnout crisis. According to recent BetterUp research, job satisfaction is the top driver of overall life satisfaction.
But burnout rates have been on the rise and employee well-being is plateauing. If employees reached the end of their fuel tanks at an organization, it’s likely they looked for better opportunities elsewhere.
8. A bad manager
Managers have incredible influence over the employee experience. We’ve all heard the phrase “employees leave managers, not companies.” Well, it holds some truth. In fact, 57% of employees leave their jobs because of their boss.
According to our data, managers also have influence over their team’s performance. BetterUp Labs studied 1,600 teams. The results showed that if a manager is struggling with a key capability, it’s likely their employees will feel the impact.
For example, managers who measured low in agility saw a decrease in their team’s agility. Poor management (like micromanaging) can have negative effects on your workforce. Ultimately, it can lead to employees looking for new opportunities.
9. Finding a new purpose
A lack of purpose in work can be another reason why employees found a new job. Especially during the pandemic, employees re-examined and evaluated their priorities.
Gartner research shows the shift in perspective about the purpose of work. In a survey of more than 3,500 employees, 65% of respondents said the pandemic made them rethink the place work should have in their life. Beyond that, 56% of employees reported wanting to contribute more to society.
According to Gallup research, employers saw a 10% improvement in employees' connection with the mission or purpose of their organization. The result of connecting the purpose of work? An 8.1% decrease in turnover and 4.4% increase in profitability.
10. Company culture issues
Lastly, corporate culture. Culture plays a huge role in the employee experience. And if a toxic company culture impacts an employee’s experience, it’s likely it could be a top reason they leave.
A good company culture contributes to a host of positive benefits in the workplace. When employees feel connected to their workplace culture, employee engagement increases. A good company culture can also help increase attrition rates.
How demographics impact the reasons employees leave
Now, let’s zoom into the demographics of employees that are quitting their current jobs. It’s important to understand the complexities that come into play when employees leave.
First, let’s start with some facts. We know that women are leaving their jobs at faster rates than men. Why? Well, it boils down to belonging, inclusion, and equity.
According to research from Bain, women who feel fully included are 11 times more likely than those who do not to be employer brand ambassadors of their companies. This is a key indicator of employee engagement and organizational performance.
We also know that women often disproportionately carry mental loads and caregiving responsibilities comparable to their male counterparts. Let’s look closer at some data:
- In the US, women make up 64% of the workforce in the lowest-paying industries. Many of these roles disappeared during the pandemic.
- BetterUp research revealed that feeling supported at work was associated with a 17% boost in women’s actual well-being. But if women don’t feel supported at work, employee retention suffers.
- Gender inequality in the workplace still persists. Women are fighting pay parity and looking for higher pay. With caregiver responsibilities, women are also looking for flexible scheduling. Women experience bias and discrimination, especially when it comes to career growth opportunities. This leads us to …
- Women need more opportunities for career development. According to the Women in the Workplace 2021 Report, women are still far under-represented in leadership roles.
People of color
Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are leaving their jobs at higher rates than their white counterparts. Let’s take a closer look at the data.
- Lack of career advancement opportunities. Despite organizations everywhere pushing for equity in the workplace, it still isn’t represented in leadership roles. After all, there are only six Black CEOs in the Fortune 500.
- One in four Black employees report experiencing discrimination at work. BetterUp data reports that a sense of belonging plays a huge role in the levels of employee engagement at an organization. When your organization has disengaged employees with a disproportionate impact on people of color, they’re likely to leave.
- According to a McKinsey report, 46% of women of color are planning to leave their jobs. Let’s compare that to the 35% of white women who report also planning to leave their current roles. The report cites the need to manage childcare and caregiving responsibilities as key factors.
How to retain your workforce
If you’re looking for ways to retain your team members, here are six tips to keep in mind.
- Provide competitive compensation and high-quality benefits. We know the top common reason that people are leaving their jobs boils down to pay. Are you offering competitive compensation? How do your benefits compare to your competitors? At the end of the day, your pay shows how much you value your employees.
- Support career development and learning opportunities. Good employees want the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop. We know that there’s still plenty of room for improvement, especially when it comes to people of color in leadership positions. How are you supporting career development? Are you offering professional learning opportunities?
- Invest in leadership development to build inclusive leaders. How are you investing in your leaders? We know managers have an incredible influence over team performance and employee engagement. At the core of it, it comes down to how inclusive your leaders are with your team members.
- Promote work-life balance and flexibility. Continuing to churn and grind isn’t a recipe for productivity. It’s a recipe for burnout. Are you encouraging your employees take PTO? Do you allow your employees to have a voice in how they accomplish their work? In what ways have you adopted hybrid and remote work in your workplace?
- Support your employees’ mental fitness and well-being. Encourage Inner Work®. Research tells us that taking some time for Inner Work® has a slew of positive benefits for both leaders and individual contributors. This simple practice helps create positive relationships, increase productivity, and improve decision-making skills. At the end of the day, it’s a support system to help improve your employees’ mental fitness, mental health, and well-being.
- Leverage coaching. The bottom line, coaching helps to unlock the full potential of your workforce. The benefits of coaching are plentiful. Some benefits include increased emotional regulation, stress management, and resilience. Coaching also helps decrease burnout and helps to find harmony between work and life.
Tina Gupta, VP, WarnerMedia, talks about how BetterUp has helped their organization navigate constant change to retain employees.
BetterUp can help curb employee turnover
Your organization might be in struggling to retain its top performers. Or you want to make sure your business can maximize the impact of its employees.
No matter where you fall on the retention spectrum, BetterUp can help. Consider how coaching can help as an employee retention strategy. Together, we can build a workforce that’s resilient and well-equipped for what the future holds.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.