People Leaving their Jobs

Have you ever sat and wondered why people leave a job?

What attracts people to their new organization? What are they looking for? What are they not getting with their current employer that they feel they need? An Angus Reid pole took a deep dive into this to find out what is impacting employee retention and what employees are looking for in a new organization.

The average person invests 300 plus months of their entire lifetime at work. That’s a long time, so it makes sense that people expect to work at a company with a good work-life environment and fair compensation. Unemployment rates are currently low, the economy is strong and jobs opportunities are plenty. This environment increases employees’ confidence levels and promotes more risk-taking. In February 2019 alone, 3.16 million North Americans quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS)

Not surprisingly, a bigger pay cheque is a significant reason that people quit their jobs however, only 18 percent of people surveyed left for higher pay. More workers than ever before are leaving their jobs and feeling incredibly confident that they will find another one and quickly. As a matter of interest, 27 percent of all respondents said the main reason why they left their job was the opportunity for growth and development; followed by lack of appreciation and support from the boss (19 percent), a larger pay cheque (18 percent), being micro managed (16 percent), little trust in leadership (11 percent) and lack of integrity by the boss (9 percent). Not to go unnoticed, 20 percent of those who said they quit for increased pay said that the primary reason they chose their new organization was the opportunity to do more meaningful work. A Gallup poll last year found that no more than 13 percent of adults with full-time jobs found their work meaningful. However, some say that finding the holy grail of a meaningful job that also meets other important criteria as well – may be an impossible dream. Employee priorities can change over time so what they need (flexibility, compensation, location, skill set, etc) may not always coincide with what they find meaningful over time. 

As I studied the results of the Angus Reid pole, I surprised to learn that working far too many hours per week was not in the top five reasons for leaving a job. As I asked several of my clients why that was, I was surprised to learn that a number of employees have made this a priority in their personal and professional lives resulting in a ceiling of no more than 44 hours per week. That is the maximum amount of time for work because, work – life balance is a given and doesn’t really enter into the equation like it did five years ago.

I’ve heard it before and I’m certain I’ll hear it again that; there are no hard facts from exit interviews, employee surveys or follow up calls that will lead any person to believe that people leave their jobs because of company shortcomings. Eugen Gassmann states that people leave because of “job fit”. Gassmann says (and he makes a good argument) companies have clear goals; they have structure and within that structure there are jobs that need to be filled and there are people that are required to fill these jobs. This is not nor has it ever been a static environment, its always been and continues to be dynamic because, organizations change and will continue to do so due to exogenous factors. Coupled with the Gassmann Principle that states employee satisfaction is fed by three variables: previous state / experience, current state and future state or expectations, people movement is inevitable. People judge what they believe the future holds for them at the company and the company determines their current and future fit within the ranks and if there is limited fit; parties part ways.  

It is my belief that good employees have a high desire to continue moving up the company ladder. Moving forward, learning more, securing opportunities for growth and development, higher compensation are the keys to retaining good employees. If they don’t know where the next opportunity will come from or they see colleagues advancing while they remain stagnant in their position – they will look elsewhere. Good employees leave because they believe there is no such thing as a secure job; only secure people while poor employees stay because no other company will take them.

So, what does this mean to an organization who wish to retain good employees? First, should a good employee decide to leave your company, don’t take it personal – it never is, its just business. Your organization may have done everything possible in the growth and development of that employee but, the need to leave becomes larger than the need to stay. Employees make decisions over a period of time and usually an employee decides six months before they leave that they are due for a job change. There is little you can do about their departure.

Second; it is my proactive recommendation that company leaders always nurture relationships to get the job done while focusing on continuous improvement. Continuous feedback with employees is imperative to good employee retention. Now this doesn’t mean that if an organization does practice the art of continuous feedback – they will retain employees; it means that they increase their odds of retaining good employees. Employees need to know that you care before they care about what you know. As corporate culture changes and as company directions change, employees must be kept in the information loop and coached through adjustments.

Last but not least; Harvard Business Review states that managers ought to consider designing jobs that are too good to leave. Adam Grant calls this setting up “shields” designed to protect good employees from toxicity. Perhaps managers can go a step further and eliminate the workplace toxicity. When you have an organization that encourages managers to care about employee happiness and success, its more difficult for employees to get the urge to leave your company.

About The Author.

Nicholas Pollice is President of The Pollice Management Consulting Group located in Southern, Ontario, Canada. An international presenter and consultant, he is known as a leader in operations management.  Nicholas conducts programs in leadership, supervision, communication, negotiation and conflict resolution. He has been a consultant since 1989 and is the author of several professional publications. His presentations have been consistently ranked in the top10 % throughout North America. See Nicholas’ bio, his other publications and services on the PMCG. Website at