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Why Employees Quit


Talent is organizations’ most important asset. And yet, a study found that in 2018, 41.4 million American employees left their jobs voluntarily. This converts to roughly 27 out of 100 employees that quit!

Employee turnover is costly to organizations. This begs a simple question: “how can organizations increase employee retention?” In order to answer this question, it is helpful to understand the common reasons for why employees quit in the first place.

1) Lack of recognition

Lack of recognition can be a major driver for employees to leave their job. Who wants to work for someone that does not appreciate their work? Acknowledge employee progression and successes. A simple ‘Thank You’ or ‘Good Job’ can go a long way so show your appreciation to your employees.

2) Lack of development or advancement opportunities

Career development is important to many employees, but it is particularly important to Millennials, which comprise around a third of the workforce today. A recent survey found that career development matters most to Millennials in accepting a job offer. A similar study reported that offering career training and development could help keep up to 86% of Millennials from leaving their current position. Hence, career development is an important incentive for employees.

3) Disconnect with company

Feeling disconnected with a company’s objectives is a common problem that many employees have. Research shows that only 57% of executives identify with their company’s purpose and less than 30% of employees do. It’s hard for employees to work on goals if they cannot understand how these align with the overall objectives of the company. Goal alignment is an important aspect of effective performance management.

4) Lack of leadership or mentorship

You’ve probably heard of the saying “Most people don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses”, and there is substantial research that proves this. Research shows that 65% of employees say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise. Moreover, 3 out of 4 employees have stated that their boss is the most stressful part of their job. Another shocking stat – employees were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack if they had a manager that they considered incompetent, inconsiderate, secretive, and uncommunicative. Managers are essential aspect that factor into an employee’s decision to quit.

5) Ineffective goals

The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” —Bill Copeland

No one likes running up and down a soccer field for no reason. Goal-setting motivates employees and gives them a purpose to do their work. It also clarifies work expectations. Goals should follow SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based) principles to effectively motivate employees. Not only are the creation of SMART goals essential, but the ability to track these goals is also paramount. Psychologists have found that individuals that write down their goals are 33% more successful in achieving them. Organizations should invest in performance management practices that allows managers and employees to track their goals.

6) (Perceived) lack of fairness in compensation

If mediocre employees are getting promoted or receiving similar compensation as often as great employees, great employees will be less likely to do great work. Providing the right compensation at the right time is an important incentive in order for workers to do their best work. We wrote about this in our blog post on retaining high performers.

7) Changes in personal life

Inevitable events can lead to employees quitting. Family events or a move to a new city can cause employees to quit. While it is hard and sometimes nearly impossible to foresee personal events from occurring, employers that keep an open mind and provide flexible arrangements with employees (e.g., work from home policies) can have a significant impact on whether the employees stay or leave the organization.

Tips to retain your employees:

1) Frequent feedback & recognition

Frequent feedback conversations is one of the most powerful (and cost efficient) tools to improve employee productivity and retention. It can clarify expectations for employees, develop employees’ skills, motivate employees, and help build relationships with them. Of course, the feedback has to be effective; 24 ‘kudos’ won’t motive employees. We also recommend investing in a great continuous feedback software that can help document and store all the real-time, continuous feedback.

2) Set effective goals that align with companies objectives

Effective goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). Employees also want to see how their work contributes to larger corporate objectives, and so aligning individual goals to organizational strategies is essential (and show the alignment clearly to them!). Moreover, priorities and teams can change. Hence, managers should revisit and adapt goals during every feedback conversation to maximize employee engagement and productivity.

3) Train your employees to become great managers and leaders

Train your managers to be great. Poorly managed teams are far less likely to be productive.

Poorly managed employees are on average 50% less proactive and 44% less profitable than well managed employees – Gallup Survey 2017

Performance management processes that promote 360 degree feedback for employees and managers, which allow them to view which competencies they can improve upon, is a vital part of creating great leaders. Frequent training or development sessions also help managers to continuously develop their coaching and training abilities.

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