Why employees leave their jobs (and what you can do to make them stay)
Losing a good employee is never easy but knowing why people resign can help you recognise when an employee is disengaged, giving you the opportunity to address the issue. 

The top 3 reasons employees leave their jobs

There are several reasons why employees choose to resign, and these can be divided into factors that are internal (within a business’s control), and those that are external (outside of company control).

SEEK research uncovered three main internal factors that drive people to leave:

  1. Work conditions/the environment – 53%
  2. Organisational changes/restructure – 39%
  3. Management/leadership in the business – 31%

In terms of factors within an organisation’s control, SEEK research found that salary and compensation (30%) were internal factors that influenced people to stay in their jobs, followed by flexible hours (25%) and work conditions/environment (24%).

For younger staff, a lack of development and progression often drives them to leave, with salary and compensation less important to Millennial employees to stay in their job (33%). Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are particularly influenced (50%) by organisational changes and restructures.

“Millennials generally make their career aspirations clear when it comes to employment choices, and interestingly remuneration and rewards are not always their top priority,” says Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia. “They thrive in a flexible and transparent workplace with open lines of communication across the business and they look for professional development programs which ensure their needs for career advancement are met.”

Signs of disengaged employees

On average, unhappy employees stay in a job for seven months before leaving. If employers can identify the signs early, there is plenty of time for intervention.

“Employers should be able to spot the signs of “inner resignation”, says Morris. “This is when staff members are present physically but have mentally resigned from the job.”

The most common signs of inner resignation include:

  • Starting to complain or a change in attitude (59%)
  • An increase in sick days or annual leave (54%)
  • Unengaged in meetings and projects (47%)

“There is an opportunity to engage with employees during this time,” says SEEK’s resident psychologist Sabina Read. “Initiating a conversation which acknowledges observed changes in behaviour could be a good place to start.”

Related content: The top 5 signs an employee is about to quit

Talking an employee out of leaving – yes or no?

Former employees are more likely to recommend the company if their manager previously tried to convince them to stay. However, if you do so, Morris advises against extending a counteroffer. “This can be a very costly way to delay the inevitable,” he says. “Counteroffers are often an immediate reaction to a skilled employee resigning, however offering a purely financial incentive to remain with the company rarely works.”

SEEK research found that nearly one in three (31%) organisations made an attempt to get an employee to stay. In doing so, employers usually praised the employee for the contribution to the business, offered flexible working options and asked the employee to share their ideas about how things could be improved.

If you lose one employee, will others follow?

Employee resignations can undoubtedly influence other staff members.

“A resignation may increase pressure for other team members who are left to pick up the slack, and this can also cause stress and resentment,” says Read. “Actively acknowledging possible short-term changes on remaining employees can go a long way in exhibiting empathy, support and appreciation for remaining team members.”

Instead of trying to smooth over any negativity left by the departing employee, Read suggests managers focus on the opportunities, strengths and efforts of the individuals who are choosing to stay.

Creating a work environment that employees won’t want to leave

SEEK research found that 69% of employees won't think about leaving as long as they feel engaged at work. “Engagement is one of the pillars of general wellbeing and a much-needed element for employee satisfaction and productivity,” says Read. “Managers who maximise autonomy and opportunities for development are likely to bolster levels of employee engagement.”

Managers should regularly check in with their staff and never assume employees are satisfied and engaged, advises Morris. “This should be part of an ongoing conversation which involves understanding the key motivating factors keeping employees content in their role and identifying areas for improvement.”