Why People Quit — and How to Stop Them

What the Wall Street Journal called “The Hottest Job Market in Half a Century” has put employees in the driver’s seat. Now that finding a new job is relatively easy, employees are more inclined to leave now than they would be in times of higher unemployment, contributing to the highest quit rates in recent memory. How can employers combat the issue and retain quality employees?

The top three reasons people quit are:

  • Compensation
  • Job circumstances such as work hours, the job environment or the commute
  • How they’re treated by the company

It seems obvious, but there’s a lot to unpack in order to get at root causes and determine how best to address them.

Rate of pay

As the gap between worker supply and demand continues to increase for the ninth year, the need for employers to pay market-rate wages is now a requirement. Today’s employees know what they’re worth and they want to know their compensation is, and will continue to be, competitive.

Make sure you stay on top of the median wage for your positions, not just for recruiting new talent but also for retaining current workers as they gain skills and tenure. Knowing your local market well is also important — what is considered a good wage in a smaller market might not translate to positions in regions with a higher cost of living.

“The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary — and that’s a conservative estimate,” says a recent Gallup report. So there’s an increasingly persuasive argument in favor of the return on investment of higher wages.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Investing in the Workforce Solutions Ecosytem

Job circumstances

There are plenty of things you can’t change about your company or jobs. Especially if you are a large facility such as a manufacturing plant or call center, the location is difficult to move, for example. Likewise, the hours a job requires may reflect multiple operating shifts or need to coincide with traditional weekday hours when customers are most likely to call.

However, if you look at the variables you can control, you may find that being accommodating can help you retain quality workers. Do you have a work-from-home policy? A flexible workday schedule? Take a second look at your protocols and adjust where you can.

Ways to help employees feel valued

How workers feel they’re being treated by the company can be affected by a number of factors. What follows are some ways to help you retain employees, from the hiring process to the exit interview.

Set job expectations: Ensure your job descriptions and initial interviews are specific, accurate and effective at setting expectations. Consider addressing these issues in particular:

  • Job environment
  • Parking situation
  • Lunch and other breaks
  • Start time/end time

Be honest about the workload, attendance policy and other factors so you know you’re putting the right people in the right jobs.

Prioritize onboarding: Onboarding can set the tone for an employee’s entire career at your organization. Make sure your new hire protocols are streamlined and up-to-date. For companies that onboard large groups of new hires, provide enough classes and instructors to afford adequate attention to each trainee. New employees want to feel prepared to step into their role with confidence. If not, they’ll make mistakes, feel scrutinized and be unhappy.

Provide feedback: Real-time performance feedback is especially important during this time. Let your new hires know if they’re doing well, and if not, how to improve. Employees need to know you care about them as individuals. By providing feedback, you are showing them that you are invested in having them succeed.

Recognize excellence: Be sure to recognize or reward performance when an employee exceeds expectations. Do you have a formal appreciation initiative, such as “employee of the month”? People who are appreciated are more likely to feel engaged and want to stay.

Outline career paths: Help your employees see a path for themselves at your organization. What do they have to do to get to move up to the next role? If it’s possible given the schedule, have new employees meet with people in other departments to gain a better understanding of the company as a whole and what other opportunities there may be.

Conduct exit interviews: Sometimes the workers who are leaving are your best resource for determining what your company needs to improve. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What contributed to your decision to leave?
  • At what point did you realize the position/company was a bad fit?
  • Is there anything we could have done to keep you?


There’s no question it’s difficult to retain quality workers in today’s challenging labor market. But creating an environment of job preparation, feedback, recognition and career pathing can go a long way toward sustaining engagement and creating a work atmosphere that employees won’t want to leave.

Want to know more about retaining top talent? Access our white paper, 2019 Staffing Imperatives: What it Takes to Win in Today’s Unique Labor Market.

Kara Sparks
Kara Sparks is a business development executive at Aerotek.

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