Employee Retention - Top Reasons Employees Want to Stay or Leave

Employee Retention – Top Reasons Employees Want to Stay or Leave

You’ve put all sorts of effort into attracting the right talent for your organization. You’ve sought out the best and negotiated fair contracts for their hire. Now, how do you keep them from jumping ship in the months immediately following their hire?

The days of the golden-watch-retirement, having spent an entire career at one company, are obsolete. That being said, there remains few who still spend their whole career at one company, but it tends to become rarer as you move away from government employment, which in itself is no longer immune to losing their best and brightest to new opportunities.

Add to that the Gig Economy and you have a workforce that is accustomed to not working for one employer for very long. Of course, not everyone is interested in building an Airbnb empire or managing a fleet of Ubers, but the concept of working for yourself at all times has permeated our culture as a whole.

The critical thing to remember is that although everyone is ultimately thinking of themselves as a free agent, there are still many ways to build a fantastic team and retain them for years to come. In the years of corporate restructuring, employees got the message that they had to be responsible for their career and their own personal advancement. No longer do most companies have a clear corporate ladder that can be climbed.

So we’ve arrived at a situation where employees feel the need to look after themselves, and companies regularly recruit star candidates to senior positions while overlooking internal talent. As a result, employees get the message that they need to become star talent and leave for somewhere that appreciates them as such.

In this environment, what do you do if you’re a company that wants to retain your employees? How do you create an atmosphere that makes staff want to stay? How do you stop being the company that sends well-trained staff out into the market, or worse, the competition? Here are a few essential factors to keep in mind as you seek to build a company that no one wants to leave.


The first thing to remember is that it’s not about money, but it’s always sort of about money.

Your team needs to feel financially secure enough to focus on their job, but beyond that, money stops being the reason most people want to work for a given company.

The journal Nature recently undertook a massive World Happiness Based on Income study using data from the Gallup World Poll, a survey of more than 1.7 million people from 164 countries. From this, they put the price of optimal emotional well-being somewhere between $60,000 and $75,000 a year. In North America, they conceded that happiness could rise further, up to about $95,000, but beyond that, it starts to level off and stay rather flat. That is until you start earning way more, and the responsibility of managing your wealth starts to eat into your feelings of well-being.

All this to say, it’s important to look after your team financially, but if you’re only retaining them with money, it’s not going to last after the initial euphoria of the raise wears off.

Plan to have a clear path to salary increases and a transparent bonus structure and staff will feel you have their best interests at heart.

It’s also important to mention salary imbalances here. The culture of not talking about salary is slowly starting to erode. Younger employees don’t feel the need to maintain the secrecy around their paycheques that the older generation did. And, since your team is likely to talk, they are going to know if you are drastically favouring certain team members over others. Feeling unfairly treated with your compensation is a big reason employees depart.


You don’t have to be Greenpeace to have a purpose. Employees want to feel that the company they work for stands for something. It could be merely to make life better for people through the fantastic products or services they produce or to make some other significant contribution to the betterment of society. It doesn’t need to be a manifesto, but it does need to be sincere and lived day to day.

As a business, have you sat down and really thought about the WHY behind what you do? Do you have a core set of values that are part of the DNA of your company? And beyond that, how do you demonstrate these values to your staff? It’s not enough to have a vision statement on a plaque collecting dust. More than ever, employees need to feel committed to the vision and see it in action. You can be sure that if you don’t, some other company will be able to lure members your team away with a commitment to something more.

However, it’s hugely important when thinking about Purpose, to pair it with a sincere sense of self-awareness. Too many companies strike out on a quest to find their WHY only to completely miss how artificial their efforts are coming across. It’s actually better to have no purpose than one that feels contrived. The best way to land in the right spot is to involve the staff in the process and create a space where they can feel comfortable providing feedback. You will end up with well thought out values, and the team who helped craft them will feel connected to it.

Community and the Office Space

There has been so much written about the perks that companies like Facebook and Google offer their employees. Slides, snacks, foosball tables, nap rooms, beer kegs, and even rock climbing walls. All of these though are superficial and don’t guarantee much more than a great headline in Fast Company, or as it seems, not even that anymore.

For a while, the assumption was that when you wanted to recruit younger talent, you could do so by making your office seem like a more relaxed version of the University they just left. However, there is a reason university doesn’t go on forever. People grow up and the things they want, grow up with them.

Having a rock climbing wall does not tell your staff how much you respect them, but having a culture that rewards people for taking chances does. Having a foosball table will occasionally bring people together, but regularly recognizing their hard work will make them look forward to coming to work. Nap rooms can be a nice-to-have feature but respecting that staff will have personal challenges from time to time and being accommodating while they work through them will earn you their loyalty.      

Culture is always about the people, not the things. And, when you consider that a recent survey conducted by LinkedIn noted that 70% of professionals say they would not work for a leading company if they had to tolerate bad workplace culture, it’s essential to get it right to keep your staff.

This is why actively supporting employee-driven initiatives is a great way to help foster true culture. If a knitting club takes root or a softball team forms, back it. But, also let it be known that other such pursuits qualify for corporate support. If your company is the place you work and the place you connect with people who have similar interests, competing offers are instantly handicapped.     


These are often thought of as the addon when you’re negotiating compensation, but the truth is they go beyond that and can mean a lot more to your team than many managers think.

Sure we’re talking about dental and prescription coverage. Sick days, disability insurance, and massage reimbursement. And, all of those should be considered essential parts of a compensation package. However, it’s becoming clear that benefits are actually important employee retention tools, and they aren’t just the standard plans.

Does your company offer daycare? This could be in your facility, or even simply covering the cost of daycare for your staff at a location of their choice. Not to suggest that this is an inexpensive benefit, but it demonstrates a genuine commitment to making the lives of your staff easier and better allowing them to focus on their work.

What about maternity leave? Do you have a top-up that assures staff wants to come back after their leave? Do you actively support paternity leave in a similar way? Having these benefits in place ensures that as people grow and plan their families, they know they are in an organization that cares about them and their wellbeing beyond the office door.

Another great benefit many companies have been exploring is spousal travel. For careers that require a certain amount of time away from home, a great way to make your team feel appreciated is to allow their partners to visit on longer trips. A month working on a project in California can be infinitely better if your company pays to bring your spouse down for a couple weekends while you’re there.  

Also make sure you don’t overlook career development. Does your company offer resources to help staff develop their skills? Tuition reimbursement, in-office seminars, and conferences are significant benefits that keep ambitious team members committed to the company. It’s imperative though to make sure any such benefits are well articulated. Making your staff hunt for what’s covered and what’s not will mean they are being distracted from their job, and will likely create a high amount of annoyance. A frustrated employee is someone much more likely to look around for other opportunities.    

The Good Boss

Of course, this is going to be part of the overall culture when done correctly. However, being a good manager is going to go a long way to keeping the team you have in place.

A good boss has to have the end goal and the team’s wellbeing in mind as they plan the work. They need to know what constitutes a success for the company and foster a sense of true belonging among the employees that report to them.

This doesn’t mean that they need to be everyone’s best friend, but they do need to have their respect. A respected manager needs to be thinking about everyone on the team and consider how to make things easier for them to deliver their best.

Another vital part of being a good boss is providing your team members with regular updates on their progress, both on a project and more generally with the company. Only providing eedback at performance reviews or when things are not going well is not going to cut it. The upcoming generation is quite accustomed to getting feedback in real-time and will want to know sooner rather than later if they are doing a bang-up job or need to make an adjustment.

Employee Retention

Work-Life Balance

Your job is not your whole life, even though it’s an integral part of it. To be a well-rounded human being, we all need to have time in our lives for friends, families, and hobbies. What’s more, having a well-balanced life makes us better team members and ultimately less stressed by life’s challenges. It also makes us less likely to feel pressure to find something better.

Today’s employees are looking for a place to work that sees them for the people they are and wants to encourage them in all their pursuits. Unlike in Japan, where managers are having to reward staff for getting at least six hours of sleep away from the office, in North America to keep your best people excited about their work they need to know you respect them professionally and value their personal time.

Knowing When it’s Time to Let Go

It may seem like a strange point to make in a piece about keeping your employees, but depending on the size of your company, there may come a time when you have to accept that the next phase in someone’s career is not with you. Even if you do everything right, provide the support and benefits, it may just be that you are not in a position to offer what they need right now for their development. This is where you have the opportunity to shine as an employer. This is where you do everything you can to support them in their transition. The local business market is small. Your reputation as someone people want to work for is going to get around, and you don’t know when you might have to work with that person again, or maybe even bring them back into a future role at the company.

Want more tips on employee retention and skill recruitment? Speak with one of our talent recruitment specialists today.