As a reward professional or HR whizz, you want to keep employees happy and retain them. But why are people leaving? We took a look at the Hay Group’s global employee opinion research database of 4 million employee records to see the factors that drive employees out of organisations. They include the following in rank order.

Lack of career development opportunities

You should not only have a written route to progression, training plans and the ability to offer guidance on how to progress, but you should also be encouraging personal development. This might take the form of reimbursement If an employee takes a course in their own time, or perhaps you could partner up with a training provider in your niche.

Education and training is a strong incentive for many career-oriented employees who wish to grow and rise up the organisational hierarchy, but even the smallest companies or tightest purse strings can get involved. Consider unofficial job shares, learning internally with half day or hour long training workshops or use webinar toolkits to help get people skilled. You might also want to take a look at hiring inspirational speakers to come and visit your business – don’t save these people for conferences! A high power, punchy talk can do a lot to enhance motivation.

Dissatisfaction with compensation

Recognizing employees through monetary and non-monetary rewards is a great way to incentivize, but no one can deny that on the whole, we turn up to work for money. Whilst we may love our colleagues, the role and the business, salary matters and to shy away from this is foolish. A 2014 Mercer survey reports that employees attach the most importance to extra time off and fatter paychecks. Adding money into retirement accounts and decreasing healthcare costs also made the top of the list. Less important? Gym memberships, financial planning assistance and tuition reimbursement.What you can do is be realistic about what skills you can afford and how long people can and should stay. Out growing a role at a smaller business can be natural and you dhould be prepared to understand that salary is a big factor. In the meanwhile, you can be flexible. Many people would give up money on their basic salary to have more time with family or friends, and the ability to have more holidays, shorter hours or reduced stress.

What you can do is be realistic about what skills you can afford and how long people can and should stay. Out growing a role at a smaller business can be natural and you dhould be prepared to understand that salary is a big factor. In the meanwhile, you can be flexible. Many people would give up money on their basic salary to have more time with family or friends, and the ability to have more holidays, shorter hours or reduced stress.

Poor work climate

A work climate might mean the actual environment, but it can also mean your flexibility. As well as the basic – where you give your employees paid vacations, holidays, and sick leave, you may also want to reward good performance with paid time off, to offer flexibility for appointments, the ability to telecommute or to job share.

It could also be down to your relationships. A large percentage of Americans working at mid- to enterprise-sized companies cannot name their CEO or even pick him or her out of a lineup. According to a new survey nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans who work at companies with more than 500 employees are unsure of the name of their CEO.

More than two-thirds of those responding to APPrise Mobile’s survey (69 percent) pinpointed email as the most common method of communication from the organization’s top executive. However, only 16 percent said they receive communications from their CEO on a weekly basis and another 16 percent said they never hear from him or her at all which contributes to their lack of awareness of who their leader is.


Stress has forced one in five workers (19%) to call in sick, and 93 per cent of these people say they have lied to their boss about the real reason for not turning up.

Businesses have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their employees, which includes identifying and tackling mental health issues. It is also in the best interests of the business to ensure employees are happy, as these people will often be more productive . Stressed employees are often more susceptible to burnout, which could mean they suffer a long-term illness or eventually quit their job, leading to a loss of talent within a business. According to research, 42 per cent of employees have left a job as a direct result of stress, Whilst this may be down to conflict at a personal level or based on the job in hand, it’s also key to recognise that conflict needs to be handled.

A research team from at the University of Amsterdam found that 90 percent of total office conversation qualifies as gossip. Research at the Georgia Institute of Technology concluded that gossip makes up 15 percent of office e-mail and this can soon become a problem. Nip gossip in the bud early on and improve retention, whilst improving your org charts and making roles and people come to life.

Lack of challenging work

In the latest survey undertaken by ReportLinker, 87% of employees who are more involved in decision-making are also more likely to say they are committed to their employers. When employees are consulted, appreciated and utilised they are highly likely to stay. Think about Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, a classic arm chair pshychologists’ favourite but for good reason.

Boredom at work is a real killer. A study by online learning platform, found that young Millennials (aged 21-24) are almost twice as likely to be bored at work (38%) than baby boomers (22%) and 80% of employees surveyed agree that learning new skills at work would make them more interested and engaged in their jobs.

A great journal ‘An employee who was not there: A study of job boredom in white collar work’ found that there are 3 types of work boredom – inertia, acceleration and disrupted rhythm – and you don’t have to be on an assembly line to suffer. It’s 2016 research into boredom at work shows that ‘job boredom is a more nuanced phenomenon than earlier believed.’

You may already know of the description of ‘rust out’ as the workers who ‘waste away, unchallenged and uninspired’ at their desks – (Wylie) – and idea that has abounded since the early 80’s – yet still, the idea of increasing output is stuck in the ‘chicken and egg’ reasoning ‘how can we increase output’ – we never like to admit it could be boredom!

If you can sense a lack of challenging work, then up the ante. Start asking for innovatve ideas and reward the best contributions. Challnege people to improve their environment, their attitude, their days and weeks. Pass ownership of ‘engagement’ back to the employee.

Unclear direction of organisation

An unclear direction for any part of your life is unsatisfying, but even more so at work. As well as the usual HR help, you might want to ensure that any rewards you offer tie into the direction and principles of your organisation and that they represent a long-term business strategy. For example, a reward for John Lewis would be their bonus which is based on a partnership, and the idea of employees of the company owning a piece of it. However, an appropriate reward for a business like Flight Centre would be a blowout holiday experience abroad. Most organizations have reward philosophies – but few have written them down and fewer report high levels of employee understanding. If the rationale behind reward program elements is not clearly articulated, employee confidence in fairness will be low. Focus needs to be on key messages, linking them to a larger performance message and sustaining them via communications from leaders.

Lack of recognition

Lack of recognition can affect any business, and combined with the fact that everyone accepts praise in a different manner, it can be hard for your business to excel in this area. It’s a great idea to again have processes in place for how you will recognise, and often this needs 4 or more strands. The first would be peer to peer recognition. Whether it’s as rustic and basic as a thank you box with paper compliment slips, or something advanced that delivers poibts, gifts or gift cards, a peer recognition tool can be a great way to harness goodwill and form an inclusive culture. You’ll need to safeguard and check that the system is fair, managed appropriately and can scale for your business. You’ll also want to take a look at things like capped spending and administration before you jump in.

After that, think about your basics – spot rewards. How will you reward and what kind of activities are considered ‘above and beyond’ in your workplace? How will you give gifts and what are the budgets and constratints here?You  might want to amplify what you currently do if you’e in a sticky situation – so perhaps that Employee of the month initiative becomes the day or the week. If your immediate thought is the cost, then just think about public recognition, an email, a small ceremony, a breakfast, a token gift, a bar of chocolate – whilst naturally there are lots of big ticket prizes that really do motivate, sometimes saying thanks is just as memorable.


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