Salary Gripes Are Top Reason Employees Quit

Workers cite poor pay and benefits as the primary motive for leaving their jobs

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Oct 24, 2014
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More than anything else, pay and perks are what keep employees from jumping ship, according to research by staffing firm Robert Half.

Chief financial officers (CFOs) said the top reason good employees quit is inadequate salary and benefits. Workers echoed this sentiment, most commonly citing poor rewards as the primary reason they would leave their jobs.

More than 2,100 CFOs from companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. markets were surveyed. A separate survey of workers included responses from nearly 300 employees who were 18 years of age and older and work in an office environment.

CFOs were asked, "Which one of the following is most likely to cause good employees to quit their jobs?" Similarly, workers were asked, "Which one of the following is most likely to cause you to quit your job?" Their responses are shown below:

“The stronger hiring climate today means employees who don't feel well compensated may be more willing to look for a new, better-paying job,” said Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald in remarks accompanying the survey findings. “Managers should regularly benchmark salaries against those of other companies in their region and industry to ensure they are at or above market standards. While many factors contribute to turnover, competitive pay and benefits can be the difference when it comes to retaining skilled talent.”

McDonald cautioned, however, that employers can't rely on money alone. “Managers also need to focus on offering advancement opportunities and fostering a supportive workplace. Businesses lacking in these areas—or any of those that create a positive work experience—are likely to find a higher salary alone won't keep talented professionals from leaving.”

How to Drive Employees Away

According to Robert Half, five other mistakes managers need to avoid in order to keep employees onboard are:

Absence of a career path. Without a defined career map, employees may not see an incentive to stay. To foster loyalty and commitment, show employees how they can grow with the company. Work with staff to identify potential advancement opportunities and the resources needed to pursue them.

Lack of training. Career development and training can help people feel more engaged and supported by the organization. A lack of skill-building tools and mentorship or continuing education opportunities could hinder your firm's efforts to keep and groom future leaders.

Failing to customize recognition. One size does not fit all when it comes to employee recognition. Every employee has different motivations and needs. Offer rewards and incentives that your staff will value, and personalize them to the individual as much as possible. Also, make sure to say “thank you” for a job well done so employees know their contributions are valued.

Forgetting to listen. Employees may leave because they feel they do not have a voice in business matters. Maintain open communication and seek regular input from others. Listen to employees so they know they are heard and act on their good ideas.

Not tracking retention. If your company doesn't measure its employee quit rates, and track which managers are better at retaining staff than others, the situation likely won't improve. Identifying managers who retain their best people—and those who don't—can help a business understand what makes a good leader and provide coaching to those who are falling short.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

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