Better Pay Is Top Reason Workers Are Quitting Jobs

Voluntary departures are at an all-time high 

Dana Wilkie By Dana Wilkie January 18, 2018
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​The percentage of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs is at an all-time high, and the top reason they’re doing so is for more pay.

So says a survey by Glassdoor, the workplace review website.


The survey, Understanding the Impact of Quality Candidates, questioned 750 hiring decision-makers in the U.S. and the U.K. and found that nearly half (45 percent) say that salary is the biggest reason that employees change jobs, followed by a desire for career advancement opportunities (32 percent), better benefits (29 percent) and a more desirable location (28 percent).

And while about two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) said their organization is either “satisfactory” or “very satisfactory when it comes to clearly stating pay and benefit expectations in job postings, the survey authors disagreed.

“Salary ranges are still an enigma,” they wrote, noting that fewer than one in 10 online job listings include pay data in job descriptions.

“Pay can be a big motivator for employees to take a job. However, very few job listings actually include pay information, even if this is overwhelmingly what job seekers want,” said Carmel Galvin, chief human resources officer at Glassdoor.  If candidates were better informed about how their pay and career could progress during the initial job search and recruiting process, they would be less likely to take a job that turns out to be a bad fit. It shouldn’t be a battle for job seekers to gain insights into salaries, benefits, culture and what their career path might look like in a job.”

Wrote the survey authors: “Recruiting strategies of the past are no longer enough to attract today’s candidates who are more informed than ever before thanks to transparency and more information available online. Recruiting has become more of a two-way street as candidates are just as likely to source an employer, in the same [way] that employers have traditionally sourced candidates.”

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3 million employees have left their jobs voluntarily every month since June 2017.

“It's a job seeker’s market out there as unemployment hits a 17-year low in the U.S., meaning workers can be a lot choosier when it comes to accepting a job and have more job opportunities,” said Scott Dobroski, corporate communications director at Glassdoor. “Meanwhile, economists anticipate pay will likely accelerate in 2018 as employers raise pay to work hard to fill high-demand roles in fields such as health care, e-commerce, tech and professional services. Together, these factors have likely contributed to the increasing number of employees that think the grass is greener elsewhere.”

 [SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing and Sustaining Employee Engagement]

Ken Oehler, global culture and engagement practice leader with London-based consultancy Aon, noted that since the 1970s, company productivity has outpaced real wage growth significantly, and that 45 percent of employees think that if their company does well that they won’t share in that success monetarily.

“If one’s wages have remained relatively flat for a number of years and another employer offers you more pay to close your perceived fairness gap, that may be enough to push the turnover decision,” he said. “If the new employer offers better career opportunities and a better culture in addition to more pay, the likelihood of turnover goes up considerably.”

Both Oehler and Dobroski agreed that transparency about pay is becoming something that job seekers expect.

“Information about what others are paid is more readily available than in the past through a variety of websites and blogs,” Oehler said. “Further, we see an increase in demand for and comfort with pay transparency in the Millennial generation. People more readily talk about their pay than in the past. So it may be easier for an individual to get reliable information on whether they are currently underpaid or not. As our [research shows], about half of employees do not think they are paid fairly.”

Said Dobroski: “Greater transparency around pay, and other workplace factors, has helped empower employees by equipping them with more insights they can use during important discussions during a salary negotiation or when asking for a pay raise. In 2018, it is simply easier than ever before to ascertain your fair market value and see what other employers might pay. There is no longer any reason to put up with a below-average compensation package.” 

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