Employees have high expectations when it comes to job perks, and, if their employer doesn't offer what they want, they'll find another that will, new survey findings show.
Only one-third of employees (33 percent) say they are committed to staying at their jobs in 2020, compared to the 47 percent who had the same intention for 2019, according to the 2020 Engagement & Retention Report by employee-recognition software firm Achievers.
As the labor market stays tight, it's easy for disengaged employees to find work elsewhere. And they might try to: Just 19 percent of employees surveyed consider themselves "very engaged," while 14 percent say they are fully disengaged. Even the 32 percent with "average engagement" said they were open to new job opportunities.
The survey, conducted in October 2019, received 1,154 responses from employees across North America who were asked about their intentions for 2020.
"A substantial portion of today's workforce already has one foot out the door," said Natalie Baumgartner, Achievers' chief workforce scientist. Unless employers take steps to reverse these feelings, she said, "the risk of turnover and underperformance in 2020 is immense."
The survey found that the top three reasons employees are considering leaving their jobs are:
- Compensation (cited by 52 percent of respondents).
- Career growth (43 percent).
- Recognition (19 percent).
Employees Feel Unheard, Unrecognized
Ninety percent of workers said they are more likely to stay at a company that asks for, and acts on, employee feedback. But when asked how good their manager and company are at soliciting feedback, the most common answer was just "OK," asking for it once or twice a year. As for their employers acting on feedback, "OK" was again the most common response, at 44 percent. These employees said their manager and company only talk about feedback and make few changes based on it.
Companies should make sure that employee feedback reaches managers, Baumgartner advised, and equip managers to use this feedback to address staff needs "in a personalized and timely way." These actions, she noted, can range "from small acknowledgements to larger changes that improve the employee experience and, as a result, improve engagement and retention."
As for recognition, 82 percent of surveyed employees "strongly" or "somewhat" agreed that they wished they received more recognition at work, and another 30 percent of employees said they feel "not very" or "not at all" valued by superiors.
"When organizations recognize everyday behaviors that align with their culture and goals, they help reinforce them as well as the role each employee plays," Baumgartner said.
[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Determine Turnover Rate]
Frequent vs. Infrequent Job Changers
After wanting more money, feeling unappreciated is the top reason infrequent job changers could be driven to leave, another recent survey found.
Joblist, a website that compiles jobs from leading job boards, last October asked nearly 1,000 workers throughout the U.S. what would make them consider accepting an offer from another employer and then compared responses from frequent and infrequent job hoppers—those who had held two or more jobs in the past five years and those who had held just one job during the same period.
The average minimum salary increase that respondents seeking other jobs would accept to stay at their current employer was $15,491, which represents a 25 percent increase, on average, over the past five years. Perks such as unlimited paid vacation, student loan assistance and paid parental leave were cited by frequent job changers as factors that would make a potential employer more attractive.
"These perks may appeal more to younger workers who are less likely to have a 'lifer' mentality" toward their employer, according to Joblist.
While both frequent and infrequent job switchers said they would leave jobs for better pay, "people who switch jobs infrequently are more likely to leave because of feeling underappreciated or undervalued," according to Joblist. "For the most part, people who don't change jobs often have made an emotional commitment to their employers, so when they feel slighted because that investment isn't being reciprocated, they're more likely to leave." Conversely, people who leave frequently are more likely to see the employer-employee relationship as transactional, "so they're less affected by those feelings."
Is Turnover So Bad?
Turnover can be disruptive and costly, but it can also be an opportunity for employers to find and develop employees who are enthusiastic about the organization and the direction in which it's heading, according to a November 2019 report from compensation data and software firm PayScale.
"Some turnover is actually good for an organization—especially in the case of overpaid, under-performing employees," said report author Conrado Tapado, content marketing manager at PayScale. "Usually employees stay when they feel satisfied and fairly compensated for their work. But sometimes, employees stay for less positive reasons," he noted, including:
- They are overpaid. "Being overpaid leaves little incentive for workers to look for another job. They may realize how difficult it will be to find another organization that will match their salary. Thus, they are perfectly happy to stay where they are."
- They value their benefits. "Benefits are meant to help drive retention, which is generally a good thing. However, sometimes employees remain just for the benefits but would rather be working elsewhere. Eventually, those 'golden handcuffs' will begin to chafe, and your employees may start to feel resentful."
Health care, retirement savings and paid-time-off benefits should be competitive and focused on helping employees remain productive and feel financially secure, without becoming so rich that employees don't feel they can leave, the findings suggest. Pay should be calibrated to reward performance through variable compensation tied to achieving personal, team and organizational goals, with base pay increases made according to merit and not treated as an entitlement.
The Right Benefits Balance
"Creating a benefits package that incentivizes good employees to stay without deterring uninspired employees from leaving can be tricky," said Amy Stewart, PayScale's senior content marketing manager.
That can happen when employers offer benefits with a high monetary value that employees only receive if they stay put and hold tight, such as pensions or stock options that vest over time. People can also stay in an unpleasant situation for benefits that would be hard to find elsewhere, such as a paid sabbatical, a four-day workweek or paid child care, Stewart said.
A possible solution is to "experiment with rewarding some benefits in exchange for high performance, such as Fridays off or opportunities to work from home only if certain metrics are hit," she said.
Compensation is similar, Stewart explained, as employees with above-market pay are often reluctant to leave. "When you have a highly paid employee who isn't performing to a high standard, sometimes the answer isn't a change in compensation or a new job, but a new challenge. If their interest in their current work is waning, they might need new work, but it doesn't necessarily have to be at another organization," Stewart said. "Employees who have stopped learning in their current position may become revitalized in a position that offers them new opportunities to grow."