Companies and their leaders may tell employees that a job is more than just a paycheck, that it's about finding meaning and purpose at work and aligning one's values with the company's mission.
But in the end, it's the paycheck that matters.
So say findings from a recent survey by PayScale, which provides online information about salary, benefits and compensation. It found that the top reason workers quit their jobs for new ones is so they can make more money.
PayScale's findings track with what similar surveys have revealed for the past four years.
"We are currently experiencing a strong economy with record low unemployment, which promotes more risk taking among workers and increases their confidence about changing jobs," said PayScale Chief Economist Katie Bardaro. "The search for more pay is a very strong driver for employees who are considering leaving, but the most interesting part of our research shows that once employees decide to leave, they also want a more fulfilling job. So, for employers looking to retain and attract the best talent, they not only need to get pay right but must also demonstrate to employees how they will provide them with work that is ultimately meaningful."
Younger Workers More Likely to Seek Higher Pay
Between November 2017 and January 2019, PayScale asked more than 38,400 people why they looked for a new job outside their organization. Among PayScale's findings:
- The primary reason for quitting was for more pay. Twenty-five percent of respondents said higher pay was the reason they sought a new job, followed by 16 percent who said it was because they were unhappy at their current organization.
- Fulfillment becomes important after the pay is right. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said the main reason for choosing one higher-paying job over another was "the opportunity to do more meaningful work," followed by increased responsibility (17 percent), and then increased pay (16 percent).
- Women are more likely to quit for flexibility. Women are 11 percent more likely than men to quit a job because they need a more flexible work schedule. "This is consistent with gender norms where women are more likely to take time away from work to care for a child or other family member," the researchers wrote.
- Millennials are more likely to quit for money. Millennials are 9 percent more likely than Baby Boomers to quit for more money. They're also more likely than Boomers to quit because they're unhappy or want a promotion. However, Boomers are more likely than Millennials to quit because they want a more flexible work schedule.
[SHRM members only resource: Salary Survey Directory]
The findings come at a time when more U.S. workers are quitting their jobs than at any time since the numbers have been recorded.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 3.4 million people—or 2.3 percent of the total workforce—left their jobs voluntarily in March. Private-sector workers quit at a rate of 2.5 percent in March.
In addition, global HR consulting firm Mercer surveyed 163 large employers in 2018 and found that voluntary turnover the year before, not including retirements, accounted for 15.5 percent of departures, up from 14 percent the previous year.
According to Mercer, Millennials accounted for half of these voluntary separations (51 percent), followed by Generation X (25 percent) and Baby Boomers (19 percent). The oldest and youngest generational cohorts—those born before 1945 (2 percent) and after 2000 (4 percent)—quit in much lower numbers due to their relatively smaller representation in the total workforce.
Cash Has Been King for Years
- PayScale's findings track with what similar surveys were finding years ago. Although employee engagement experts often suggest that workers care just as much—sometimes more—about intangible recognition for a job well-done as they do about earning higher pay or receiving bonuses, two surveys released in the spring of 2016 found quite the opposite.
Four in 5 employees said then that they'd prefer a 3 percent salary raise without a promotion rather than the higher title without the pay raise, according to a survey from the online HR services company BambooHR. In addition, 2 in 3 workers said they would rather get a $500 bonus than be recognized for their accomplishments in a companywide e-mail from an executive.
And Laudale, a specialist recruitment and interim consulting business in the United Kingdom (U.K.), polled 1,000 job candidates in the U.K. and found that money was the most important thing that 78 percent of respondents considered when looking for a new job. Location came in second, and benefits was third.
About a year before those surveys were released, Glassdoor—the employer review site—found that more than 1 in 3 workers said they'd look for a new job if they didn't get a pay raise, and about half expected that raise to be 3 percent to 5 percent of their current salary.
"It's understandable for companies to not want to guarantee raises to all employees, regardless of how they perform," said Robert Glazer, CEO of Acceleration Partners, which helps companies with marketing. "It's not fiscally smart for the company, and it's not good for the employee either, who has little incentive to improve under that model. With that said, it's not smart to let people walk away over a pay increase, especially when it is much less expensive to just increase somebody's pay than it is to hire and train their replacement."