Maintaining high levels of employee motivation and engagement, and consequently – low staff turnover rates – is a key strategic objective for most companies. For the IT sector, however, this is now becoming increasingly important. A LinkedIn analysis revealed that in 2017, the tech software sector saw the highest talent turnover rate, while another survey indicated that “employee turnover rate among Fortune 500 companies is greatest in the IT industry.”
As recruiters, we have the unique opportunity and privilege to act as career confidants as well as to gain insights about what professionals are truly looking for in a promising career opportunity. Experts from different fields share with us the aspects of their current positions which they are not entirely satisfied with and what they are looking for in their next challenge. Here are seven of the most common job factors employees cite as reasons for them being interested in a career change.
1. Not Keeping Promises
That’s right – it comes down to trust and respect with this one. Few actions have the potential to undermine morale and mutual trust as quickly as not delivering on your promises. Leaders often need to opt for a change in plans and direction, and employees can understand this. What does come off as a lack of respect or accountability, however, is when the managers downplay or ignore the fact that a promise has not been kept and that the changes will have an effect on the employee(s) in question. Turning points such as these are commonly mentioned to headhunters when discussing current workplace conditions.
A recipe for disaster which is more common than you’d imagine, is when the hiring company clearly lays out the terms of employment during the recruitment and on-boarding process, only to reshuffle the conditions just a few weeks or months down the road. It’s important for management to acknowledge and address this head-on, rather than attempt to sweep it under the carpet. According to statistics cited by Forbes from a 2017 global survey, 63% of employees don’t trust their leader. Yikes!
To live is to grow. To have the ability to branch out into new areas, to widen the scope of responsibilities, to expand their horizons and learn new skills, to develop through different challenges – these are all opportunities which ambitious and capable employees will seek out. Allowing professionals to discover and fulfill their potential is a major factor in staff retention. It can also benefit the organisation tremendously: by increasing employee engagement, fostering a home-grown talent strategy, preventing burnout.
Sometimes people outgrow their teams and after years of serving their departments in a specific capacity, they’re ready to take on a different challenge or a position of more responsibility. Sometimes they’re just plain bored of being made to perform the same tasks without being given an opportunity to display their additional skills. While in some cases the size of the company or department may mean this would simply not be a viable option for the employee in question, often the opportunity IS there, yet managers are simply reluctant to allow the employee to grow, as they are “so good at what they do now – why change?”
According to an executive survey with more than 1000 respondents, 87 percent said that having a strong internal mobility program, whereby employees are encouraged to apply for new roles within their organization, would definitely help with retention efforts.
3. Unfair Compensation
I know what you’re thinking – not exactly a ground-breaking discovery. Who wouldn’t want a higher salary? But this topic may be a little more nuanced than we tend to think. Yes, a lot of people believe they’re underpaid, but there are a number of reasons why they may feel underappreciated in their current companies.
The number one source of dissatisfaction in this area is when the employee believes to be underpaid in comparison to others within the organisation. Does Melissa have more tasks and responsibilities; does she work harder than Kevin, while still getting less for her contributions? In this case the issue is more about a sense of unfairness rather than the salary itself.
Has her salary increased over the last 6 years? Are the expectations, workload and stress disproportionate to the salary levels since she started? See, now we’re talking as much about lack of recognition and appreciation, as about that 7% increase. What if the package is competitive but inconsistent? Is the 20% variable dependent on company performance rather than meeting individual targets? Notable fluctuations year on year can create a sense of uncertainty and insecurity.
What is known as “perceived fairness” – whether the individual views their compensation and performance evaluation as fair – is a well-documented factor in job satisfaction, employee motivation and retention.
4. Too little or too much workload
Straying too far in either direction can create issues. Having more tasks and responsibilities than you can physically handle can lead to exhaustion, stress and issues with your personal life outside of work. A Harvard Business Review article points out that excessive workload is a very common culprit behind employee burnout.
In contrast, having too little to do can be highly demotivating. Employees need a sense of achievement and purpose in their day-to-day work experience. A sense of meaning is very high on the list of factors contributing to job satisfaction. No matter how prestigious or well-paid a position may be, if the professional ends up with too few responsibilities to fulfill, they will not be satisfied with their place and contribution within the organisation. Employees need opportunities to grow and learn through a variety of tasks and challenges. If their current employer underutilizes their skills, they will look for ways to fulfill their potential and be of value to an organization elsewhere.
5. Lack of stability
Job security is a key driver of individual wellbeing, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report. It comes as no surprise that one of the most common reasons why employees start exploring new career options is the feeling of job instability and insecurity associated with their current role.
Even if they don’t have immediate concerns about their own position, witnessing frequent changes in strategic direction or massive company reorganizations can make people lose faith in the stability of the company. Sudden headcount reductions and other indicators of financial instability can also prompt employees to start looking around.
6. Not feeling valued or respected
In the same way that employees need to have faith in and respect for the company leadership, they need to know that they are trusted and respected, too. In Mercer’s 2011 “What’s Working” survey of over 30,000 employees worldwide, workers rank being treated with respect as the top factor influencing employee motivation and engagement.
- respect for their contributions, achievements and the work they put in;
- respect for their opinions and insights on topics related to their specialisms;
- respect for their right to carve out a suitable career path for themselves;
- respect, acknowledgement and fair treatment as part of the team and overall organisation;
- respect for their needs – sufficient time off, reasonable working hours and travel requriements, etc.
7. Unchallenging work
When asked why they’re currently open to the idea of a job change, seasoned professionals commonly use terms such as “new challenge”, “exciting project” and “comfort zone”. Often times having a stable, well-paying job which is aligned with their strengths is not enough for employees to stick around. In fact, if a more challenging and interesting career opportunity presents itself, they may even be willing to take a pay cut for it. This is because people do place great importance on meaning when it comes to their careers – as indicated also by a 2016 Korn Ferry survey , where 73 percent of the 1000+ respondents claimed that purpose and meaning at work are principal drivers for them.
People want to contribute to meaningful assignments and interesting projects. And believe it or not – many workers would be excited rather than fearful about getting out of their comfort zone.
Do any of these seven factors ring true for you, too?
Looking back at my previous jobs, I recall that reasons 2, 3 and 6 in particular have played a major part in my decision-making process when I decided it was time to move on.
What was the main reason you wanted to leave your last company?