Ann Hung under a Creative Commons license

Why do people leave their jobs? — Breaking News

Many of you already know that at iOpener Institute we are running a research project to dig into the reasons why people decide to leave their jobs. We are collecting data for that purpose through two parallel channels:

On one hand we are using an online open questionnaire. I encourage you to complete it (if you have not already done it) and share it with those of your contacts who may have left a job in recent times. This questionnaire is available in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Italian and you can find it here.

On the other, we use data from companies that commission us to survey the reasons why their employees leave, given the distortions they detect in the information they capture through traditional “exit interviews”. A fact evidenced by Lefkowitz and Katz (1969), Hinrichs (1975), and Feinberg and Jeppeson (2000), among others.

By doing so, in three months we have collected information of about 400 voluntary departures. And considering the number, I have not resisted the temptation to take a look at the data we have collected so far, to see in which direction they point to.

So with all the prudence that is necessary in these cases I share with you hereafter some “preliminary findings”.

Perceptions of work

There are a few things that get our attention:

First, how little trust people who voluntarily leave a job have in the vision of their organizations’ leaders. Just one out of four trust them, making this, by far, the worst valued single item. Might this be just a sign of the times?

Second, the security leavers have on themselves. 80% of them say they managed to overcome most of the challenges they faced at work, while 93% say they had all the skills and knowledge required to do so. I wonder how many of them considered to what extent their performance depended not only on their individual capacities but also on factors specific to that organization.

Third, nearly half of respondents say they would recommend purchasing the products and services of the company they left, even when only one out of four would recommend that organization to a friend as a good place to work.

Regarding the reasons of departure, most of us have heard that “people leave managers, not companies”. According to our data it seems that this is true just in one out of two cases…

As we suspected, most of the voluntary departures occur as a result of a combination of several causes. But still, some stand out from the others. Specifically, among the people who have answered our questionnaire up to date, 51% mention issues related to their professional development, 50% items related to their manager, and 40% matters that have to do with the company’s governance.

Are Millennials different?

We observe differences between the various groups in which we have segmented our database. For example, employees under 35 give much more importance than their elders to salary when they take their departure decisions. In fact, salary is the third most frequent reason for departure among the members of this generation (40% mention it!). By contrast, only 17% of older employees include their salary among the causes of their departures, falling to ninth place in their ranking of reasons for leaving a job.

Yet, it’s possible that this observation has more to do with the phenomenon of wage polarization than with differences in the preferences and values ​​of the members of distinct generations. In fact, when we compare between managers and other professionals we see that only 18% of managers (usually better paid than the rest) include salary among the reasons for their departure, while among other professionals and technicians salary is the fourth most frequent driver of departures, being mentioned by one in three respondents. In consequence, it is possible that young people take decisions of departure based on salary considerations more frequently than their elders not because they are less loyal, or more materialistic, but simply because they are the ones with the worst paid jobs…

However, there is another difference between generations that strikes us. Among employees under 35, working hours is the fifth most common reason for voluntary departures (mentioned by 27% of respondents), while within older age ranges this reason descends to the fifteenth position (being mentioned only by one out of ten individuals). And here we cannot argue that younger employees tend to have worse working hours than their older colleagues…

In the domain of generational differences, it is also noteworthy that younger people are less likely than their older colleagues to include ethical issues among their reasons for departing (12% versus 26%). Could it be that their ethical standards are more lax, or is that they are less exposed than their older peers to situations where those ethical principles are put into question?

Now let’s talk about sex…

In this review of the data we have collected up to date we have also detected some differences of gender. From this perspective it is interesting to compare the differences between men and women belonging to the category of “managers”, the group we have more data about.

Within this segment, men are more likely than women to point to exit reasons related to their professional development (51% versus 38%), or the lack of challenge at work (34% vs. 17%); while female managers tend to mention more frequently issues affecting their “feeling of fit” in the organization (30% versus 20%). In addition, there are other differences between men and women that reflect how far we are of reaching full gender equality in many companies: female managers tend to leave their jobs more frequently due to issues related to their workload (19% vs. 10%), the work place (17% vs. 8%), personal circumstances (15% vs. 8%), or working hours (13% vs. 6%).

As you can see there is a whole world to explore. We will keep on gathering data until the end of the year and we expect to get more powerful and revealing conclusions during the first quarter of 2017.

Once again I encourage you to complete our questionnaire and share it with your contacts. The more data we collect the more robust the conclusions we will draw.

Versión en español.