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Dr. Matt Grawitch: May 2011 Archives


A recent global survey conducted by BlessingWhite attempted to identify drivers of retention and turnover.

The top three reasons people identified for staying with their current employer was:

  1. Liking the work they do: 30%
  2. Having development or advancement opportunities: 17%
  3. Believing in the organization’s mission: 11%

Conversely, the top three reasons people identified for leaving their employer was:

  1. Lacking opportunities for growth or advancement: 26%
  2. Disliking the work: 15%
  3. Wanting more money: 15%

Now, one conclusion you could draw from this is the same as the press release that BlessingWhite put out: Employees will stay for the work but leave for their career. I am not sure I agree with this conclusion, though, because I am always wary of sweeping generalizations when less than a majority of people completing a survey endorse a particular response.

I interpret their results a little bit differently. The results indicate a lack of agreement about what is the most important reason to stay or leave. Because, not a single reason was endorsed by half or even a third of respondents, there was a great deal of variation in responses.

Some of that variation was undoubtedly driven by generational differences and other variation was driven by the country in which the respondent worked, both of which BlessingWhite highlight in their report. However, some of the variation was also likely driven by the uniqueness of the person (e.g., differences in priorities, life situations).

The lack of consistency in responses means organizations should not simply take the results of this survey and design costly, companywide initiatives to improve the number of people who like what they do or increase the number of growth opportunities that exist within the organization.

Instead, the results highlight the need to figure out what drives retention and turnover in your own organization – because clearly there is likely to be some variability. It also means that to maximize the impact on employees, your intervention(s) must be multifaceted. Otherwise, you run the risk of only improving retention and turnover for a relatively small subset of workers.

Therefore, the results of this survey really emphasize the importance of tailoring retention initiatives to the unique characteristics of the organization and its workforce. Of course, to be able to do that, you will need a good needs assessment to provide valid, actionable data on which to design future initiatives.

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