Employee retention: Surveys look at why people stay in their jobs

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6 2012 5:21 p.m. MDT

Although 60 percent of working Americans say they remain with their current employers because of benefits and 59 percent reported staying because of the pay, more than two-thirds (67 percent) said they choose to stay because their jobs fit well with the other aspects of their lives, according to a new survey.

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The recent Workforce Retention Survey, by the American Psychological Association, looked at the factors that contribute to employee retention: "Although 60 percent of working Americans said they remain with their current employers because of benefits and 59 percent reported staying because of the pay, more than two-thirds (67 percent) said they choose to stay because their jobs fit well with the other aspects of their lives. The same percentage said they stay at their current jobs because they enjoy the work they do. Even with the slow economic recovery and relatively high unemployment, only 39 percent of respondents cited lack of other job opportunities as a reason for staying with their current employers."

The CPA journal reported on a similar survey in 2004 by Ajilon Office, a national specialty staffing and recruiting services firm. The top five reasons people stayed at their jobs back then were being paid well, liking their coworkers, having job security, having good benefits and just being used to the job.

Ratidzai Nkomo with mywage.org/Zimbabwe reported that the main reason people stay in their job in Zimbabwe is not work fit or satisfaction but limited opportunities: "The tough job market and extremely difficult economic conditions faced by Zimbabweans over the last two years may have made employees less likely to leave their jobs. With the challenges that Zimbabwe has gone through, employees have stayed in their jobs because they really have nowhere else to go and have to make a living somehow."

Charles Hughes at the Center for Values Research said the focus of many human resource executive studies has been to find out why employees leave — not why they stay. "The objective is to find out why people leave. If a company can identify the reasons for terminations and departures, the theory goes, it can remove some of the causes for employee dissatisfaction. There are, however, two shortcomings with this traditional practice: It looks only at why people quit. Why not also look at the reasons others stay? The reasons why people stay are just as important as the reasons for leaving. One individual may stay in a job for the same reason another leaves."

On the other hand, Accenture conducted research last year that found about half of business professionals around the world were dissatisfied with their jobs: "At the same time, however, a significant number plan to stay with their companies and create new opportunities … Nearly three-quarters (70 percent of women and 69percent of men) plan to stay with their companies."

"Today's professionals are not job hunting, despite expressing dissatisfaction," Adrian Lajtha, chief leadership officer at Accenture, said in a press release. "Instead, they are focused on their skill sets and on seeking the training, the resources and the people that can help them achieve their goals."

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com

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