Money isn't enough: Why people won't quit their jobs

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 11 2012 8:54 p.m. MDT

Many employers choose to stay at their job for work-life balance as opposed to higher pay, co-workers and benefits.

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WASHINGTON — When someone quits a job, the boss usually wants to know why.

But nobody ever asks faithful employees why they stay.

"We were interested in what kept employees on the job," said David W. Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. "There are a lot of reports that come out that talk about why employees quit … but we see relatively little about what it is that actually keeps them there."

But Ballard had his suspicions.

A few years ago a survey showed that two-thirds of employees said their employers had made cuts due to the recession. Benefits had been cut. Pay had been cut. There were layoffs. Employees were forced to take time off without pay.

"On the heels of the recession, our thinking was that benefits and pay would be of great importance to employees," Ballard says.

So the APA commissioned Harris Interactive, a market research firm based in New York City, to conduct the Workforce Retention Survey in August. The survey asked why people stayed with their current employer — giving respondents several choices and asking them to choose all that applied.

Ballard was right about benefits and pay being important. Sixty percent of working Americans said the benefits were a reason they stayed at their current job. Pay was right on its heels, with 59 percent of workers giving it as the reason why they stayed.

A good fit

But Ballard was surprised those two responses were not the most cited reasons. People gave two other reasons more often. "I enjoy the work I do" and "My job fits well with the other areas of my life" both tied at 67 percent as the top reasons.

"Enjoying what you do and having a job that fits well with the other parts of your life rose to the top," Ballard says. "That communicated to us that, yes, benefits and pay are important. But when it comes to keeping people on the job, it is having a positive work experience and having a good work/life fit."

Ballard says people's jobs fit in with the other pieces of their lives to varying degrees. "I like to look at it as life harmony," he says. "You have various parts in your life, and work is one of those parts. And all of them have to fit together in a way that overall they work for you."

Other popular reasons people gave for staying on the job were "I feel connected to the organization" (56 percent), "because of my co-workers" (51 percent) and "my job gives me the opportunity to make a difference" (51 percent). Staying because of "my manager" was 40 percent.

Changes

Deborah Epstein Henry says technology is pushing people to want better work/life fit than in the past. Henry is the founder and president of Law & Reorder, a division of Flex-Time Lawyers, an international consulting firm based in Ardmore, Pa. She is also the author of the book "Law & ReOrder: Legal Industry Solutions for Restructure, Retention, Promotion & Work/Life Balance."

"Technology is affording people to work differently," she says, "and therefore people are expecting that their employers will allow them to work differently."

Another reason why people are more interested in work/life satisfaction is because there is an expectation of 24/7 availability. "The world and the marketplace has become more global, and there is an expectation that people will be available on off hours so they can work with people across the world or they can be more responsive with today's technology," Henry says.

It is a dance of expectations and negotiation from both sides.

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