3 Things That Make Employees Want to Stay

Companies that successfully retain their employees have a substantial competitive advantage over those with higher turnover. They have lower costs and higher levels of productivity. Given the greater value of a cohesive organization, it is important to understand what makes employees want to stay—and what makes them want to leave.

The traditional conception of turnover focuses on the employee’s perspective:

  • Are they satisfied with their job?
  • Are they committed to their organization?
  • What do they think about the quality or availability of jobs at other organizations?

 

In this article, we break down what research evidence has found actually influences these things.

These are the key factors that lead to “job embeddedness.”

 

1. Fit

A sense of belonging in the organization.

  • Actually liking coworkers and corporate culture.
  • Feeling that the job utilizes skills and talents well.
  • Enjoying job responsibilities.
  • Whenever relevant, meeting professional development needs can be important as well.

A sense of belonging in the community.

  • Satisfaction with the home living situation and the community.
  • Availability of desirable leisure activities in the local community.
  • Thinking of the community as “home.”
  • Even the weather can somewhat influence fit.

 

2. Links

Connections to the organization.

  • How long the employee has been working in the organization, current role, or industry.
  • Frequency of interacting with coworkers.
  • Having coworkers that depend on you.
  • Participation in work groups or teams.

Connections to the community.

  • Having family or close friends nearby
  • Having a spouse or partner that also works outside the home.
  • Owning a home.

 

3. Sacrifice

Value of the current job.

  • Freedom to make decisions in the job role.
  • Feeling respected by people at work.
  • Prospects for ongoing employment.
  • Satisfaction with compensation and benefits.

The difficulty of leaving.

  • Feeling that leaving the job would mean sacrificing a lot.
  • Living in a desirable location, leaving the local community would be hard.
  • Feeling respected by people in the community.

 

 

Image credit: Susanne Nilsson

 

  6 comments

  1. Avatar Dragomir T   •  

    The classical employment model is so out of date… It used to be relevant for previous centuries factory work and not because it had been especially good for that purpose but because it had been the first thing to come to mind… It is horrible for attracting, retaining and developing human talent.

    Employment breeds office politics by its own design. The ones who remain long in a company are either dumbly consensual (no talent people) or smartly political (political talent only).

    Thus I think research should be directed at discovering the key ingredients for attracting and retaining the above two types of people, because they are the only ones fit to survive the employment environment.

    Otherwise “Feeling that the job utilizes skills and talents well. Enjoying job responsibilities. When relevant, meeting professional development needs can be important as well.” sounds great (if we assume the research is correct) but the employment model simply prevents it from happening.

    • Greg Willard Greg Willard   •     Author

      Thanks for the comment! This model is actually originally largely based on hospital staff such as nurses, and then since has been applied to things like retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. It is still “classic” though.

      What you mention about ambition is certainly important, but it seems a bit harsh to classify anyone who is happy where they are, or motivated to advance, as either inept or purely political. There is more going on in between. Perhaps you are suggesting that some of the current systems in place cannot properly differentiate?

      • Avatar Dragomir T   •  

        Thanks. I had not suspected that employment started with hospitals. Maybe it’s worth a blog article covering briefly the origin and subsequent history of employment?

        “Perhaps you are suggesting that some of the current systems in place cannot properly differentiate?” – no, I am not. It’s not really hard to spot what motivates an employee at work if you spend two or three months with him as a co-worker. The pattern of people hating their jobs (though they would not admit it openly) is pervasively consistent across different companies and cultures, if you wish, as well as the pattern of people advancing solely due to their political skills. My personal experience tells me so, plus the experience of all the people I know, plus what I can read on glassdoor.com.

        My biggest problem with this article is that it seems to me founded on the presumption that there are things in the employment model which might motivate somebody to stay employed. My experience tell me those are too few, while the reasons for somebody to hate going to work are far too many. Thus, I think, advice should be directed at how to keep the “job aversion factors” first of all, if the employment model should be used at all.

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  3. Avatar Dragomir T   •  

    One more thing, out of simple curiosity 🙂 . While mentioning “a bit harsh to classify anyone who is happy where they are, or motivated to advance, as either inept or purely political”, do you personally know people who are truly talented, not political and happy where they have been for at least six months?

  4. Greg Willard Greg Willard   •     Author

    Thanks for the comments! I understand better what you were saying now. The things that really make people happy and satisfied are only a concern once we are talking about jobs where people aren’t miserable or missing basic needs. Very true. We need to get rid of the bad stuff first. Some of my recent posts on workplace stress get at these issues better.

    And about the last question? Yes. The most recent example I can think of is my mail carrier. He just loves walking around stuffing mail in boxes and can’t imagine doing anything else. The postal service is a very good example of a great employer.

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