Is the grass really greener on the other side? Millions of U.S. employees seem to think so. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employees who willingly leave their jobs (a.k.a. the quits rate) has risen steadily over the last several years, going from 22 million in 2010 to over 40 million in 2018.

Naturally, this has many organizations asking why. Why do good employees quit? How can organizations retain their best people? While there’s no single, all-encompassing reason employees leave their jobs, research suggests there are a handful of factors that show up again and again. If your organization can respond to or improve upon these things, you can make it a place where employees want to stay.

Reasons Employees Quit Their Jobs

#1 Seeking Higher Pay

Unsurprisingly, seeking better compensation and benefits is consistently one of the top reasons why employees leave their jobs. A survey from Monster found that 44 percent of people who quit cited the need to earn more money as their reason for leaving. And not without reason: Brian Kropp, vice president at Gartner, explains that employees who quit their old job for a new one could boost their compensation by an average of 15 percent. He says, “You’re never going to get that 15 percent [increase] by staying at your current job. That’s just not going to happen.”

Organizations would do well to take a fresh look at their compensation strategy in light of this trend. We aren’t suggesting you pay through the nose just to keep a high-performing employee happy, but you do want to be confident that your comp plan is competitive in your industry and location. Conduct a yearly audit to ensure you’re paying employees fairly and that you maintain your position in the market (lagging, matching, or leading the market rate).

#2 No Growth or Development Opportunities

People like to know what’s next, where they can go, what’s ahead. When this sense of forward momentum dies, they make a change. In fact, a recent study from the Korn Ferry Institute reported that the top reason people were looking for a new job in 2018 is because they felt bored in their current position. Of course, boredom isn’t the only culprit. Good employees are also likely to leave if they don’t feel like there are opportunities for them to learn new skills, step into new positions, or progress their career in a meaningful way.

Providing growth and development opportunities to employees doesn’t always mean handing out promotions. Certainly, offering a new title or position can help with employee retention, but you can’t make everyone a manager. Instead, look for ways to help employees broaden or deepen their expertise by learning new skills or further mastering their craft. You can also keep work feeling fresh and engaging by asking an employee to lead a project, participate in a committee, or collaborate with team members from different departments.

#3 Poor Work-Life Balance

“A really good CEO thinks about the bigger picture and realizes people have lives outside of work. That’s the number one way to prevent people from feeling like they might want to be somewhere else,” says Carly Guthrie, Director of HR at Heath Ceramics, in an interview with First Round Review. Disrespect of time is a big reason why good employees quit, she insists, and the key to retention is honoring that time outside of the office.

“That’s not always a popular opinion,” Guthrie admits, “but I’ve seen how true it is over and over again. It’s not just people with kids or spouses. Everybody has a community outside of the office. So few employers respect that—if you make it a point to, that will bind your employees closer to you.”

Encouraging a healthy work-life balance starts from the top down. If executives and managers make a habit of sending work-related emails at 3:00 AM or staying online while on vacation, employees will learn that they’re expected to be on at all times as well. To reverse this, set clear working hours and expectations with your people, and encourage and enable them to take vacations. You may also want to provide work-from-home or other flexible work options, so employees are able to live their lives while keeping up with work.

#4 Bad Management

You’ve likely heard before that good employees often quit because of their manager. In a study by Bamboo HR, they found that 44 percent of employees who had recently quit a job had done so because of a bad boss. There’s a lot of weight riding on managers’ shoulders when it comes to employee retention; in 2015, Gallup estimated that managers accounted for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores across organizations.

Your organization’s ability to retain good workers, then, depends in part on its ability to train and hire good managers. Choosing the right people for leadership positions isn’t always easy, though, and many organizations miss the mark. Gallup reported that companies hire the wrong people for high managerial positions 82 percent of the time.

Many managers won their positions because they aware high-performers or have been with their organizations for a long time. But performance and tenure don’t guarantee someone has the right skills to be a leader. Good leaders should be able to do the following:

  • Motivate employees and help them buy into a collective mission and vision
  • Overcome issues and resistance in order to drive results
  • Create a culture of accountability
  • Build transparent, trusting, and communicative relationships
  • Resist politics and make sound, productive decisions

Not all of your rockstar employees will have all of these managerial talents, so it’s important to look beyond personal performance when identifying potential leaders.

Make Your Organization a Place Employees Want to Be

If turnover is becoming a serious issue in your organization, it may be time to reflect on how you’re doing in the four areas we talked about. Does your compensation plan need another look? Could your employee development strategies use some revamping? Maybe it’s time to pave the way for better work-life balance or manager training to improve your employees’ experience. Making improvements in these areas will help talented employees choose to remain in your organization year after year.

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