Saba and just completed a survey of 2,000 people in the U.S. and UK, with half of respondents employees and half HR leaders. It covers a range of questions about the motives people have for working where they do and how they feel about the engagement programs their current employers have to encourage them to stay.

Two of the most interesting findings relate to “Why people stay at their current company” and “Why they would leave their company.” Let’s first see what employees say about why they stay.

The #1 factor for staying is “flexible work options” (where you work, when you work). The next two are benefits and compensation (highly related). And the next two are culture and people (highly interconnected). Some HR professionals may find this list a bit surprising. They stay for “quality of life” and “financial well-being,” and then they stay for the “culture and people.” Not as many stay for mission, purpose and inclusiveness.

Now, let’s look at why they go.

Right off the bat — better salary is the dominant reason people would go to another company. Then it’s better career options (moving up in their career). In other words, pay and advancement.

If you look at the reasons to stay and go together, you might conclude:

“They stay for quality of life (flexibility) and leave for better pay and/or opportunity.”

This reads to me like “gravity” at play, where you need to reach “escape velocity” before you can leave Earth’s gravity and fly to Mars. You can circle the earth at impressive speeds, but, below escape velocity, you’ll just keep circling — because of gravity.

Bringing it back to Earth (or your job), gravity is flexible working conditions, good benefits and competitive pay. A big jump in compensation at another company is the rocket fuel needed to reach escape velocity, or for some, a move to the next level in their career.

So What?

What should we take away from these findings? Here are some of our suggestions:

For retaining people…

  • Do your own survey about what makes people stay and what would make them go.
  • Look at your flex work policy — in your survey, ask what elements of work flexibility are most
    important to them. Then give serious consideration to expanding your policy based on the results
    of that survey.
  • Battle the “escape velocity” problem by removing the fuel before it reaches escape velocity. One way
    to do that is to use predictive analytics to identify people who are “at risk” of leaving, and make adjustments
    in advance of such a departure.

For attracting people…

  • You already know that compensation (and specifically “salary”) is fuel that can cause a candidate to escape
    their current employer and join your company. So, as always, use benchmarks to make sure that your offers
    are in the right ballpark for the industry, position and location.
  • In the interview (and closing) process, you might be more explicit about the “career path opportunity” your
    position and your company offers. Make sure to ask the candidate what their longer-term objectives are, and
    then find a way to smartly position the role at your company as a great step in their career trajectory
    (and spell out specific reasons why it would be, ideally citing how it helped other people at your company,
    who had similar goals, do the same).
  • At the same time, tell them that your company believes in proactive, transparent career planning and
    encourages professional development (e.g., courses, content and mentors) to help them attain their career
    objectives. (Assuming both are true!)
  • One way you can demonstrate your commitment to helping people develop their careers
    (and actually deliver on it) is to use a career planning application that enables them to explore
    (or simulate) various career paths to see how those paths “feel” and what skills they would need to
    develop to get there.

Our recent survey raises some interesting questions and hypotheses about how to improve retention and hiring success. You might develop your own and see what you learn. And then create your own gravitational pull.

To learn more about Saba’s Intelligent Talent Management solution, check out the “Case for Intelligent Talent Management” white paper.