October 07 2020

Employee Retention : 7 Most Common Reasons Why They Quit

HR Advice

Retention of labor is a major current issue. In order to increase your chances of keeping your best employees, you should understand the reasons behind them leaving.

Many organizations offer compensation structures to attract, retain and motivate key employees. However, can we say that it is really the most effective and profitable strategy today?

why employees quit

How to improve your employee retention depending on the reason of the resignation

According to Leigh Branham (2005), seven main reasons explain why employees leave organizations:

1. The job (or the workplace) is not what the person expected. There is a gap between the first impression of the candidate and the reality.

When an employee starts at a new company, they will have certain expectations and ideas about what their job and the environment will be like. Sometimes these expectations don't match up with reality once the person is in place. While some employees may eventually adapt, many will choose to leave the job instead, forcing the company to reinvest time and resources on recruitment and training.

In order to ensure that a candidate's expectations are as close to reality as possible, it is important that the job be presented as realistically as possible, starting with the job description. During interviews, it is important to clearly and realistically talk about what the day-to-day tasks will be like, the culture within the company, the management style, etc., which could lead to surprises once the employee is in place.

2. There is a bad match between the position and the candidate.

It is important for an employee to feel that their position and the work they do on a daily basis is valuable.

An employee assigned to a position that isn't a good fit will quickly find themselves unmotivated or disinterested in their tasks. They will not find meaning in their work and it will be difficult for them to carry out the duties related to their position.

Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their job-related needs. If your employees feel that they can't share their feelings freely with you, it's quite possible that you'll only learn that an employee was unhappy when they resigned. 

3. Employees don’t receive enough support and feedback from superiors.

Although there is a growing awareness of the importance of giving feedback in business, many employees still feel that they do not receive enough coaching or feedback on their work and performance.

Many companies only give feedback once a year during performance reviews, which is often not sufficient. Make sure you provide the necessary coaching and feedback, tailored to the needs of your employees.

4. There are not enough opportunities for growth and advancement.

As they grow and gain new skills and experience, it is natural for many employees to seek opportunities for advancement to more senior, executive or managerial positions.

Companies that have a strong internal promotion plan tend to have happier and more motivated employees.

It is not always easy to set up a concrete development system, especially for SMEs where each employee often occupies a very defined position. But it is by listening to employees and giving them the opportunity to express their needs that it is possible to offer each one more stimulating tasks.

5. Employees feels undervalued and unrecognized.

Reasons that lead an employee to feel undervalued or unrecognized can arise when the individual does not feel treated with respect, does not receive the resources necessary to do their job, there are pay differences for similar jobs, or simply because they feel their work is not recognized. 

6. There is too much stress related to work overload and work-life imbalance.

There are many different reasons why an employee may feel stressed at work: overwork, a lot of overtime, great pressure to achieve impossible goals, risk of being fired, harassment at work, etc.

It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that the environment in which its employees work is one in which they can thrive and feel supported and nurtured in their work.

7. There is a loss of trust and belief in the company’s leader.

If there is no trust between employees and their supervisors, there simply cannot be a proper foundation for an employee to excel in their position.

It is important to have empathetic leaders and a clear direction in terms of communication and vision to inspire and motivate employees.

What About the Salary?

These reasons seems to be lacking of any salary component. Yes, money is important for employees, but there is no direct correlation between salary and motivation to stay in employment.

Types of Motivation

Motivation in individuals can take two forms: the intrinsic motivation which is related to working for personal interest and pleasure, and extrinsic motivation which is driven by working for external factors, such as salary. Individuals motivated by external factors will have a negative impact on the company like being distracted, burnout, competition and higher health costs.

Organizational Justice

Of course, if the employee experiences unfair salary treatment in comparison with his internal and external environment, it will affect his commitment and motivate him to leave. At the very least, employee’s salary must be treated fairly. This refers to the concept of the Perception of Organizational Justice, which we will discuss in a future note.

Retention Strategies

To have a real impact on the retention of its employees, strategies promoting quality of life at work and mobilization are a good starting point because there is a very strong link between the index of mobilization of staff, the satisfaction at work, the loyalty and success of a team.

The most effective strategies will be those that will act on the autonomous motivation of the individual and on his perception of justice within the organization. The integrity, quality and structure of management processes, as well as the positive leadership exercised by the supervisors, will be the keys to the implementation of such strategies


Need personalized advice to help you retain your employees? Contact Us.



  • Branham, Leigh (2005). «The 7 hidden reasons employees leave», Soundview executive book summaries, vol.27, no.6, part 2.
  • Forest, Jacques et al. (2012). «Pourquoi l’argent motive peu  ou mal », Effectif : le magazine de l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines et en relations industrielles agréés du Québec, vol. 15, no. 3, p. 20-23.
  • Petit, Alain (2010). «La mobilisation, c’est gagnant!», Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, La Presse, saison 2009-2010

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