Creating an environment where people don’t want to leave

It costs when someone leaves a job – up to 200% of the post’s annual pay plus the loss of valuable skills, knowledge and relationships that often port too. Unfilled jobs and high turnover severely impact productivity, but they also create tougher conditions for employees left plugging the gaps and managing the shortfalls.

To stop talent from leaving, you need to create the conditions that make it better to stay.  And although this belief is deeply held – it is not all about the money!

So what is it about?

Professor of Management and Leadership at WBS, David Allen[1], says there are four research-backed reasons that people quit their jobs. We’re looking at them in this post.

Pay level and satisfaction with their salary are actually relatively weak indicators of a worker’s decision to leave. Much more important is job satisfaction overall, which takes into account the whole working environment.

David Allen, Professor at Warrick Business School

Poor job attitudes

Pay is important, but it matters much less than being treated fairly and being valued for your input. Commitment and general satisfaction increase when you can see how your work stacks up to achieve the larger mission of the organisation. Knowing that your organisation cares, and feeling it, are also critical when making a decision to stay or go.

Want people to stay? Provide them with some freedom and stretch, with clear goals and rewards, and make sure they know they are valued.


Research has found that a ‘shock’ event is often a pre-cursor to leaving. The shock could be a promotion you did not get, a negative appraisal, a smaller bonus than hoped. The shock can also be external, such as a change in life circumstance, prompting the re-evaluation: “Do I really want to work here?”

What’s interesting for us is that Covid has been a mass, global shock event for many people. It is a perfect time for employers to revaluate some of their policies in response to our changing world, a topic we have raised before. The most obvious case would be in relation to hybrid work, but creative adjustments to present and possible shocks may begin to define the organisational front runners of the future.


People who are embedded are less likely to leave. That means they have a web of relationships through work that matter and mean something to them. These are formed through working in teams, through committees, social events, voluntary work, and lunchtime activities. They may also extend into the local community.

So think about what your company does in this aspect – and how you create those webs of meaning and fun for your employees. Or, bring some of your interests into the work space and see what traction lies there.

Turnover contagion

As with emotions and job attitudes, there is growing evidence to suggest that turnover can be contagious. If more than one person starts looking, others are tempted to put their feelers out too. People start searching on big dates like anniversaries, and birthdays too, apparently.

One way to keep tabs on this is to collect data, says Allen. A sudden change in attendance patterns, say leaving early every day, could indicate something is up.

Companies can now measure communication networks in an organisation and can see who talks to whom, so, if somebody decides to leave, they can see who they are connected to and intervene.

David Allen

We think that checking in regularly and focusing on the employee engagement aspects mentioned earlier in this post is a good way to go – stretch, autonomy, making sure employees feel like they are making a meaningful contribution and are valued for it. You can only get this right with regular, candid conversations.

After all, who wants to find out what they needed to know most, at exit interview stage?

[1] Core Magazine Edition 8, Strategy for the Covid Era, Warrick Business School, pages 59-60

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