What Makes Us Stay (In Our Jobs)?

Reportedly, a person’s direct manager is the #1 reason people leave companies. However, in a recent study it was revealed the manager is actually number 7, out of 8  key reasons for why people stay with companies.

The top reasons Americans give for not leaving their current job are “I enjoy the work I do” and it “fits well with the other areas of  my life.” That’s according to a new survey commissioned by the American Psychological Association, which contains a number of revealing insights into employee motivation.

The following study was reported by Gary Belsky, former editor in chief of ESPN Magazine and ESPN Insider.com, the APA’s “Workforce Retention Survey” was conducted by Harris Interactive in August 2012. Some 1,240 full- and part-time workers, age 18 or older, were asked to evaluate nine common reasons for staying with a current employer. Here’s how their answers ranked, as measured by the percentage of participants who said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with a statement:

I stay at my job because

  •        I enjoy the work I do (67%)
  •        My job fits well with the other areas of my life (67%)
  •        Of the benefits (60%)
  •        Of the pay (59%)
  •        I feel connected to the organization (56%)
  •        Of my co-workers (51%)
  •        My job gives me the opportunity to make a difference (51%)
  •        Of my manager (40%)
  •        There aren’t any other job opportunities for me (39%)

As you might expect, given the survey’s top-line result, work-life balance and enjoyment have the strongest correlation to tenure expectations. That is, the biggest drivers of employees planning to stay in their jobs the longest were the extent to which they enjoy their work and the degree to which their jobs fits with the rest of their life. But the third-strongest correlation was neither pay nor benefits, but rather connection to the organization. (Also of note: Both the ability to make a difference and an attachment to co-workers figured more heavily in tenure predictions than pay.)

It seems interesting that one way to keep your best people from jumping overboard is to make them feel more connected to the ship. Compensation is obviously important, but not as much as economists would tell you. Few people will tell pollsters that they wouldn’t want more money, yet apparently we seem to want job satisfaction and meaning more.

The above survey also matches closely to a Blessing White survey from 2011, that the work we do matters greatly to our motivation in staying with an organization.

Blessing White April 2011

Get connected. If not here, then somewhere that matters to you.


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