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What Employees Want: Why they stay and why they quit

Updated: Jul 8

In 2022, at the height of the “Great Resignation,” a record 4.5 million workers each month — about 3% of the U.S. workforce — were quitting their jobs. The record-breaking trend dominated headlines as turnover continually reached new highs while economists predicted the numbers would all even out in a post-Covid world.


New data from LinkedIn and Microsoft shows that they might have been overly optimistic. The two tech giants surveyed 31,000 individuals across 31 countries and found that the percentage of people (46%) who want to quit their jobs in the year ahead is actually higher than in 2021 (40%). This flips what experts previously said about 2024 being the year of the "Great Stay" on its head.


It’s no secret that the employee experience is directly correlated to turnover, and turnover has a direct impact on customer satisfaction. Across industries, leaders agree that one of their toughest challenges is attracting and retaining top talent. While leaders are focused on employee retention, the research is clear: employees are evaluating the culture of companies they decide to leave or join.






What do employees expect in 2024?


In 2023, engagement was completely dominated by customer-focused themes, such as empowering employees to develop new and better ways of serving their customers. In 2024, the driving forces behind engagement are more about professional growth, meeting career goals, autonomy, and contributing to organizational goals.


From the widespread adoption of AI to insights on hybrid work, employees expect organizations to find balance among competing priorities.


According to the Qualtrics 2024 Employee Experience Trends report which examined the thoughts and attitudes of 37,000 employees worldwide, there are some surprising trends reshaping the world of work in 2024.


Today's employees want AI to assist them, not manage them.

They want new technology, but they also want to use said technology for good. They expect AI tools to optimize their productivity and allow them to focus on work they feel energized by, and to delegate tasks – of their choosing – to machines that can handle them more efficiently.


Frontline employees are the most unhappy, poorly supported, and least trusting.

The customer experience will never exceed the employee experience. Employees who work directly with customers report feeling undervalued, unappreciated, and unrecognized for their contributions.


The new-job honeymoon phase is no longer existent.

Employees with less than six months of tenure have the lowest intent to stay (three years or more) at their organization: just 38% versus 65% overall – a 27-point difference and three points lower than last year. New hires report worse KPI scores than tenured employees across the board.


Some time in the office is better than none, but not all.

Employees expect to be empowered with flexibility and autonomy - to work from home and the office, focus on outcomes (not hours), and build meaningful relationships with their colleagues and teams.


Employees who work five days in an office or on-site location report the lowest employee experience compared with those who work a hybrid schedule having the highest. Employees who work in the office 1-3 days a week report higher levels of inclusion and well-being than those who work fully remote.


Meanwhile, the factors driving employee well-being have completely changed from a year ago. In 2023, enablement and empowerment through efficient work processes were make-or-break for employee well-being. This year, employees want to (1) contribute their skills and abilities to meet organizational goals, feel respected, feel safe, and work with integrity – in that order.


Specifically, employees in North America are focusing on growth opportunities within the organization and company values. These opportunities, whether it’s formal development programs or in-the-moment feedback, are the career success currency all – but especially new – employees crave. And the organizational values significantly influence the extent to which employees feel safe, valued, and respected for their individual contributions.



Human motivation is fueled by how deeply we feel connected to what we've created and the degree to which others value our contributions.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines contribution as the giving or supplying of something that plays a significant part in making something happen. In the workplace, the most engaged employees are those empowered to contribute – those who are respected for their talent and experience, those who are treated as valued members of the team. Human motivation is fueled by how deeply we feel connected to our contributions and the degree to which others value them.


If you peek Inside the Brains of Engaged Employees, you'll find a surge of positive neurotransmitters that actually facilitate activity in the prefrontal cortex - the brain region responsible for all of the higher level executive functions. A wealth of research shows that human motivation is fueled by how deeply we feel connected to our work and the degree to which others value our contributions. The more we are able to contribute, the more valued we feel, the better the brain works.


 




 

Culture is not what people say about your company; it’s not even how people feel about your company. It’s how they feel about their role in the organization and their ability to contribute to the mission of the organization.


If people don’t feel seen, heard and respected they leave.

If people aren't valued and appreciated for their contributions they leave.

If people don't feel like they belong they leave.

If people don't have autonomy and flexibility they leave.

If people don't have psychological safety they leave.


How people feel about their jobs is the sum of all the formal and informal systems, behaviors, norms and values that create an experience for employees. Simply, organizational culture defines how work gets done… and it has a direct impact on how the outside world perceives your brand.


 

Psychological safety in a virtual world

 


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