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September 3, 2023

Retention On The Rise: What’s Driving The Trend For Satisfaction And Staying

Bad news sells, and there’s a lot of alarmist buzz about the state of work—from discussions about how return to office mandates have ruined motivation to dialogue about low levels of job satisfaction. But the data shows otherwise, and there is good news about people’s satisfaction, stay rates and feelings about their work. In fact, […]

Bad news sells, and there’s a lot of alarmist buzz about the state of work—from discussions about how return to office mandates have ruined motivation to dialogue about low levels of job satisfaction.

But the data shows otherwise, and there is good news about people’s satisfaction, stay rates and feelings about their work.

In fact, both retention and job satisfaction are up. And data demonstrates why this is the case—so it’s possible to make evidence-based decisions for your business about what will make people happy, satisfied and motivated to perform—and to stick around.

Job Satisfaction and The Big Stay

Perhaps surprisingly, job satisfaction is the highest it’s been since 1987. From a low of 43% during the Great Recession, now it’s up to 62% of people who are satisfied with their jobs today, according to data from The Conference Board.

And this is likely contributing to rates of retention. A new poll from B2B Reviews finds 70% of employees aren’t currently looking for a new job and a study of almost 12,000 people by the Federal Reserve finds only 11% of people voluntary left a job, with 23% applying for a new job and 15% starting new jobs.

Interestingly, education drives job mobility: The more education people have, the more likely they are to have applied for a new job, started a new job or voluntarily left their job, according to the Federal Reserve study.

HR leaders also report high levels of retention, with 80% in the B2B Reviews poll saying they have good employee retention—with medium-size businesses reporting the highest retention at 85%. And 68% of HR professionals say voluntary turnover has decreased or remained the same over the last year. They expect this trend toward staying to last for three years.

How Long They’ll Stick Around

People vary in the number of years they plan to stay, but the majority say they intend to remain for seven or more years. According to the B2B Reviews data, 31% of respondents are planning to stay that long, while 26% plan to stay one to three years and 26% plan to stay four to six years. And 17% plan to stay until retirement.

Companies are focusing on retention. In fact, according to a poll by Kronos, 87% of HR leaders say they’ve made employee retention their number one priority.

Retention takes intention and effort, but the data guide the way in terms of what people’s prioritize most—and what increases their satisfaction.

Business people in front of office building showing importance of retetnion.
People stay because they have work-life fulfillment. GETTY

Create Work-Life Fulfillment

When they’re asked why they stay, 51% of people rank work-life balance as the number one reason. In fact, it is the top issue for Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. It is also the primary factor for women. And it’s an issue where HR is focusing—with 35% of HR leaders reporting they are putting initiatives in place for work-life fulfillment, according to B2B Reviews.

Work-life fulfillment can be a result of flexibility, choice and autonomy, benefits (like child care or vacation), meaningful work and growth, fair pay and so much more. It makes sense work-life is so high on the list—because people can feel fulfilled in multiple ways.

Companies are wise to consider plenty of creative ideas to enhance work-life and rely on metrics to inform them about what means the most to their employees.

Provide Job Stability, Pay and Benefits

People also prioritize job stability (48%) and job security (41%). And 52% of men cite job stability as their top reason for staying with a company, according to B2B Reviews. In addition, a poll of over 13,000 people by BCW found job security was the most important issue for people, with hybrid work falling to number 12 on the list of priorities.

In addition, 35% of people say salary is the most important factor in staying at their company, in addition to PTO/vacation days (32%), insurance coverage (24%) and perks (14%). For Baby boomers, the primary reason to stay is insurance coverage (48%), based on B2B Reviews data.

Employers are focusing here as well. HR leaders (43%) say they’re ensuring competitive salary and benefits as well as recognition and reward programs (38%) to enhance retention. And small businesses are most likely to say they’re seeking to enhance retention through competitive salary and benefits packages versus other strategies, based on B2B Reviews.

Notably, 33% of people received a raise or a promotion in the last year, according to the Federal Reserve study. And those with more education were most likely to have asked for a raise and received one. Of all of those who asked for a raise last year, 70% were successful in their bid. Apparently it pays to make the case.

Create Positive Teams, Leaders and Relationships

For years, social science data has suggested people stay in jobs because they have a best friend at work, and they leave because of leadership. And according to the B2B Reviews poll, this still holds true: People stay because of their team and their coworkers (38%), because of their relationship with their leader (32%) and because of good relationships with their clients and customers (13%).

Companies are wise to create affinity and interest groups where people can get to know each other and smart to select and develop leaders who can create positive work experiences and build strong relationships.

In addition, people crave connections, so when employees have the opportunity to work together with their team members and understand how their work impacts others—and when they have time and places to socialize and get to know their colleagues—these all contribute to positive relationships.

People walking into office building showing importance of retention.
People stay because they have choice, control and autonomy. GETTY

Provide Choice, Autonomy and Flexible Work

One of the elements of work that will surely continue is flexible and hybrid working. The days in which the majority of workers showed up in an office all day, every weekday are surely past.

In addition, providing flexibility delivers terrific results. Productivity is lower with all-remote work, but when people have the chance to work both face-to-face and remote—with some discretion over their choices—these bode well for outcomes.

Almost a quarter (24%) of people say they stay at their job because they have autonomy and independence, according to B2B Reviews. In addition, people are more likely to have autonomy over how they complete their work (60% of people) compared with choice about what work they must do (37%), based on the Federal Reserve study. People are also more likely to have greater autonomy when they have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Autonomy makes a difference for productivity too. Employees (60% of them) report they are more productive when they have greater autonomy, according to a poll by mmhmm.

One of the ways companies provide for choice and control over work is by giving people the option to work in flexible ways. People stay at jobs because they have the option to work remotely (34%), have a convenient commute (24%) and hybrid work (17%), according to B2B Reviews.

In addition, 45% of HR leaders say they’re seeking to enhance retention with flexible work schedules and remote work options. And the organizations most likely to use this strategy are large businesses, more than small or medium-sized companies, based on B2B Reviews information.

Provide Meaningful Work and Growth Opportunities

Another critical factor that keeps people with the company is having meaningful work. In fact, for 16% in the B2B Reviews poll, the opportunity to make a meaningful impact mattered most, and for 19% it was challenging and interesting work.

In a related stat from mmhmm, 72% of people said they would leave a job if they felt their skills were underutilized or if they felt under stimulated.

And people want great work today as well as development for what they’ll do tomorrow. In the B2B Reviews poll, 15% of people stayed for career growth and 12% for leading and development opportunities. HR leaders (45%) say they’re focusing here as well, and medium-size businesses are most likely to focus on growth opportunities to get people to stay.

A sense of purpose, performing well and growth are each significantly corelated with happiness—as well as with people who are motivated and energized to give their best—so it’s no surprise these also drive retention.

Wise companies will give people work they like to do which is aligned with their skills today—and which offer growth in the future.

Create a Positive Culture

Culture is a conglomeration of many factors—from direction, mission and leadership to approaches for involvement and participation. And from clear processes to the ability to adapt and adjust.

People also say culture is critical to their intentions to stay—with 20% reporting in the B2B Reviews poll that it’s their number one reason to stay with their company. HR is focused here too with 43% working to create a positive company culture and work environment and 35% prioritizing fair and equitable treatment for employees.

And brand and culture are two sides of the same coin—with culture an inside out experience of the company and brand an outside in perception of it. For 12% of people, staying at their company is the result of its positive reputation in the industry.

It will certainly pay off, since when people are engaged in a constructive culture, they are 87% less likely to look for another job, according to data from Bonusly.

A Bright Future

When people stick around, it costs companies less in terms of recruiting, training and performance, but it’s also good for people who can build relationships and have greater meaning, continuity and growth through their work and their organizations.

More importantly though, the factors that drive retention—from pay and purpose to flexibility and relationships are also linked with payoffs for people and for companies. It’s a virtuous loop—with great work reinforcing great experiences and—in turn—retention.

This period will be the most significant reinvention of work in our lifetimes—and employers have a terrific opportunity to create the conditions for a positive future for companies and for people.

Article written by:  Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family. Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.
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