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Want to keep employees? Consider the reasons they quit

It may be a cliché to say employees are an employer’s greatest asset. But if that weren’t true, it wouldn’t be a cliché and employers wouldn’t focus so much attention on retaining their best and brightest. The reasons behind an employee’s decision to leave a job depend on each individual’s situation, but new research identifies minimal wage growth and a lack of flexibility as chief culprits.

Unsatisfactory wages top the list of the reasons full-time workers quit, according to research from EY, the global organization that refers to one or more of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited. The other reasons rounding out the top five are lack of opportunity to advance, excessive overtime hours, a work environment that doesn’t encourage teamwork, and a boss that doesn’t allow for work flexibility.

The research says other leading factors in an employee’s decision to quit a job are related to that lack of flexibility. A “flexibility stigma”—the perception that people who work flexibly or take leave will suffer career consequences—is one factor prompting employees to leave their jobs. Others quit because their workplaces offer no flexibility at all (including no option to telecommute), according to the research. Too much overnight travel is another reason identified in EY’s research.

Millennial perfect storm
The study’s conclusions were drawn from an online survey of nearly 9,700 full-time workers at companies of various sizes in eight countries: the United States, Germany, Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, India, and the United Kingdom. The research shows that one-third of the workers surveyed claim managing work and life has gotten harder in the last five years. Millennials are particularly affected, according to the research.

“One key area of focus for the survey globally and in the U.S. is millennials,” according to an EY statement on the survey. “Millennial parents who are full-time employees in the U.S. are facing increased responsibilities at work and home, such as moving into management and having children before age 30.” This increased responsibility at work and at home has created what the researchers labeled a “perfect storm” for the millennial generation.

Not only are today’s younger workers increasing their work hours after becoming parents, they “are seeing more of a backlash in working flexibly than older generations,” according to EY’s report on the research. “One striking finding, likely compounded by the lack of a U.S. paid parental leave policy, is that 38 percent of millennials said they would ‘move to another country with better parental leave benefits.’”

The research also found that about one in 10 U.S. workers say they have “suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule.” The rate is even higher for millennials, nearly one in six.

The research also shows that millennials highly value increased flexibility and paid parental leave. They say they would be more likely to recommend a company offering those benefits to others, be more engaged, less likely to quit, more likely to join the company and work longer hours if they had paid parental leave and flexibility.

Money also tops another survey
The EY survey lines up with another couple of surveys from last fall. Specialized staffing firm Robert Half separately polled chief financial officers and employees on the reasons workers quit.

The research shows that both the CFOs and the workers named inadequate salary and benefits as the top reason for quitting (28 percent of CFOs, 38 percent of employees), followed by limited opportunities for advancement (22 percent of CFOs, 20 percent of employees), and unhappiness with management (14 percent of CFOs, 16 percent of employees).

Twelve percent of the CFOs and 9 percent of the employees said being overworked is the most likely issue to cause people to quit. Twelve percent of CFOs and 6 percent of employees named a “lack of recognition” as the most likely cause. Eight percent of CFOs and 10 percent of employees cited being bored with their job as the most likely reason to quit.