Top reason employees leave: money and benefits

By Kathy Canavan

About 2.7 million people quit their jobs in February, nearly a quarter million more than last February. The two top reasons for leaving were inadequate salary and benefits and limited opportunities for advancement, according to a new Robert Half survey.

“Most employees who are leaving wouldn’t be leaving if they had gotten at least a little bit of an increase and a thank you,” said Scott Shorr, who manages Robert Half’s permanent placements in Delaware. “Employees go out in the marketplace and get exponentially what they’re worth, and all their current employer had to do was give them a minimal increase in compensation and they would have stayed.”

Shorr said sought-after employees often make their decisions based more on benefits than on salary, because good benefits can save employees thousands of dollars annually. “They know that they can get increases in their salary but the benefits are never going to get better,” he said. “Depending on who they have to take care of, sometimes they’ll weigh the benefits and take less salary.”

A Robert Half survey showed only 6 percent of employees cared about recognition, but 38 percent would leave a job over salary and benefits.
A Robert Half survey showed only 6 percent of employees cared about recognition, but 38 percent would leave a job over salary and benefits.

Twenty-five percent of CFOs surveyed said they had lost a good employee to a company that offered higher total compensation in the past year. Inadequate salary and benefits was the most likely reason employees gave for leaving their jobs (38 percent). Other oft-mentioned reasons were limited opportunities for advancement (20 percent) and unhappiness with management (16 percent).

Geography plays a role in why Delawareans ditch their jobs too: “Wilmington is like other metro areas where people leave for the normal reasons — money, responsibility, a better company. For people who live in Middletown, Dover, and lower, they don’t have a lot of options, because there are fewer companies in that area,” Shorr said. “So, if they find a company that has growth opportunities, it’s not always about the salary. They’re more apt to move for a better opportunity for growth with a stable, expanding company than just to leave for more money.”

People are also moving away from pockets of Delaware where there are no jobs: “There’s a lot of people in Dover who come to me and say, ‘I would stay here but there aren’t very many opportunities, so I’m willing to move to Philadelphia to find the best opportunity for myself,’ ” Shorr said.

He added that he sees the first signs of resurgence after a lack of growth for the past five years. There’s a pent-up demand for higher wages among employees, but many companies today are still looking for someone with two to three years of experience who will work for less money than they would have been hired in at four or five years ago, he said.

They generally interview four to eight people to fill each job, Shorr said. “They’re still picky, yet they have a lot of open jobs out there,” he said. “Right now, we have double the amount of positions we had a year ago, but we have a lot fewer qualified candidates.”

Some employees have hard feelings stemming from the severe cutbacks the past few years, especially at those companies that never communicated the reasons for the staff reduction in the first place, Shorr said.

“Some employees say no one explained to them why that was happening or how much they were appreciated, just the little things that could be done on an everyday basis to keep those employees happy,” Shorr said. “It’s just, ‘We’re losing money. We need to cut costs’ or ‘It’s the best thing for the company.’ They’re kind of given, I hate to say it, but, the spin. It’s what the company wants to say instead of what is actually happening. The companies that have been open and honest have retained employees.”

Shorr said some companies don’t understand the costs one separation entails — recruitment, training, and the replacement costs for an employee to perform the old employee’s tasks in the interim. ♦

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