December 10, 2020
5 min read

Why Employees Quit: 3 Reasons from Expert Recruiter

Written by
Angel Lim

What motivates employees to leave their jobs for a new opportunity? We explored some of the psychology behind recruitment.

We all know that one friend/family member who has spent their whole career dedicated to that one employer. Especially in Asia, loyalty is a big deal. However, these cases don’t seem to be very common nowadays with high employee turnover rates reported across industries. This begs the question – what motivates employees to make the switch?

I talked to Colin, a colleague of mine who was previously working in the “executive search industry” (headhunter/people poacher/public enemy #1) to find out more on the psychology behind recruitment and what appeals most to employees these days. You may recognise him from some of our previous articles: The difference between HRIS, HCM and Talent Management & 6 Features to Add-On your Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Before we get started, it is important to differentiate two types of job candidates: active and passive. Active candidates are actively looking to leave their jobs. On the other hand, passive candidates are not actively looking but always open to hear about alternative opportunities.

A general rule of recruitment, explained Colin, is that passive candidates are the better group of employees. These candidates often have a good degree of job satisfaction which indicates that they are adequately rewarded in their work. It logically follows that employers choose to focus their limited resources on good employees.

Now that we’ve covered the grounds, let’s divulge some trade secrets.

Emma: What are the top 3 reasons why employees choose to leave their jobs?

Colin: The first reason is challenge. Normally when employees hear about a challenge that they could possibly achieve, a challenge that they lack in their current job – they get excited.

Another reason is when employers fail to keep up with the promises they initially gave when they hired. That happens very often because employers these days will make certain promises to attract and seal the candidate’s desire to join the new firm. For example, after six months, if your performance is satisfactory and you will have a team of so and so to manage.

Promises are given conditionally because there is only so much you can assess about the candidate’s potential during the interview phase. The problem arises when employees fulfill these conditions but are not met with the expected compensation.

In a lot of these cases, the burden really lies on the employer to communicate their expectations, why certain promises are given and why certain promises are withheld. This is why hiring chemistry is extremely important, way beyond the quantitative metrics and analytics.

Whenever there is a larger brand, a bigger challenge, a heftier salary, it doesn’t take a lot for employees to start thinking of themselves as potential candidates for a new role. It takes more effort for employers to try to retain them. Especially now with social media e.g. LinkedIn, it’s so easy for employees to access information.

Emma: How does the recruitment process work? How do you convince passive candidates to leave their jobs?

Colin: There are so many factors. Passive candidates are good candidates and good candidates are always open. They are looking for the next ‘right’ job.

Recruiters usually have a pipeline of passive candidates stored in their Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) system. This pipeline is created when recruiters identify great potential in candidates who are not, at that moment, looking to leave their jobs. The recruiters’ job is then to maintain the relationship with them until the timing is right for them to move.

The issue is that recruiters don’t really know when exactly the right time is, so they have to constantly nurture the relationship. They become Candidate Relationship Managers. They would meet up once every quarter or so to ‘catch up’. It’s very much long term and all about timing. I could have my first meeting with a candidate and place him on a job one or two years later.

Emma: How do you know when it’s the right time for candidates to move? (In other words, how can you tell when an employee is ready to make the switch?)

Colin: You can tell when you meet up with them and they start expressing some form of dissatisfaction. For example, one month ago, they were treated very well by their employer. But one month later, they might be completely disregarded for a promotion that was promised.

Emma: Have employers been successful in retaining employees who want to leave? (Or are employees pretty much resolute when they are already considering other options?)

Colin: Employees would normally already have received the offer for the new role and have gone through the entire recruitment process, before they notify their current employer. That is when the employer would know that the employee is leaving and starts to panic.

That is also when they will pay a lot of care and attention to the employee. They will have all the communications and discussions that they never had, like find out why they’re leaving and what can be done about it. Some employees waver when shown such attention. Employees are not resolute when they consider other offers.

Concluding Remarks

It all boils down to the fact that employers and employees didn’t communicate these expectations while they were in their job. It is very reasonable for an employee to clarify his ambitions with his employer. More than often, not all hiring managers know how to initiate these conversations; and not all employees feel that they themselves should have the initiative to engage in these conversations.

Having a visible and explicitly communicated development plan is instrumental to addressing these issues. Employees become more engaged with the company when they are made aware of these commitments. They are more likely to foresee a long-term career in the role and less likely to be swayed by other opportunities. It is all about communicating these plans as clearly as possible.

We hope that this sneak peek into the recruitment industry has given you some insights into employee behaviour today. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any more questions on the latest trends in HR and how technology can help you address the issues that come with them.

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