An Achievers report released on Thursday found that the majority of employees have one foot out the door. Only 33% of employees said they plan to stay at their jobs this year, and 64% said they might look elsewhere.

The number of employees planning to stay at their jobs has fallen since last year, when nearly half (47%) said they were satisfied enough to stay. The outlook is even worse for younger workers; only 23% of workers ages 18 to 29 said they plan on continuing a their companies

SEE: How to manage job stress: An IT leader’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The Achievers 2020 Engagement and Retention report surveyed more than 1,500 employees in North America to determine how employees feel about their working environments. The report found that employees are wanting to leave for two main reasons: Disengagement and lack of recognition.

“Employees leaving is often not completely driven by compensation or by one event,” said Michael Cohen, chief product officer at Achievers. “It’s a collection of things.”


Only 19% of employees said they consider themselves “very engaged,” leaving more than three-quarters of workers with mediocre engagement, the report found.

“You want to have the most engaged and enabled workforce as possible.You enable your employees by giving them the right tools, the right training and the right coaching and mentoring to be able to do their job,” Cohen said.

Disengagement ultimately falls on leadership, indicating the company’s leadership team is not providing a culture that focuses on employee experience, or are not even engaged themselves.

As with most company initiatives, engagement has to start from the top to make its way down. “Especially in larger organizations, the entire employee base is looking at the leadership team as the ones setting the goals and setting the strategy,” Cohen said.

“Ultimately [leaders] are the ones who can either put the words up on the wall that speak to culture or values, or they can have those words on the wall and actually live them,” Cohen said. “Too many companies are not actually living the values.”

Leadership is falling flat: 23% of employees said they believe their senior leaders are “very committed” or have “more than average” commitment. This percentage has already decreased from last year, when 31% said the same.

Nearly half (45%) of employees said leadership is “minimally” or “not at all” committed to improving company culture. With culture being critical to employee satisfaction, organizations must realign its leadership teams’ goals, or risk losing valuable talent, Cohen said.

To get the most out of your employees, managers must serve and manage their workers in the ways they need to be managed, which changes from person to person, said Michael Solomon, co-founder and managing partner at 10x Ascend.

Lack of recognition

A lack of recognition (19%) is one of the top reasons for employee turnover, after the typical culprits of compensation (52%) and career growth (43%), the report found.

The overwhelming majority (82%) of employees said they wished they were given more recognition at work, and another 30% said they don’t feel valued by superiors.

Similar to engagement, recognition must also come from the top. Both of these factors are responsible for employees quitting, meaning the responsibility falls on leadership to retain employees.

“[Leaders] have to participate in activating the culture,” Cohen said. “We’re not just recognizing people for tasks. They’re tying that recognition back to corporate values or to things that they’re trying to drive in their organization. If you say that your employees are important to you, then you actually have to open up a channel of dialogue with them.”

Recognition not only shows employees that they are valued, but also helps foster an engaged, positive company culture, according to the report.

Some 92% of employees said that when they are recognized for a specific action, they are more likely to do that action again in the future. And 90% of respondents said that when they receive recognition, it motivates them to work harder, the report found.

The impact of this recognition is substantial. More than half (58%) said their manager relationship would improve with more recognition, and 91% said that a strong recognition culture makes a company attractive to work for, according to the report.
Recognition can be provided in many ways, and should be catered to how the individual likes receiving it. In order to do that, managers need to make the effort to familiarize themselves personally with their employees, Solomon said.

How to keep employees

Clearly, engagement and recognition are crucial for keeping employees satisfied. Leadership must focus on forging a culture that promotes positivity and encouragement, the report found.

Additionally, 90% of workers said they are more likely to stay at a company that acts on feedback. Companies must listen to their employees, as direct feedback is an important engagement measure, and adjust leadership attitudes and company environment accordingly, the report found.

“The best companies are the ones who aren’t waiting for somebody to come to them and say, well, ‘I’m not sure this is the right place for me anymore.’ They’re being proactive,” Cohen said. “They’re putting in systems and tools in place to actually try and retain employees through things like engagement and active listening to give the employee a full experience at work.”

To both retain and attain the best talent, leaders must forge the best working environment for their employees and make those experiences unique to each person, Solomon added.

“The voice of the employee used to be something that happened in an annual survey,” Cohen said. “The best companies are recognizing that an annual survey doesn’t serve anybody extremely well anymore. You have to have more frequent opportunities for employees to feel like they have a voice.”

Survey methodology

Achievers conducted the online survey in October 2019. The sample size included 1,154 responses from across North America. Males represented 47% and females were 53%. Thirteen percent were Gen Z, 46% were millennials, 21% were Generation X and 20% were baby boomers. The most popular company size was less than 50 employees, representing 29% of respondents, followed by 50–249 employees, representing 21%.

For more, check out 4 ways to keep employees from quitting on TechRepublic.