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Illustration by Security Management; iStock

Why Workers Quit

The U.S. “quit rate” reached a 20-year high in November 2021 as workers joined the Great Resignation. Overall, about one in five non-retired U.S. adults (19 percent) quit a job in 2021. Adults younger than 30 were far more likely to voluntarily leave their job in 2021—37 percent of young adults quit, compared to 17 percent of those ages 30 to 49, 9 percent of workers ages 50 to 64, and 5 percent of those aged 65 and older.

But why are they leaving their posts?

Low pay, a lack of opportunity for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work topped the list of reasons why Americans quit in 2021, with upwards of 60 percent citing these reasons as a primary point of contention, a new Gallup survey found.

Roughly half of workers said childcare issues were a reason they quit, and 45 percent said there was a lack of flexibility to choose their working hours. Additionally, 43 percent said they did not have good benefits such as health insurance or paid time off.

The amount of work also drove employees to leave—39 percent quit because they were working too many hours, and 30 percent quit because they were working too few hours.

The COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in employees leaving. Thirty-one percent said their reasons for quitting were related to the pandemic, and people without a four-year degree (34 percent) were more likely than those with a bachelor’s degree or more education (21 percent) to say the pandemic influenced their decision. Only 18 percent cited their employer requiring a COVID-19 vaccine as a reason to leave.

Among people who swapped jobs, most say that the decision paid off. The majority of people who quit a job in 2021 and didn’t retire said they are now employed either full-time (55 percent) or part time (23 percent), and 61 percent said it was at least somewhat easy for them to find a new job. At least half of workers say that—compared to their last job—they are earning more money (56 percent), have more opportunities to advance (53 percent), have an easier time balancing work and family responsibilities (53 percent), and have more flexibility in choosing their work hours (50 percent).

It's not all greener pastures on the other side, though. Sizable shares of survey-takers said things are either worse or unchanged compared to their last job. More than 20 percent said their current benefits are now worse than at their last job.

This turnover is especially expensive for employers, costing upwards of 33 percent of an employee’s annual salary to recruit, interview, and onboard a new employee, according to Employee Benefits News.

“The best method to combat turnover is to keep employees happy,” wrote Elaine Palome, director of human resources for Axis Communications, in an online exclusive with Security Management.

“It’s important to develop a roadmap for reinforcing trust, demonstrating respect, and providing flexibility,” she continued. “Employees are your company’s greatest competitive advantage, and they should be taken care of holistically, mentally, and physically. Studies have shown a direct correlation between employee engagement and productivity, loyalty, and turnover.”