Why Do You Stay on the Job?

Why People Stay on the Job

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

“Leaders, it’s your job to embrace and prioritize employee engagement” – Gallup 

            Lately, the HR community has been buzzing about “Quiet Quitting”, “Employee Engagement”, and “Presenteeism” among other workplace challenges like “The Great Resignation”. HR and C-Suite denizens express concern that people just don’t care about work the way they used to. Numerous programs and extra benefits like gym payments, more paid vacation time, or extended family leave supplement employees’ base packages, yet the disconnection between employee enthusiasm and management efforts to encourage loyalty are falling flat. Overheard employee conversations sound more like grumbling than gratefulness, and leaders fear employee turnover more than ever. There just aren’t enough people trained to do the jobs needed to keep an organization running smoothly.

            One idea that now appears on the horizon is actually nothing new, it’s just been in hibernation over the years. HR vigilantly conducts exit interviews for each employee who leaves the company, although it seems uncertain where that information goes. But the training for conducting “stay interviews” has only recently been incorporated into the HR Body of Knowledge and HR practices. Asking employees why they stay on the job rarely materializes, but it’s the only reliable method the C-Suite has at its disposal to design programs that inspire people to stay.

            Wishing to remain on the job and not be tempted away by a competitor has many faces. According to the American Psychology Association, 54% of full-time workers and 43% of part time workers continue with their current positions because of the value they place on co-workers. In a study conducted by Virgin Pulse, 60% of employees say that they feel more productive when they are surrounded by people they like, and 40% state that working with likable coworkers helps reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, in an MTV poll, 88% of millennials answered that they expected and wanted to have good relationships with other people at work. Further, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that employers’ number one source for hiring was employee referrals, telling others how much they liked working at the company.

            Since the manager sets the tone in the organization, encouraging camaraderie, collaboration, and friendships among employees, the corporate environment becomes more appealing. People feel welcomed, without sensing a threat or being on the defensive.

            Among other reasons people give to stay on the job, the four most prevalent motivations are job stability or certainty; performing meaningful work, flexible work schedule, and organizational values and culture that closely align with their own personal values. Other motives also emerged as to why people stay: opportunities for learning and personal career growth, passion for their work, a strong support system on the job, encouragement and recognition from top management, fair compensation and benefits, and trust in leadership.

            So how do leaders make that adjustment, making the drudgery of work disappear and, in its place, a warm and welcoming atmosphere? Since the pandemic, two thirds of employees reported that they were burned out and wanted work with more purpose. This translates into employees want more from their work. Assigning meaningless or inconsequential work to people makes them want to leave. Building community at work is equally important. People want a sense of belonging. They don’t want to be ignored or shoved in a corner and kept out of sight. O.C.Tanner found that leaders themselves are getting burned out. They need encouragement and recognition too. Celebrate individuals’ wins. Have a party and give out special awards, even a plaque or a coin will do. The award doesn’t have to have monetary value – just something to hang on the wall that shows their achievements.

            When you think about it, there’s not much that’s difficult about this process of keeping employees engaged. It’s a matter of instituting a program and backing it up. Not forgetting the awards, keeping track of people’s career wants and desires and employee recognition are key to helping your people stay.

The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan

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Mary T. O'Sullivan

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, Member, International Coaching Federation, Society of Human Resource Management. Candidate, Master’s Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM. Mary O’Sullivan has over 30 years experience in the aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking, through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth. In additional, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New York for secondary education, and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area.