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Employee Tenure: Why Do They Leave? And What Can You Do?

rw-admin | 11/12/2019

When reviewing candidate resumes, hiring companies often key in on the length of time spent at previous companies and draw negative conclusions if the tenure trends to the run on the short side. So much so, they will absolutely pass on interviewing if they feel the candidate is a “job hopper.” This practice makes sense because they obviously do not want to invest in someone if the likelihood is that they will leave within a couple of years. This led me to take a deeper look into just how long American employees really are staying with current employers.

In recently released research by The Work Institute, it is projected that next year, 1 in 3 employees will leave. And by 2023, voluntary turnover will hit 35%. It is interesting to note that the length of time before people leave an organization varies quite a bit based on their age. The median stay of an employee in the U.S. is 4.2 years, but this depends on the generation. Breaking it down, it looks like this:

Median Tenure by Age:
• 55–64 year olds =10.1 years
• 45-54 year olds = 6 years
• 35-44 year olds = 4.9 years
• 25–34 year olds = 2.8 years

So, what does this mean to hiring companies?

1. Realistic expectations. During this Crisis for Talent, companies do not always have the luxury of interviewing candidates with long tenured stints in their backgrounds. That is unfortunately the employment landscape in 2019 and will not improve in the near future.
2. Candidate profile. Organizations who wish to hire “early career” candidates must accept the fact that that age bracket are more likely to move on to other opportunities sooner than more experienced candidates. There are always exceptions to the rule but that is the data to this point.
3. Company responsibility. Companies do have the ability to impact retention rates among ALL employees, regardless of age.

According to the 2019 Retention Report, over 75% of employees that quit, could have been retained by employers. The following were found to be the preventable categories of reasons why employees voluntarily quit their jobs:

1. 43% said corporate culture was the main reason. Source:

2. 82% said they’d be more loyal, and less likely to quit if they had more flexible jobs. 37% of employees would quit and take a new job that allowed them to work remotely part of the time. Source: FlexJobs and Gallup

3. 70% of 2,000 millennials surveyed said they would quit a job if lacked high performing and fast technology. Source: Jive Communications

4. 62% of millennials are willing to quit their job in the next two years and work in the gig economy. Source: Deloitte

5. 12% of employees actually leave their job because they want more money. Source:

6. When surveyed, 76% of employees leave when they do not feel valued. Source: Lifeworks

7. Over 70% of “high-retention-risk” employees want to leave because they see no future advancement in the current job. Source: Willis Towers Watson

8. 30% of employees would consider quitting if they were unhappy at work, and 79% of employees said their bosses didn’t care about their happiness level. Source: One4All

9. Organizations with poor on-boarding programs have double the chances of experiencing employee turnover. Source: Digittate

10. 22% leave for career development. Source: The Work Institute

The question now is as voluntary turnover continues to escalate, what can employers due? It can seem overwhelming to look at these statistics and realize there are so many different reasons why they lose good talent, but on the bright side, companies DO have the ability to make changes within their organizations. The research clearly demonstrates the themes why employees leave their jobs.

As recruiters, we understand that organizations are busy “doing business” and often are unable to spend a lot of time and resources analyzing internal procedures, let alone making company-wide improvements. But by understanding there are areas that can be improved upon, companies are able to take some of the control back in increasing overall retention of top talent. The entire new hire experience begins at the recruiting and hiring process, then carries on into Onboarding and most importantly the day to day corporate cultural environment.

The best companies to work for understand that ultimately employee satisfaction is what drives “teamwork to make the dream work.” And when that happens, both employers and their employees find a happy successful meeting place. Statistically speaking, we are at a time when good people have choices in where and who they want to work for. Reflecting back to the beginning of this article, it is clear that American workers are on the move and it is up to companies to make strategic upgrades to areas that are important to their employees.

Written By: Angie Barnes, The Q Works Group