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By: Helios on July 29th, 2021

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Do You Know Why Your Employees Are Leaving? Push Vs. Pull Factors

Employee Relations

Right now, there’s a lot of media buzz about the so-called Great Resignation. It’s true that more employees than ever are considering jumping ship in the wake of the pandemic, and quit rates are higher than ever.

But staff retention has always been one of the biggest issues in HR, especially when dealing with your most talented stars. To hang onto these valuable team members, you have to understand the many reasons that employees leave an organization.

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Push Factors Vs. Pull Factors in Employee Turnover

What makes an employee hand in a resignation letter? Usually, people don't leave jobs for a single reason, but because of a number of factors that made them feel it was time to move on.

There are many employee retention factors to consider when trying to figure out why your employees are leaving, but we can roughly split them into two categories: push factors and pull factors.

What is a Push Factor?

The easiest way to describe a push factor definition is something that drives someone away from a situation. In terms of employee retention, it means that there is something about your organization that makes them not want to be there anymore.

Common push factors include:

  • Salary and total rewards: Everyone wants to be paid a fair amount that reflects their contribution to the company’s mission. If they’re receiving a compensation package below the market average, they’ll feel the urge to look around for better offers.
  • Work-life balance: Most people want a healthy personal life outside of work. Many employees need this balance as they have unbreakable obligations, such as education or childcare. They may resign if they can’t balance the two. This push factor can be a major contributor to the gender wage gap.
  • Company culture: We spend a huge portion of our lives in the office. This means that our emotional connection with our colleagues is a vital retention factor. If someone feels that they don’t fit the culture – or that the culture doesn’t fit them – they will start looking for a work environment that feels more like home.
  • Professional development: Every employee is looking for opportunities to develop their resume and learn new skills. Younger employees feel especially conscious of the need for professional development to support their future success. If employers fail to provide training, mentoring, and professional development support, then the employee might have to seek out a new opportunity.
  • Lack of career progression: The ultimate goal for every employee is to land their dream job. Most people know it takes time to make it to the top, and they are willing to pay their dues. But if there is no chance of getting promoted internally, then it could be time to move on.

These are all internal factors based on the employer’s culture and policies. If something isn’t quite right internally, then these factors will push your employees to leave the company.

What are Pull Factors?

What about external pull factors?

Sometimes, an employee might be perfectly happy with their current job. But then, something happens in the outside world that makes them feel it’s time to leave.

These are pull factors, so-called because they pull employees away from your organization. Common pull factors include:

  • Enhanced salary offers: It’s a candidate-led the market, and employers are locked in an arms race with each other. Because it’s so hard to fill elite vacancies, employers have to head-hunt rival companies. That often means offering a temptingly rich total rewards package.
  • Personal factors: Things can happen in someone’s life that affects their work-life balance. For example, they may have a child, have to care for an unwell relative or return to education. If these circumstances clash with work, then they may begin to pull the employee away from their job.
  • Relocation: The average person moves house 11 or 12 times in their life. Even a small relocation can cause someone to think about searching for a new job, especially if the move means a longer commute.
  • Exciting opportunities: Sometimes, a chance to do something exciting becomes available. Maybe there’s a chance to manage a team or work on a cutting-edge project. It’s hard to resist the lure of a really great opportunity.
  • Career pivot: People may also sometimes simply decide that they don’t like their current industry. Career-hopping is not as unusual as it used to be, and some people might relish a new challenge.

Pull factors aren’t always in your control, but you can anticipate them and take steps to keep your employees. In the next part, we’ll talk about what you can do to reduce employee turnover.

How to prevent employees from leaving 

By the time an employee has handed in their resignation, it’s generally too late. You can try to make a counteroffer, but it’s hard to regain the lost trust and employee engagement.

Instead, it’s better to focus on how to retain your current staff. Here are a few tips on how:

  1. Make the most of exit interviews: When someone does leave, it’s a chance for you to learn more about the push and pull factors that impact your employee turnover. Ask the departing employee to talk to an HR representative and capture their honest feedback on the employee experience.
  2. Use stay interviews for key staff: Stay interviews are like exit interviews, except you talk to people who are not leaving You can use these interviews to learn about the push and pull factors, and also discover what makes employees stay with you. These interviews can also help you assess the turnover risk for your most important team members.
  3. Use salary benchmarking: Salary is both a push factor and a pull factor. Make sure that you’re paying in line with market averages by benchmarking your rewards structures against verified salary data. If in doubt, speak to a compensation specialist for help.
  4. Be flexible: Flexibility can be life-changing for employees. Instead of trying to juggle everything around a rigid work schedule, they can find a healthy balance between each aspect of their life. Remote working, flexible scheduling, and generous paid time off policies can give a huge boost to employee retention rates.
  5. Commit to career development: Employees are more likely to stay if they see a future for themselves in your company. Work with people to develop a realistic career path for the coming years. Even better, show that you’re serious about helping their career by investing in meaningful professional development.

Even if your current employee turnover rate is okay, it’s a good idea to take defensive action now. Push factors and pull factors can build up over time.

Today, your team could be feeling engaged and happy. But in a few weeks, they might find themselves looking out of the window and thinking, “you know what? It’s time I looked for a new job.”

Don't wait until it's too late. Book a no-obligation consultation call with a Helios HR expert today, and let's talk about how we can help you build a winning team

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