Top 4 Reasons Professionals Choose Another Path

by Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive at HRM Recruitment

The continuous change in employer and employee relationships can be challenging to navigate. Not driven by economic factors, this transformation follows new “norms” in how differently lives are today, particularly for those born after 1980. Tenures are shorter, professionals crave new experiences, culture is the glue. Few leave their jobs, more often they leave their organisation’s ways of being, beliefs and behaviours.


Resignations do occur for unavoidable reasons such as location or lifestyle changes. However, professionals point to several reoccurring factors when they move. Each year we research the career motives for executive and professional talent. Here we set out the top four reasons shared for resignation decisions in the last twelve months and how to mitigate these.

1.Respect and Fairness. Over 90% of employees cite a lack of respect, fairness and equal treatment as key to their decision to leave their firms. Respect is defined as “appropriate levels and channels of communication”, “recognition”, “trust” and/or “fairness in the allocation of resources”. Listening to employees is key to their retention as leaders can get caught up in unconscious bias. Encourage employees to speak up about concerns and help you achieve a fair and respectful culture.

2.Blocked career paths. Over 50% of the candidates spoken with explained that either; their leader planned to stay in their own role long term, a peer had been promoted or an outside candidate parachuted in over them. While this naturally disappointed, it was the absence of any explanation for the decision or discussion about alternative future paths that triggered their decision to move. Transparency in such decisions is essential. The employee may not agree with the decision, but it is the leader’s to make. Consider building in some new work experience for such professionals that plays to their untapped strengths. Employees want to know they can at least learn new skills with your firm.

3.Compensation. It is common for people to want more pay but rare for them to make exit decisions on this basis alone. Employees who highlighted compensation as a primary issue, invariably said they were told the subject was a closed matter and not open for discussion. They saw this as disrespectful. Take time to set out your case and explain what the employee can do to improve pay and over what period. Consider whether there are other personal needs that you can meet for them instead.

4.Inappropriate workload. Employees want work to fit in with their lives and not the other way around. High performance and engagement are achieved if workload matches the capacity of the employee, allowing them to feel on top of their brief and proud of their contribution. When people are overloaded, they lose purpose, feel out of control and find it hard to deliver to the best of their ability. Some employees we spoke with felt underutilised, bored with current workload and saw no alternative opportunities in their workplace. Good leaders monitor this and keep a constant dialogue open to ensure work distribution is equitable to capability. Build in additional responsibilities for those that are bored, which reflect their personal interests.

The link between each of these four resignation drivers is need for continuous communication. With many of the professionals we spoke with, we sensed regret that they had not been able to fulfil themselves at their prior firms. Whether they were blocked or didn’t step up, communication is the key to engagement, dialogue around how to grow contribution, improve capability and be recognised for that effort.