When a Job Is ‘Just a Job,’ Are Employees More Likely to Quit?

When a Job Is ‘Just a Job,’ Are Employees More Likely to Quit?

A new survey from CareerBuilder claims that a 55-percent majority of US employees feel that they have just a job, not a career, and that 38 percent of these workers are likely to change jobs in the second half of 2017:

Almost three in 10 workers (28 percent) tolerate or hate their job. Of those who tolerate or hate their job, some of the top reasons for staying in a current position are the need to pay the bills (74 percent), its proximity to home (41 percent), needing the insurance (35 percent), it pays well (30 percent), or the job market is too tough (27 percent).

This survey picks up on something that we at CEB (now Gartner) have seen in our latest Global Talent Monitor data: Most US employees across a number of industries cite their future career opportunities as a leading reason for leaving their organization. Given this fact, it is easy to assume that this is a reflection that there is simply a lack of career opportunities available to employees, leading to disengagement and attrition. However, our data shows that this is not the case. We find that 12 percent of US employees we surveyed were actively dissatisfied with future career opportunities at their organizations and only 31 percent reported they were satisfied. The remaining 58 percent are somewhere in the middle—that is, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, but rather neutral or ambivalent.

This finding suggests that while future career opportunities are a key part of employees seeking a new job, the claim that lack of future career opportunities is driving attrition at organizations is overstated. When we look at how an employee’s satisfaction with future career opportunities at their current organization affected their engagement levels, we do not see nearly as strong as a connection as CareerBuilder reports in their survey.

Our engagement measure comprises two factors:

  1. Discretionary Effort: High discretionary effort refers to employees’ willingness to go above and beyond their day-to-day responsibilities to meet customer needs and help colleagues.
  2. Intent to Stay: Employees with high intent to stay are not actively looking for employment outside their current organization.

To compare the likelihood of employees looking for an external position, we took a closer look at this second component of engagement, which we have validated as an accurate predictor of actual employee turnover based on years of data collection and analysis.

Cross-referencing employees’ satisfaction with future career opportunities and their intent to stay, we see that even among the 12 percent of employees who are dissatisfied with their career opportunities, only 19 percent of these employees exhibit low levels of intent to stay. Among the majority who are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, however, only 4 percent exhibit low intent to stay. Taken together, this data suggests that while lack of opportunities is an important aspect of EVP, its role in driving attrition is not nearly as significant as CareerBuilder’s findings suggest.