Nearly a third of American employees, or 31.4%, voluntarily left their jobs during the past year, according to iHire’s 2021 Talent Retention Report. Behind their moves: career changes, unsatisfactory pay, desire for workplace flexibility and employer COVID-19 policies.

The survey of 3,948 U.S. workers found that voluntary turnover rose 6.5% year over year, from 24.9% in 2020 to 31.4% in 2021. That 31.4% compares to 20.2% for involuntary exits. Salary is the prime motivator for leaving (or staying), iHire said. Some 70.9% of those surveyed indicated they would leave a job due to unsatisfactory pay, while 77.9% said a raise would convince them to stay with their employer even if they received a better job offer.

There are also indications that workers are changing careers. More than 21% said they’d made a major career move in the past year, such as leaving a position to pursue work in a completely different industry. iHire thinks this might have to do with employees in industries hit hard by COVID reevaluating their career goals and considering sectors that promise greater stability.

COVID’s Impact

COVID-19 policies come into play as well, as far as workers are concerned. Some 58.8% would leave their job because of either too few (41.9%) or too many (16.9%) COVID-19 restrictions. In addition, one in five employees would leave their job because of employer-required COVID vaccinations.

Nearly a quarter, 23.9%, would leave if hybrid work wasn’t an option for them. In addition, employees want more say in how and where they work. For example, 41.3% said a more flexible schedule would encourage them to stay with an employer, while 31.8% said the same about remote work options. Also, 62.8% said they’d leave a job due to a poor work/life balance.

With 4.3 million Americans quitting their jobs in August, while 10.4 million positions remained unfilled, “the labor market is experiencing a shakeup,” observed iHire CEO Steve Flook.

By Mark Feffer

Mark Feffer is executive editor of RecruitingDaily and the HCM Technology Report. He’s written for TechTarget, HR Magazine, SHRM, Dice Insights, and TalentCulture, as well as Dow Jones, Bloomberg and Staffing Industry Analysts. He likes schnauzers, sailing and Kentucky-distilled beverages.


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