The Numbers at a Glance

Here’s what today’s talent thinks about their work and career paths.

76% 5+ Years

Employees say that staying with the same employer for 5+ years is ideal

1/5 Lack Growth

Employees who resign do so because they lack growth opportunities

44%Less Structure

Employees prefer a less structured career path

Most employees do not want to job hop.

76% of employees say that staying with the same employer for 5+ years is ideal.

Recently, executives told us that optimal workforce tenure was 5+ years. Best-in-Class employers raised the bar, aiming for 9+ years. Good news! Employees agree. While 3/4 say that 5+ years is the ideal length of time to stay with one employer, more than half would prefer to stay put for more than 9 years.

The optimal workforce tenure.

C-Suite

We asked: What is your optimal workforce tenure for an employee?

56% Industry laggard 3 - 6 years

56% Industry average 5 - 9 years

71% Best-in-Class 9+ years

Today’s Workforce

We asked: What is the ideal length of time to remain with the same employer?

1%

< 1 year

5%

1 - 2 years

17%

3 - 4 years

18%

5 - 6 years

6%

7 - 8 years

52%

9+ years

The optimal workforce tenure – by age.

  • < 1 year
  • 1 - 2 years
  • 3 - 4 years
  • 5 - 6 years
  • 7 - 8 years
  • 9+ years

Among 18-24 year-olds, only 40% want to stay with the same employer for five or more years. Generation Z may be less committed—at least for now. However, they’re at the beginning of their careers. Remember, their older Millennial counterparts were once considered “job hoppers,” but more data is showing they desire to stick with employers long term.

The Takeaways

Make them want to stay.

This isn’t about how long employees are actually staying at their current company; it’s about how long they’d like to stay at their current company. Most of them want to stick around longer. They just need good reason to.

That’s really what much of this report is all about: retaining your employees. Yes, some will have the tendency to jump from job to job for various reasons. But don’t let others who lack that job-hopping tendency move on; if they do quickly exit, find out what you can do to provide future employees with a better experience—competitive pay, work-life balance, positive culture, growth opportunities and more. You have the ability and the knowledge to ramp up retention—put it into practice.

Photo of an employee quitting due to lack of career growth.

People may be quitting due to a perceived lack of career growth.

20%+ of employees who resign do so because they lack growth opportunities.

To help you create an effective plan for employee retention, we asked employees for their thoughts on why they might quit, what's important to them on the job, how they feel about overtime and more.

Our survey revealed that employees are more likely to resign due to a lack of career growth rather than poor compensation—but low pay, or at least the impression of it, is a close second. While employees leave mostly due to scarce development opportunities, they overwhelmingly say that the best way to keep them around is to increase their pay.

How to better retain temporary employees.

We asked: Why did you leave your last job? Select all that apply.

  • 29% Hourly rate was too low
  • 28% Other
  • 16% Lack of growth opportunities
  • 10% Schedule changed too much
  • 7% Benefits were not adequate
  • 7% Poor relationship with manager/coworkers
  • 3% Did not like my assigned schedule

How to better retain permanent employees.

We asked: Why did you leave your last job? Select all that apply.

  • 26% Other
  • 21% Lack of growth opportunities
  • 19% Compensation was too low
  • 11% Overworked in position/burnt out
  • 9% No flexibility/no remote work
  • 9% Poor relationship with manager/coworkers
  • 5% Benefits were not adequate

Understanding factors like these can help you keep your best people on the payroll—not racing to work for your competition.

The Takeaways

Provide opportunities for growth.

Unsurprisingly, pay is the key to employee retention. In fact, for hourly wage workers, we have data that shows the direct correlation between pay and retention (and turnover costs). But it’s not quite all about pay; employees must experience a positive career trajectory and get ample time away from work in order to feel compelled to stick with their employer.

Training as a solution: 3/4 of employees say that internal training boosts their productivity.

Even if you can't offer concrete career paths with regular promotions, you can still help your employees grow professionally. For example, implement a formal apprenticeship or training program that focuses on both soft and hard skills. Employees will likely see this as a great advantage of working for your organization and, as we saw in section three, will become more productive at work. This is also a great way to “upskill” employees in your own workforce, which saves your recruitment team time and money down the road.

Photo of a woman on a path.

Not everyone wants a structured career path.

44% of employees prefer a less structured career path.

Although a majority of employees (56%) do want a structured career path in which their employer helps them develop specific skills for a predetermined position, others would rather develop an array of skills that could apply to various roles.

How employers and employees line up.

C-Suite

We asked: With the influx of younger generations, and the decrease of Baby Boomer employees, do you have any succession plans in place to help the transition of knowledge and experience?

66% Of all employers have succession plans in place

34%Are dismissing them altogether

Today’s Workforce

We asked: Would you prefer a structured career path with the same company, or no career path with flexibility and options?

56% Prefer a structured career path in which the employer helps develop specific skills for a predetermined position

44%Prefer a less structured career path in which the employer helps develop an array of skills that could apply to a number of positions

Somewhat surprisingly, younger employees (those between 18 - 44) are more likely to prefer a structured career path, while employees 45 and up want less structure. This could mean that people who are earlier in their career want assurance that their employers plan for them to grow and they want to understand exactly how to move up. On the other hand, employees past the middle of their career and those nearing the end seem less concerned about following a specific career path, but would rather learn a variety of skills.

Age Groups that Prefer a Structured Career Path

  • 64% 25 – 34 year-olds
  • 62% 35 – 44 year-olds
  • 61% 18 – 24 year-olds

Age Groups that Prefer Less Structure and a Wider Array of Skill Development

  • 59% 65+ year-olds
  • 53% 45 – 54 year-olds
  • 52% 55 – 64 year-olds

The Takeaways

Evolve your succession planning.

10% more companies have succession plans than the amount of employees who want to adhere to them. When looking at the preferences of the younger generation, however, it does seem that the trend of employees wanting a clearly structured career path could go up. That said, today's business and technical landscape—and the skills required to succeed in it—are constantly changing. Make sure your career paths reflect this ongoing evolution. If you choose to stay the course with traditional succession planning, allow for a style of employee training and mentoring that focuses on developing well-rounded leaders with strong soft skills.

Listen carefully and communicate clearly.

Show your employees that you care about their career aspirations by listening and taking action based on what they say. Ask managers to discuss both short-term and long-term career goals with their top employees—especially those who are in their mid-20s to mid-30s. Communicate to your people that you want them to stick around and make a positive impact. Implement a training program that nurtures the ways in which they'd like to develop. Mentors and sponsors can be especially helpful in these situations as they can provide closer guidance and stability to younger employees who are not only trying to navigate their workplace and industry, but also progress in their careers during a time of nearly constant transformation.