Almost all managers know when an employee is looking for another job, but most are wrong on why

The clear majority (83%) of managers say they know when an employee is about to resign.

However, usually, they’re off on the reasons.

Recruitment firm Robert Walters interviewed 300 hiring managers and 700 professionals about the most common reasons employees leave.

The main reasons given by employees were: no longer feeling challenged (cited by 33% as the main reason); no longer liking the company culture and environment (27%); feeling there’s limited growth opportunities for them in the company (26%); feeling undervalued (24%); or feeling underpaid (22%).

When hiring managers were asked the same question, they believed employees had slightly different reasons for leaving.

Notably, they placed far more weight on salary concerns than employees did.

Limited growth opportunities were cited by 42% of hiring managers, followed by pay concerns (30%), employees being headhunted (22%), cultural concerns (22%), and changes to the company like a downsize, reorganisation or merger (20%).

“While employers know no longer feeling challenged is one of the reasons that employees resign, not all are aware that it is their number-one concern ahead of salary,” the report noted.

“In order to improve staff retention rates and hold onto star employees, it’s therefore advised that hiring managers present their employees with both challenging work and a very clear path to progression. Attention should be paid to acknowledging employees for the hard work that they do and rewarding them with non-monetary benefits such as giving regular feedback and recognition.”

The results found employees are extraordinarily candid about their unhappiness. Just over half, (52%) raise concerns with their employers before looking for another role. And 30% will tell their boss they are looking elsewhere, in a bid to keep bridges intact after they leave the company.

In some industries, like compliance and audit, general management and consultancy, human resources, communications and media, and banking and financial services, well over 50% inform their boss they are unhappy before looking for a new role.

Those in mining and engineering were least likely to let their boss know they were unhappy (only 20% do so), followed by those in secretarial and business support (30% of whom said they would raise issues with their boss).

James Nicholson, the managing director of Robert Walters in Australia and New Zealand, says if there’s one thing to take out of the survey, it’s the extraordinary opportunity that exit interviews present.

It’s an opportunity ignored by most employers and hiring managers, he says. But it shouldn’t be.

“Our research has shown us just how candid professionals are during the exit interview and how much employers use the information they are given to make changes to their operations,” he says.

“The insights gleaned from former staff can shed light on all aspects of the working environment, form the culture, systems and day-to-day processes, to problems with the company’s management style and underlying factors contributing to low retention rates.

“If managed carefully, the exit interview can also be a way for employees to leave on a positive note, or provide employers with the opportunity to make a counter-offer.”

The tell-tale clues: how to spot when someone is about to leave their job

  • Lateness
  • Increased sick days
  • More time spent on personal emails, phone calls and websites
  • Negativity towards their work or colleagues
  • Focus on the short term rather than any long-term plans or solutions

Source: Robert Walters whitepaper


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