In September 2020, more than 3 million people quit their job, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows. For as long as people have been working, managers and business leaders have tried to figure out the drivers of employee turnover—a way to measure the number of employees who leave the organization over a certain time period.
Turnover statistics from employees and active job seekers can help recruiters and HR managers understand why people are leaving or how they can attract top talent. They can inform initiatives to reduce turnover—especially among top performers—and make their business a place people want to work.
50 Top Employee Turnover Statistics
Getting talented people to stay with the organization requires digging into the reasons why they leave, what it costs the business and what the organization can do to change it. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers:
- What is a good employee turnover rate? On average, every year, a company will experience 18% turnover in its workforce.
- A business can expect on average to lose 6% of its staff because of reduction in force or terminating them due to poor performance. This is known as involuntary turnover.
- While involuntary turnover is useful in developing overall recruiting strategies to make sure the talent pool is large enough to fill open positions, when it comes to retention, it is more important to look at voluntary turnover. On average, companies lose 13% of their people every year because they choose to leave on their own volition.
- Drilling further into turnover, a company should examine how many people are leaving key roles. Annual high performer turnover rate on average is 3%. In best-in-class companies, this number is near zero.
- On average, people don’t stay in their roles for long. The BLS puts the median number of years that wage and salary workers have been with their current employer at 4.1 years. That hasn’t changed much since 2018. This number is higher for workers in the public sector, at 6.5 years.
- But there are important differences in tenure by age range. The median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 is 9.9 years, per the BLS. That’s more than triple the tenure of workers ages 25 to 34, which is just 2.8 years. Among workers ages 60 to 64, 54% had been employed for at least 10 years with their current employer in January 2020, compared with 10% of those ages 30 to 34.
- Tenure is influenced by occupation and industry. Workers in management and professional occupations had a median tenure of 4.9 years, with legal, architecture and engineering roles having the longest tenure. Those in the service industry, who skew younger, had the lowest median tenure at 2.9 years. Workers in food service have the lowest median tenure at 1.9 years.
- The one-year mark is crucial point to examine in reducing turnover. Ten times as many employees quit at the one-year mark compared to five years in.
- Decreasing turnover is important for a number of reasons. For one, the cost of replacing an employee is significant. The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s salary. That means losing an employee with an annual salary of $80,000 can cost the organization as much as $160,000.
- Even modest turnover rates cost the organization a lot of money when you consider the entire company. At a 100-person company that provides an average salary of $50,000, turnover and replacement costs could be as high as $2.6 million a year.
- Turnover of high performers is costly, but turnover that is a result of hiring the wrong person in the first place is expensive as well. Nearly three-quarters of companies admit to hiring the wrong person for a role, and each bad hire costs companies an average of $14,900. A bad hire can hurt productivity, damage the quality of work and lead to a rushed recruiting process.
- Some 66% of workers have accepted a job and realized it was a bad fit. Half of those people quit in six months or less.
- Of those who realized that the job they took wasn’t a good fit, almost half Of those who realized that the job they took wasn’t a good fit, almost half blamed toxic work culture.
- Flight risk due to bad culture is significant for new hires. For workers who rejected a job offer or leave within the first 90 days, 28% named culture as the reason for their quick departure.
- Culture is more important to retention for certain groups of employees. Nearly half of people with advanced degrees and those with children cited culture as very important.
- Turnover due to culture may have cost organizations as much as $223 billion over the past five years.
- More than three-quarters of Americans say their manager sets the culture, but 36% say their manager doesn’t understand how to lead a team.
- Concerningly, some 26% of workers report they dread going into work every day.
- Toxic cultures contribute to burnout, which is a key reason for turnover. A full 74% of respondents to a recent survey report experiencing job burnout.
- Lack of personal time is a key reason for burnout. Some 40% of workers say they work between eight and 12 hours on a daily basis.
- Onboarding is often the first introduction to the culture of an organization for a new employee, and small improvements can make a big difference. Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by more than 70%.
- It is tough to recover from a bad onboarding experience. One study said employees who experience negative new hire onboarding experiences are twice as likely to explore new opportunities quickly.
- A lot of those onboarding problems don’t require a massive overhaul to fix. When it came to the problems they experienced during onboarding, half of new hires said IT resolution was too slow and 40% said getting a question answered from HR took too long.
- And small improvements to onboarding can have a lasting impact on retention. A striking 69% of employees are more likely to stay with the company for at least three years after a positive onboarding experience.
- Better onboarding—and in particular longer onboarding—leads to faster time to productivity. Employees in companies with longer onboarding programs are proficient at their jobs four months earlier than those with shorter onboarding programs.
- The number of engaged employees—those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace—sits at just 36%.
- Another 13% of workers are actively disengaged and the rest (51%) are psychologically unattached to their work and their company.
- Higher employee engagement correlates with lower turnover rates. In companies with more than 40% turnover every year, those with higher engagement levels have 18% lower turnover. That improvement is even more dramatic for companies with less than 40% annual turnover. These companies experience 43% less turnover with higher levels of engagement.
- Leading companies focus on employee experience to increase retention. Ninety-six percent of talent professionals said employee experience was becoming more important. Some 77% said the primary goal of their focus on employee experience was to increase retention.
- Employees want to be part of mission- and purpose-led companies. Companies with a purposeful mission had an attrition rate 49% lower than those who did not.
- Some three-fourths of workers think it’s important to work for a company that gives to charitable causes and supports the local community. Workers under 40 consider this especially important.
- Who has the biggest influence on employee turnover? Managers account for 70% of the variance when it comes to employee engagement scores. But managers themselves suffer from high levels of burnout and low engagement levels—that survey showed that the drop in engagement for managers was steepest.
- More than half of employees who voluntarily leave their roles say their manager or organization had the power to keep them from leaving their job.
- And more than 50% aren’t asking for very much. They say that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the company.
- Here’s one reason why there may be a gap: only about one in 10 people possess high talent to manage. For companies that identify and train the right people for management roles, the payoff is huge. They contribute about 48% more profit to their companies than average managers do.
- The No. 1 reason employees leave is lack of growth and development opportunities, according to one report. Twenty-two percent of workers leave for career development, a number that has increased 170% in the last decade. The type of work, a lack of opportunity for growth and little opportunity for advancement are all issues that fall under career development.
- Some 94% of those surveyed said they would stay at a company longer if that company demonstrated a commitment to helping them learn.
- Companies with better training have 53% lower attrition.
- Often viewed as the No. 1 reason employees leave, compensation is only part of the equation. It ranks fourth in reasons why workers depart, behind career development, work-life balance and the employee’s manager.
- Salary and total rewards are still a crucial part of employee retention. Fewer than half (47%) of employees said they would stay at their current job if they didn’t need the money.
- Recognition also plays a big role in retention. Some 68% of staffers said their organization's recognition program positively affects retention.
- If a company has problems with all of the above, it will have a really hard time with an important source of attracting new, talented potential candidates—referrals. Some 71% of people use referrals from current employees when finding a job.
- Part of making sure you hire the right person is ensuring recruiting is looking for the right person in the first place. And there’s a disconnect here, with 72% of hiring managers saying they provide clear job descriptions, compared to 36% of candidates who report they were given clear job descriptions.
- Some 40% of those surveyed said a recruiter’s conversation skills, closely followed by appearance or personal style (37%) have the greatest impact on company image during on-site interviews. When a potential employee witnesses rudeness to coworkers, it’s the biggest reason they disqualify a company.
- This proves that impressions of the workplace matter. On-site interviews are the biggest reason that potential applicants drop out of the process, with 15% dropping out after that visit.
- Twelve out of 100 workers quit for better work-life balance. It has risen 20% since 2013 as a top reason for turnover. The leading reasons for leaving in this category are scheduling and commute—the latter of which has seen a remarkable 403% increase in the last decade.
- Health care insurance is the most important benefit for employees, dubbed as an essential by 72% of job seekers.
- Snacks and free meals is the most desired “extra” benefit, the top choice for 50% of respondents, followed by a casual dress code and cell phone/internet subsidies.
- Remote work decreases turnover—U.S. companies that support remote work experience 25% lower turnover. Surprisingly, 23% of full-time employees are willing to take a pay cut of more than 10% in order to work from home at least some of the time.
- Almost half of people won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19, as 80% of full-time workers expect to work from home at least three times per week after COVID-19 guidelines are lifted and offices are able to re-open.
General Employee Turnover Statistics
The Cost of Employee Turnover
How Culture Affects Turnover
Onboarding & Employee Turnover
Employee Engagement & Employee Turnover
How Managers and Leadership Affect Turnover
The Importance of Salary, Recognition and Employee Development on Turnover
How Hiring Practices Affect Turnover
Perks, Benefits and Work-Life Balance and Employee Turnover
Here’s the good news: More than 75% of employees who quit could have been retained by the organization. Any improvements tied to employee engagement, delivering training and career advancement opportunities and providing incentives that will motivate and fulfill workers will help you capitalize on this opportunity and hold onto your most valuable employees.