Why employees leave – and what employers can do about it

If you are an employer in the automotive industry and have ever been handed a resignation letter from a key team member you may have wondered ‘why are they leaving?’ or ‘what did we do wrong?’

The benefits of retaining your employees are numerous – you keep valuable skills and knowledge, have a stable working environment and hugely reduce your hiring costs. According to the CIPD ‘Employee Turnover can have a negative impact on an organisation’s performance.’

So if you can understand why employees leave you can then address these issues and consequently reduce your employee turnover.

Employee Turnover

Employee turnover is defined as the number of employees who leave and need replacing with a new employee. There will always be a baseline employee turnover that can’t be avoided. The average rate in the UK is approximately 15% – if your rate is much high than this it may be time to take some action.

Here’s how to calculate your employee turnover rate for a year:

Why Employees Leave

Firstly you may need to consider why employees are leaving your organisation. Usually there will be a combination of ‘push’ factors and ‘pull’ factors. Push factors would be reasons why they want to leave. Pull factors are reasons why they want to join a new organisation. Many employees may feel quite content in their role until the day they are approached by a headhunter and tempted away with a seemingly better opportunity.

Copeland Employee Survey Results

Copeland survey automotive industry employees every year on a range of employment related topics. In our most recent survey*, questions we asked included what they most valued about their current job and what would most influcence their choice of new job. Here are the top 5 answers for each:

Top 5 employee values in current job
  1. Autonomy
  2. Challenging work content
  3. Good brand
  4. Appreciated by clients or customers
  5. Appreciated by colleagues
Top 5 factors that would influence choice of new job
  1. Company culture / values
  2. Opportunities for onward career progression
  3. Bonus / Commission
  4. Good brand
  5. Flexible working location

Interestingly, the top answers tend to be very similar in each annual Copeland employee survey, so we can confidently predict that if you – the employer – address these factors you will be making very positive steps in lowering the number of resignations you receive. So lets take each factor and consider what steps you could take.

Addressing the ‘Push’ and ‘Pull’ Factors

‘Push factors’ are the things that make employees want to leave or move away from their current job. ‘Pull factors’ are the reasons or attractions for moving to a new job and employer.

Employee Autonomy

Autonomy at work means giving employees the freedom to work in a way that suits them. This might include choosing the order in which they complete tasks, having more control over job tasks, or the ability to decide when and where they do their work. Giving your employees more autonomy will empower them, make them feel more engaged in their role and consequently have a higher level of job satisfaction.

Challenging work content

If you’re going to retain your employees is important to keep them constantly challenged and interested in their work. Regular reviews with a line manager can idenfity when employees are ready for the next challenge. A good employer will be ready to provide more or different tasks to those who need and want it. But remember – one size does not fit all and some employees will be very happy with a slower rate of change and a more consitent work content.

Good brand

This could cover both your product brand and your employer brand. A well know and reputable automotive brand will undoubtedly be an attraction to employees. But don’t forget about your Employer Brand. According to the CIPD, an employer brand is the way organisations differentiate themselves from competitors in the labour market. Learn all about employer branding and how to build a great brand for your organisation in our Employer Branding Guide.

Appreciated by clients / customers

Appreciation from customers usually stems from providing them with a first class product and service. But its also vital that you have a process to ask for feedback and ensure that employees are suitably acknowledged and praised for their work. Conversly if any of your customers are not treating your employees in an acceptable manner – consider whether you want to continue working with them.

Appreciated by colleagues

It’s interesting that being appreciated by colleagues (peers) ranked higher in our survey results and being appreciated by managers. As an employer, if you create a culture of teamwork, mutual respect, internal priase and appreciation this will tend to filter through to all your employees.

Company culture & values

A good company culture and values was the no 1 ‘pull factor’ for employees when selecting a new job. So by building and retaining a culture and values that align with those of your employees will undoubetly help retain employees. This alignment should start during the recruitment process – ensuring you question candidates on their values and check for their affinity to yours. But that’s just the start – your culture and values should be part of everything you do as an organisation from the way you do business, behaviours, systems to the workplace environment.

Career progression opportunities

If you want to keep your employees you need to give them real opportunity to progress within your organisation. Many larger organisations in the automotive industry invest considerably in employee career planning and providing appropriate training and development opportunities for employees. This can be harder for smaller organisations and SMEs, however there is still much that you can do to progess your employees and keep them challenged and engaged. Regular reviews and 1-2-1s with employees to identify their aspirations is a great place to start. When a formal promotion is not available, consider giving them something more to keep them engaged – perhaps a special project or mentoring job.

Bonus or commission

How much bonus or commission should you pay your employees? In my experience bonus or commission can be a negative factor ie a lack of it is a big demotivator. An area for concern will be when payouts are lower than they have been in previous years. Addressing this is always challenging as bonuses and commission generally based on business performance and sales. That said, successful bonus structures should be structured to include elements (every if small) based purely on individual performance. That way, even in tough years employees can be rewarded for personal success and achievement.

Flexible working location

Hybrid working or a lack of it has become a hot topic over recent years. Having given employees flexible/hybrid working during the Covid pandemic, some employers have recently reverted to more workplace based working. Some employees are not so happy with this. In our recent survey, almost 80% of employees said their role was either fully remote or hybrid. However over 16% of our respondents said that they employers have changed their working location requirements – this has not always been well received by employees. Here’s some of the feedback we got:

  • “Now minimum of 3 days and they’re starting to dictate which days, this reducing flexibility one of the benefits of hybrid working “
  • “Changes proposed to go from 2 to 3 days but withdrawn after negative feedback from employee survey.”
  • “More days in the office. It has had a negative effect”

Perhaps the employer in the 2nd comment has got it right. They surveyed their employees before making a proposed change and then acted according to employee feelings.

Final thoughts

I hope this article has given you some useful insights on why employees might be leaving your organisation and how to prevent it from happening. If however the worst happens and one of your key employees leaves you, Copeland can help. We have over 20 years’ experience recruiting sales & marketing roles for automotive businesses. Get in touch to discuss how we can help.

*The full results of our latest employee survey will be published in our next Automotive Salary Guide – in January 2024. Join our mailing list to make sure you get a copy.

Further Reading:

Employer Branding Guide

Interviewing for Sales Jobs

Interviewing for Marketing Jobs

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