Employee turnover is a natural part of organisational life. People come and go, seeking new opportunities or facing personal circumstances that lead them away from their current roles. Sometimes these workers are ‘pulled’ to an opportunity that better meets their motivators and other times, workers make the decision to leave based on ‘push factors’. As employers, it’s crucial to recognise the push factors that drive employees to leave so that there is not an open door for talent to walk through. When organisations understand these internal nudges, they can take proactive steps to improve retention and create a thriving work environment.

What is employee turnover?

Employee turnover refers to the rate at which employees leave an organisation and are replaced by new hires. It encompasses both voluntary departures (when employees choose to leave) and involuntary ones (such as redundancies or terminations). High turnover can impact an organisation’s stability, productivity, and overall work environment. When turnover is high, employers have a sense of pouring resources into a bucket with a hole as their investments in training and development never come to fruition. It also sends a clear message to customers and stakeholders that this is not a desirable place to work. It is crucial for employers to proactively determine the reasons behind the turnover —whether it’s dissatisfaction with remuneration, lack of growth opportunities, or other factors. When there is a desire to unpack the ‘push factors’, employers are well positioned to plug the hole in the retention bucket and foster a positive workplace culture that reduces turnover and retains valuable talent.

So, what are ‘push factors’?

Push factors are the negative circumstances that make an employee want to leave their current employer. These internal drivers can significantly impact an organisation’s stability, productivity and culture. Some of these common push factors include:

  1. Stress: High levels of stress due to workload, unrealistic expectations, or a toxic work environment can push employees toward the exit door. Employers should prioritise stress management programs and foster a healthy work-life balance. Create a culture where employees feel that they can speak up.
  2. Lack of Opportunities: When employees feel stuck in their roles with limited growth prospects, they become disenchanted. When they see the same people being promoted or a ‘bottle neck’ towards opportunities, it becomes a key push factor. It is strongly recommended that organisations provide clear and equitable career paths, skill development, and opportunities for advancement. Furthermore, these opportunities should be transparently communicated.
  3. Poor Management: Ineffective leadership, micromanagement, or lack of support from supervisors can drive employees away. Investing in leadership training and promoting positive management practices is essential.
  4. Undervalued: Compensation plays a significant role in job satisfaction. If employees believe they are underpaid relative to their contributions, they may seek better-paying opportunities elsewhere. It is critical that employers don’t place all their benefits in the ‘money bucket’ as beyond their required obligations, it can be difficult meet employee expectations. Employers can access our remuneration tools here.
  5. Work-Life Imbalance: An unhealthy balance between work and personal life can lead to burnout. Employers are encouraged to consider a range of well-being practices that support balance including flexible work practices, access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), reward and recognition strategies and internal programs that drive engagement and culture.
  6. Challenging Manager Relationships: This is a particularly large push factor in many organisations. Ineffective leadership, micromanagement, or a lack of support from leaders can drive employees away. It is integral that employers look closely as leadership behaviours to determine if they may be contributing to an increase in turnover. The saying, “Employees join organisations but leave managers” holds significant truth in many scenarios as the relationship between an employee and their manager profoundly impacts job satisfaction.

The Impact of Push Factors

When employees leave due to push factors, organisations face several challenges:

  1. Costs: High turnover rates result in recruitment costs, training expenses, and lost productivity. Retaining existing talent is more cost-effective than constant hiring.
  2. Disruption: Frequent departures disrupt team dynamics, affect morale, and hinder project continuity. A stable workforce contributes to organisational success.
  3. Reputation: Excessive turnover damages an employer’s reputation. Potential candidates may hesitate to join a company with a history of employee dissatisfaction.

6 Strategies to Address Push Factors

Push factors can be a cancer within an organisation as when left unaddressed, these factors can fester and cause damage to many parts of the business. It may be tempting to ignore or even blame the employee; but there are many benefits to employers that have the courage to address the issues.

The following outlines 6 strategies employers can adopt today to proactively address push factors:

  1. Regular Feedback: Encourage open communication between managers and employees. Regular feedback sessions allow employees to express concerns and seek solutions. Build a culture where feedback is encouraged and irrespective of level; workers feel that they are valued and have a voice.
  2. Career Development: Create personalised development plans for each employee. Offer training, mentorship, and opportunities for skill enhancement. Be open and transparent about opportunities and work hard to remove glass ceilings.
  3. Competitive Compensation: Regularly review salary structures to ensure employees are fairly compensated and that there is compliance with the underpinning industrial instruments.  Where relevant and possible, consider performance-based bonuses and incentives. Implement recognition programs that demonstrate employees are valued.
  4. Wellness Programs: Invest in wellness initiatives such as stress management workshops, fitness programs, and mental health support. Engage with the employee group about what initiatives that they would value. This can be done remotely and in person.
  5. Leadership Training: Train managers to be effective leaders who inspire, motivate, and support their teams. Ensure that leaders have the support to speak up when they are feeling overwhelmed so it is less likely to funnel down to other workers.
  6. Flexible Work Arrangements: Consider what your business can do to embrace flexible schedules, remote work options, and family-friendly policies. Always consider your obligations and then reflect on what else the business can offer that speaks to your values and culture. This may be as simple as celebrating employee birthdays or ensuring that key meetings are not held at times that exclude certain group of employees e.g. early morning meetings are difficult for workers with carer responsibilities.

Push factors are internal nudges

Employers who grasp the significance of push factors—the internal nudges that prompt employees to leave; hold the key to a stable and thriving workforce. By implementing targeted strategies, such as fostering open communication, investing in career development, and promoting well-being, organisations can minimise turnover and create an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and motivated to stay. There is no question that a small amount of turnover is healthy – as long as these employees are ‘pulled’ and not ‘pushed’ to another opportunity.

Remember, retaining existing talent is just as crucial as attracting new talent, and it all begins with understanding and addressing those push factors. It does take some time and effort to uncover, but when employers roll up their sleeves and do the work, they not only find a way to identify the issues but they become armed with valuable knowledge that sets them apart from competitors.

Further information

Ai Group also offers a range of extensive training courses to support employers with people strategies that attract and retain talent. AI Group also offers experienced HR consultants to partner with your business to devise the right strategy.  For assistance with your workplace matters, Members of Ai Group can contact us or call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77 for further information.

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Georgina Pacor

Georgina is Senior HR Content Editor – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 25 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.