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42% of Employee Turnover Is Preventable but Often Ignored

42% of Employee Turnover Is Preventable but Often Ignored

by Corey Tatel, Ph.D. and Ben Wigert, Ph.D.

Self-reported employee turnover risk is at its highest point since 2015.

Gallup’s latest measure in May shows half of U.S. employees (51%) are watching or actively seeking a new job, continuing a recent upward trend. While voluntary employee turnover rates have stabilized since the Great Resignation due to cooling economic and job markets, employees’ long-term commitment to their organizations is currently the lowest it has been in nine years.

Employee retention challenges are emerging, and failing to act could lead to costly replacements in the future. Gallup estimates that the replacement of leaders and managers costs around 200% of their salary, the replacement of professionals in technical roles is 80% of their salary, and frontline employees 40% of their salary.


The good news? Employee discontent and voluntary exits are highly preventable, at least from the employee perspective.

An astounding 42% of employees who voluntarily left their organization in the past year report that their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job.

To help leaders re-engage valuable employees before they leave, Gallup conducted a nationally representative study of 717 individuals who voluntarily left an employer in the past 12 months and asked them to share details about their exit experience.

The findings highlight the need for managers to regularly initiate the right conversations with their employees to retain them rather than waiting for them to express discontent and the possibility of leaving.

How Employees Decide to Exit

When employees decide to voluntarily leave their job, the decision often happens quickly. More than three in four (77%) voluntary leavers either left within three months of searching for a new job or did not actively search for new employment in the first place.

Employees often make exit decisions without proactive communication. Thirty-six percent of voluntary leavers report that they did not talk to anyone before they made the decision to resign.

Even when employees did talk to someone while deliberating, their managers were frequently left in the dark. Four in 10 (44%) of those who discussed their intention to leave did not talk to their direct supervisor or manager before deciding to leave. It was more likely that employees had such discussions with their coworkers than their managers.

This means that if managers want to prevent employee turnover, they cannot wait for employees to express their intentions to leave. The manager is responsible for initiating the right conversations before their employees make the decision to leave their jobs.

Lost Opportunities to Intervene

Given that employees are unlikely to approach managers when they consider leaving, what do voluntary leavers report about their managers’ communication in their final months?

Nearly half (45%) of voluntary leavers report that neither a manager nor another leader proactively discussed their job satisfaction, performance or future with the organization with them in the three months before leaving.

Of those whose manager or leader did engage with them in the three months before leaving, fewer than three in 10 had a conversation about the future of their career with the organization (29%) or their job satisfaction (28%). They were even less likely to report that they discussed what it takes to be effective in their job (18%) or what it would take for them to stay with the organization (17%).


In other words, while 42% of voluntary leavers say their departure could have been prevented, 45% of voluntary leavers also report that in the three months prior to their departure little was done by a manager or leader to proactively discuss how their job was going.

This evidence underscores a potential opportunity to cut preventable turnover nearly in half with targeted coaching conversations that help employees see a meaningful future with their organization.

How to Reduce Employee Turnover: Have the Right Conversations

What issues should managers discuss to prevent surprise exits?

When asked an open-ended question about what their manager or organization could have done to prevent them from leaving, the most common response among leavers who said their exit could have been prevented was to provide additional compensation or benefits.

Compensation and benefits are known to be critical employee retention factors across previous studies and comprise 30% of the actions that could have been taken in the current study. Yet, 70% of preventable leavers reported actions more directly related to how they are managed daily such as creating more positive personal interactions with their manager (21%), addressing frustrating organizational issues (13%), creating opportunities for career advancement (11%) or improving staffing or workload concerns (9%).


The below quotes illustrate the variety of actions that could have prevented voluntary departures.

“Recognized my contributions to the team by matching my salary and title with those of my coworkers doing the same work.”

“Treated me with respect and shown concern for my wellbeing and its employees’ happiness.”

“Allowed me autonomy to do my job, helped me in a path to advance my career, taken an active role in helping me feel vested in my future.”

If the actions of managers and organizations do not address these needs, employees are likely to find a different employer to fulfill them.

Managers can improve talent retention by including the following topics in their routine conversations with employees:

1. Compensation and Career Advancement

Managers can easily say their hands are tied with compensation issues. However, compensation and career advancement (30%) are closely intertwined markers of how employees are valued and progressing at an organization (11%). Together, they account for two in five self-reported ways voluntary leavers could have been retained.

Compensation tends to be a baseline requirement for retaining talent and a top source of dissatisfaction among leavers. Managers should regularly assess fair market value for jobs and adjust for employees’ performance. Annual conversations with employees about their pay trajectory are equally important to helping them feel valued and understand how to progress.

A plan for career development and advancement shows employees they have a bright future to work toward. Clearly outlining an individual development plan increases employee engagement and addresses one of the main reasons employees leave. This type of plan also directly affects compensation, as the largest pay raises often result from job promotions.

2. Relationship Building

Another top opportunity for preventing employee turnover is strengthening manager-employee relationships. Collectively, about three in 10 changes former employees say could have prevented their departure were related to either increasing positive interactions (21%), such as listening and communication, or having fewer negative interactions (8%) with their manager such as less rudeness or micromanaging.


When a manager has one meaningful conversation a week with each direct report, employees are four times as likely to be highly engaged, regardless of whether they are a frontline, hybrid or fully remote worker. Gallup research shows these conversations are more meaningful when they focus on goals and priorities, recognition for recent work, collaboration, and using employees’ strengths. When done routinely, they can even be as short as 15 to 30 minutes.

3. Removal of Barriers

Nearly a quarter of preventable turnover could be avoided if managers addressed organizational issues (13%) or problems with staffing, workload, or scheduling (9%).

When managers don’t deal with problems, they become barriers to both organizational performance and employee retention. It’s vital to quickly identify points of friction, discuss how issues affect people and clarify their role in addressing them. Left unaddressed, the persistence of these frustrations and workflow issues leads to burnout.

Create a New Coaching Habit

Three months without a meaningful conversation with your manager is far too long.

Managers play a pivotal role in re-engaging employees and preventing turnover. Ongoing, meaningful conversations about issues most influencing people’s job satisfaction, performance, and future with the organization are essential to developing and retaining top talent.

If managers wait for their employees to initiate these discussions, it may be too late. Managers should take the lead to foster a proactive dialogue that simultaneously prevents turnover and boosts team engagement.

Enhance the employee retention strategies at your organization:


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