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Attracting & retaining the top talent: part one – a look at IIC’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” report

Attracting & retaining the top talent

Last year, the Institute of Internal Communication teamed up with Ipsos Karian and Box to survey 3,000 UK workers in large organisations (with 500+ employees). The resulting report examines the key push and pull factors that are most important to employees when considering their existing and potential employers”. Having examined the key trends for internal comms in 2024 in our last entry, looking at this report and what it might mean for the next year or so seemed like a suitable sequel.


The report is well worth a read, but if you don’t have the time or the access, we’ve pulled out some headline findings and meaningful stats for you.


The report is designed to help with the creation of effective internal communication strategies, support leaders in communicating about the things that really matter to their people and to tailor messaging for different audiences, and to “prioritise content based on insight instead of instinct”.


Intention to stay


The good(-ish) news is that this report found that two thirds of employees plan to stay with their current employer for at least the next three years. This should be reassuring to many after all the reports of “The Great Resignation” that followed the pandemic. The less good news is also the less surprising news: it is our youngest employees who are most likely to leave. Where only 26% of 35-44 year olds plan to stay put for less than 2 years, that figure is 48% for 18-24 years olds. That’s almost half of your freshest talent. It’s perhaps to be expected that our youngest employees want to try other options, spread their wings, and gather broader experience for their future careers. They’re probably also the most fearless when it comes to uprooting and moving on. But, unless you want a constant churn within your youngest talent pool, paying close attention to your EVP (Employee Value Proposition) and tailoring retention practises in their direction may be a wise investment.


Our youngest employees are most likely to leave

One finding that surprised me was that leaders and managers are less inclined than the people they lead to stay for the long-term. Whilst you may think that seniority (and the financial perks and job-security that come with them) would give people a reason to stick around, this report found that only 14% of people who lead teams planned to stay with their employer for the long term. That figure doubled to 28% for those in a team and with no-one to lead.


Less surprising (to me, at least) is that when it comes to intent to stick around, size does matter! Essentially, the report found that the larger the organisation, the more likely leaders are to want to stay for the duration. 17% of leaders in organisations with under 1,000 employees plan to stay for their entire career. This nearly doubles to 32% of leaders in organisations with over 10,000 employees. The most obvious explanation is the potential for better pay and benefits within the largest organisations. The report suggests, perhaps contentiously, that this could also be down to the potential for “hiding or coasting” more easily within larger organisations! They do use the words “anecdotally” and “hypothesise” though!


I’d also hazard a guess (and this isn’t in the IIC report) that this particular trend would extrapolate neatly into organisations with fewer than 500 employees, where leaders might be even more inclined to move on to “bigger and better” opportunities (with bigger and better rewards).


The key takeaway from this for me is that it’s important to look after your managers. Your leaders need to be fully informed, fully trained, fully supported, and fully equipped to do their jobs. Their workloads and stress levels can be overlooked, and their wellbeing should be carefully safeguarded.


The reasons for leaving


Perhaps also predictably, the largest driver behind the desire to move on is “pay and benefits”. Regardless of age, seniority, gender, or location, almost half of all respondents (48%) cited pay as their key reason for planning to leave. Next up on the list is (a lack of) career progression and/or development opportunities (30%), closely followed by not feeling valued, appreciated, or recognised (26%). That last percentage, however, leaps to 43% as the reason for those who intend to leave within a year. This shows that, in the most real of terms, it is a huge factor for actual attrition, second only (in this survey’s findings) to pay and benefits.

the reasons for wanting to leave our current employers

We have blogged many times about the need for recognition and appreciation. We even have our own peer-to-peer recognition platform. It seems to be a blind spot for many organisations, regardless of size, and it is a factor that comes up time and time again in surveys and research. We all know how much feeling valued matters, and yet we’re not always that great at making it happen. If your internal comms strategy doesn’t already put some serious emphasis on, and make provision for, recognition and appreciation, we strongly advise addressing that with some urgency.


Incidentally, “not feeling motivated in your job” also scored highly (39% of those planning to leave within a year) which could also be linked to recognition and appreciation.


The shocker for me in this particular data set was the 25% of people (42% of those planning to leave within a year) who blamed their manager’s behaviour as their reason for wanting to leave. This suggests that we’re either not promoting the right people to those positions, or as mentioned above, we’re perhaps not looking after them well enough by way of their workloads, the training they receive, and their ongoing support.


Where gender does come into play, perhaps unsurprisingly (but also disappointingly in terms of progress made within equality), is that female employees (33%) are more likely to give “career progression” as their reason for wanting to leave than men (26%). This is almost regardless of seniority – the male/female divide is only wiped out at the very highest level of leadership. Otherwise, women “working in a team”, “leading a team”, or “managing people who lead teams” were all more likely to consider leaving for reasons of career progression than their male counterparts. So, it seems we still have a way to go when it comes to (perceived?) equality of opportunity for the brilliant women within our organisations. Worth some proactive remediation activity? Maybe.


The pull factors


Having looked at the push factors, how similar are the things we look for when scoping out potential new opportunities?


It will surprise no-one to learn that the biggest push factor is also the biggest pull. Pay and benefits package come in as the biggest pull, with 63% quoted as placing that as the most important factor. However, work/life balance seems to come into play more with the pull factors than it did with the push. Flexible working opportunities (41%) and the location of the primary workspace (35%) are the next two most significant pulls for those considering a new job. This suggests that, if we are willing to make the move, we are looking at the basics that may well affect our quality of life with a greater intensity than before, and even before we look at things like job security and potential growth opportunities.


Lower down the list of pull factors, but not to be ignored, are things like an organisation’s business performance, external reputation, future strategy, ethical standards, and environmental commitments. These may well rise further in importance as the proportion of Gen Z workers grows. What links these things is that they should all be included within an organisation’s internal comms strategy, and featured in recruitment material.


To conclude our look at this report, tomorrow we will publish a list of advisory tips on what to do to retain and attract the best talent in 2024.

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