What to Expect This Year: Your Workers Quitting

A surprising one-third of professionals tell Korn Ferry that getting a new job is their top resolution. What are firms doing wrong?

As the new year begins, executives and leaders have resolved to push their businesses to new heights. Meanwhile, a large group of their employees have something else in mind: finding somewhere else to work.

In an eye-catching result, nearly one-third of professionals say their top work resolution in 2020 is finding a new job, according to a new Korn Ferry survey. Equally concerning? The biggest reason for searching is a lack of a fit between corporate culture and the workers’ values.

To be sure, the discontent may reflect the timing of the survey. “The beginning of the year is a time of change,” says Susan Snyder, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and leader of the firm’s North America Organizational Strategy team. But she says it also reflects how important company culture—which encompasses nearly all aspects of the office environment, including pay, workforce diversity, work scheduling, and even dress codes—has become today.

Executives do seem to know this, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, but experts say that awareness hasn’t always translated into creating a culture that engages and enables employees. Some firms tell their employees that they are going to improve a culture and then don’t, which is worse than doing nothing at all, says Jennifer Streitwieser, a Korn Ferry associate client partner who specializes in engagement and culture.

And even some firms that are very good at learning from employees aren’t so good at actually telling those same employees that the culture will change thanks to their input.  “You can’t just say you have it, but you can’t just have it, either. It’s the connecting the dots that’s really critical,” Streitwieser says.

According to the survey, one solution may be giving employees more chances to advance their careers, take on tougher work challenges, or both. A plurality of professionals, 41%, said that “creating a greater impact or making a difference” was their top work resolution. And even among the ones who want to leave, nearly a quarter of them, 23%, said that the reason they want to go is that they are bored.

In a different question, 28% said that getting assigned to a more challenging, high-profile project would most improve their opportunities to advance at their current employer. “This survey clearly shows that many professionals are not only up for a challenge but value it as a way to demonstrate they are making a difference in the world,” says Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry’s global solution leader in leadership development.

Fewer than 10% said that other traditional work-related aspirations, such as getting a raise, earning a promotion, or achieving a better work-life balance, was at the top of their New Year wish list.