5 things that make workers stay at their jobs (hint: it’s not salary)

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Caroline Styr, Head of Thought Leadership Research, Adecco Group


  • Competitive salaries are still a key factor in attracting talent, but most workers don’t stay at their jobs based on what they earn alone.
  • The Adecco Group’s Global Workforce of the Future report shows that when employees are engaged, salary drops down their list of priorities.
  • Creating the right conditions for people to feel their best and to bring their best is essential for organizations that want to attract and retain employees.

Understanding workers’ motivations can help companies and leaders improve talent retention strategies. Competitive salaries remain a key factor in attracting talent. However, workers don’t stay at their jobs based on salary alone.

Are higher salaries a solution to the talent shortage? Most workers will be leaving their jobs in the next 12 months for salary reasons, according to The Adecco Group’s Global Workforce of the Future report.

However, it’s not as simple as that. As workers become engaged, salaries become secondary and fall to sixth place on their list of reasons for staying with their current company.

There are a variety of reasons why employees plan to stay with their current employer next year, including:

  • Being happy and content at work
  • Having a stable job
  • Having a good work-life balance
  • Having good colleagues
  • Flexibility

Workers stay at their jobs for these five reasons

Workers, when engaged, put their work-life balance, satisfaction at work, job security and love of their work before their salaries. Consequently, companies need to redefine what it means to work for them in order to retain talent.

Work satisfaction is assessed based on worker identification of areas of importance and factors contributing to it:

I am happy in current job. Nearly four out of 10 workers report having suffered from burnout in the last 12 months, according to our research. There are almost one in four people who have taken a career break for this reason. Employees who are emotionally drained can have a high cost for companies, not only in terms of productivity but also in terms of morale and hence employee happiness. There are also a number of workplace benefits that can contribute to employee happiness, such as wellness programmes, meaningful initiatives and company events.

My role/job gives me stability. The study reveals that job stability and a feeling of job security is something that 38% of employees value more than salary when they are engaged and happy to stay at their current jobs. This seems to be a common theme. Communication company BCW conducted a study of 13,488 people in 15 countries to determine what matters most to people in the workplace. In the survey, 52% of respondents rated job security as the most important factor in their work experience.

I am happy with my work/life balance. It is essential for healthy and happy employees to prioritize work-life balance. Over a third (35%) of respondents to our Global Workforce of the Future 2022 survey chose work-life balance as their main reason for staying with a company. One in four workers who participated in our survey report a worsening of their mental health over the past year. In order to maintain a healthy work-life balance, employees need to feel fulfilled and content in both areas of their lives.

I enjoy working with my colleagues. The development of relationships between employees at work can increase employee engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity. When employees connect with their workplace and colleagues in a positive way, it can affect their decision to stay in their job. In his article Do Happier Employees Really Stay Longer?, David Wyld argues that based on a previous study by Holtom and colleagues, stronger emotional ties to the organization served to significantly lessen the likelihood that employees would leave.

I’m happy with the flexibility at my work. In this context, workplace flexibility refers to a flexible workplace that allows workers to work from home or in the office. Work-life balance is another driving force behind flexible work arrangements. Traditionally, flexibility was a matter for employers to handle, however, it is becoming increasingly employee-centric. Despite that, it can be beneficial for both parties. Note, workplace flexibility may not be an option for all types of jobs though.

According to our report, the countries that see flexibility more as part of a successful working life are Spain, the Nordics, UK, Canada and Latin America.

What makes workers want to stay? When workers are engaged, salary takes a secondary role, dropping to 6th priority

When workers are engaged, salary drops down their priority list. Image: The Adecco Group

Engaged employees prioritize happiness

Despite salary being a critical factor for employee attraction and retention, engaged employees have other priorities when staying with a company, including happiness at work, flexibility, work-life balance, job stability, and positive relationships with colleagues.

People are more likely to stay at companies that provide competitive salaries, job security, and a safe, comfortable work environment.

Creating the right conditions for people to feel their best and to bring their best is essential for organizations that want to attract and retain employees.

It is important for companies and leaders to understand the needs of their employees. Now is the time to reset, reinvent, and reimagine work. This is also why it’s a good time for inventing work’s future.

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