From the Experts: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By the Turknett Team

The great resignation has become a familiar term. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans left their jobs in July of 2021 alone. Over the past year, three million U.S. women have left the workforce, stifling momentum built prior to the pandemic. You don’t need all this data to realize that there is a great change occurring. We wanted to get to the root causes and identify the greatest factors influencing employee decisions to leave or stay at their company. So, we asked our team of experts what they think are the biggest influences in a person’s decision to stay or leave a company, and what they think is driving the great resignation.  

Answers From the Experts:


Bob TurknettBob Turknett, Ph.D., Co-founder and Co-chair

What factors are the biggest influence on a person to choose or stay at a company? Our business culture went through a lengthy time frame in which the “implied contract” between employer and employee was the assumption that the employer would take care of the employee for a lifetime and that the employee in return would work to the max to fulfill this unwritten contract. Then, several years ago, for many varied reasons, this implied contract no longer sufficed for employees and each employee became more focused on managing their own career. In a sense, this was a revolutionary change. Now, because of the pandemic experience, workers are opting to not only “not return” to their previous jobs but are creating their own entrepreneurial start-ups – which is another revolutionary event in an amazingly short time span! So, for companies to lure workers to the mainstream workforce, it obviously requires them to create entrepreneurial opportunities. And, though a few forward-looking companies are well-equipped for this, most are not. So, is there any solution? Possibly, if companies re-invent themselves in a manner that makes sure that every employee is both working for themselves – and, for the company (which also requires a major change in company ownership, structure, benefits, etc). All companies will be faced with the question: Are you forward-looking enough to be on this leading-edge of massive workforce change?  

Lyn Turknett, Co-founder and Co-chair

What factors are the biggest influence on a person to choose or stay at a company? In the past, the number one positive reason people leave companies is for a new opportunity – to move in their career. We don’t have long term data yet, but the pandemic seems to have changed how people evaluate their career and how they evaluate what is rewarding for them, and they are thinking more globally about what it means to have a worthwhile life.  This means that some people are moving to jobs that may be closer to home or more in line with deep interests, even if the job pays less. The number one negative factor for turnover – and that is borne out by research and by my experience over the pandemic – is the quality of a person’s direct leader.  Engaged, supportive leaders are more critical than ever right now, but one thing I’m seeing is that many leaders are feeling more stressed as well. The pandemic has been a stressor for us all, and every organization needs to think of ways to strengthen common purpose and community.  The quality of senior leadership is key to workplace trust and to overall engagement. That’s where engagement and a focus on people starts. Based on your current experience, why do you think so many are leaving? I don’t think any of us have a full sense yet of why there has been so much turnover. Women have left in large numbers, and we know that women were more affected by the lack of childcare and the move to virtual classrooms. Workplace studies by Gallup and the Mental Health Association have shown that daily negative emotions have increased globally, the pandemic itself is a stressor for everyone, and there have been massive changes in how work is done. Virtual meetings are more stressful on humans – it’s harder to read emotional signals. And meetings are now often scheduled back-to-back, with no lag time. We’re also all dealing with unprecedented ambiguity and uncertainty. The “great rethinking” is surely a factor. People who worked remotely and spent more time with family over the past eighteen months are suddenly rethinking their long commute and may not be willing to return to the office. And, as noted above, they are thinking more about meaning and purpose in their life. They are asking what’s really important – how do I really want to live my life?  I hear that daily.  

Tim HuffTim Huff, Senior Consultant

What factors are the biggest influence on a person to choose or stay at a company? I’d say the one top tip that’s been most effective for me is the strong emphasis on having 1:1s with all of my direct reports weekly and skip level 1:1s with everyone else on the team at least quarterly. It’s simple but maintaining a routine line of communication with everyone on the team in which I have the opportunity to hear what’s on their mind is highly valuable. It doesn’t solve all problems but helps to create an atmosphere of openness and empathy that seems to resonate with my team. I’ve been fortunate to have a very high retention rate over the past 18 months, and I attribute at least part of that to deliberate, intentional with my staff.  

Anne Quiello, PCC, Senior Consultant

What factors are the biggest influence on a person to choose or stay at a company? According to Deloitte Global’s 2021 report, Women @ Work: A Global Outlook, which surveyed 5,000 women across 10 countries, nearly 80% of women say their workloads have increased because of the pandemic, while 66% of women report having more responsibilities at home, increasing the momentum of workplace departure. Women leaders more than men were found to be more concerned and attentive to workers’ needs to balance growing responsibilities at home with work.  Based on this research, employers should consider if they are doing enough to communicate with their employees, engage their concerns, and properly recognize the predominantly female leader focus on other employees’ well-being or risk losing more women from the workforce. Based on your current experience, why do you think so many are leaving? What we know from research is that more than 3 million U.S. women made the decision to leave the workforce this past year, mostly for family reasons.  We also know that many women do not feel recognized for their work as much as their male counterparts, which has serious implications. Companies risk losing the very leaders they need right now, and it’s hard to imagine organizations navigating the pandemic and building inclusive workplaces if this work isn’t truly prioritized.  

Len RomanoLen Romano, Senior Consultant – Not-for-profit Practice

What factors are the biggest influence on a person to choose or stay at a company? There are four critical factors that I see influencing a person’s choice to leave or stay at their company: The first factor is the employee experience. How staff members are treated, their work environment, equipment, supplies, teamwork, and collaboration make a difference. And add the employer’s mission or value to society to the employee experience list. Second, has to do with career progression. Lack of formal career development programs results in a workforce that must leave to reach their next career position. For the final two factors, please check out my article: Is it the Great Resignation or the Great Revolt?  

Patricia Thompson, Ph.D.,  Senior Consultant

What factors are the biggest influence on a person to choose or stay at a company? Being consistent about giving meaningful positive feedback. Often, leaders can be so focused on tasks, metrics, and results that they don’t take the time to let their employees know how much they value them. Show appreciation when you catch employees doing well and make the time to give them positive feedback that goes beyond “good job.” Be specific when telling them what you appreciate – both in terms of the behavior and the impact that it has on the team or organization. Sincere encouragement and appreciation can go a long way towards making employees feel cared about and connected to their workplace.  

Richard StoneRichard Stone, Strategic Partner, Chief Storyteller

What factors are the biggest influence on a person to choose or stay at a company? The implied contract between employer and employee is transitioning to a new paradigm. The paradigm of most of the 20th Century was the employer provides you a job and a salary in exchange for your time and/or expertise. It was mostly transactional. Younger people today are seeking something of a much higher order—they’re looking for purpose and meaning, as well as a sense that what they are doing is contributing to the well-being of the world and not harming it. If employers want to attract talent now, they must radically change their paradigm for employment. It’s not only providing a salary, it’s providing a workplace oriented toward the needs of these new kinds of employees. In the 70s and 80s working for Phillip Morris was seen as a plum assignment. Companies that are polluting and harming the world are the new PMs and people must do a lot of mind twisting to make that okay. New employers must also be providing their employees a level of professional development that helps them fulfill their deeper calling in life. Those who do so will build a loyal workforce. Those that don’t will find that people will quickly depart seeking the Holy Grail someplace else. Based on your current experience, why do you think so many are leaving? Some of it is driven by people experiencing that the quality of life provided by our current work models is way out of balance. My niece’s husband who lives in the Netherlands and is a consultant would be called in by his boss if he was staying late or working weekends and ask if he needed help. People during the pandemic discovered that our workaholic culture just isn’t worth the benefits of the what they’re getting paid. They’re looking for greater balance, and companies that find novel ways to accommodate our human needs will be the ones who thrive in the marketplace.  

Vicki AbelsonVicki Abelson,  Senior Consultant – Healthcare

What factors are the biggest influence on a person to choose or stay at a company? The Great Resignation is fueled by so many factors. In healthcare especially, employees are challenged with burnout, pay, work life balance, etc. One lesser discussed reason for employees leaving their organizations is that the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed us to hear our intuition just a little more clearly. The immediate risk to our health has put a greater focus on our priorities and on how we want to spend our time. Our intuition may call on us to do something different, be it at a different company or in a totally new field. The pandemic has given some people the courage to listen to the call of their intuition.   Want to get to know our consultants and staff? Check out their bios!