Money, as the saying goes, makes the world go round. But it also may be what keeps employees in place. According to recent research from Robert Half, workers interviewed cited poor compensation as the primary reason they would leave their job.

The research also shows a strong disconnect between employers and employees on this issue. When chief financial officers (CFOs) were asked why people quit, limited opportunities for advancement was cited most commonly, with inadequate salary and benefits far behind.

The two surveys were developed by Robert Half, the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm, and conducted by independent research firms. The CFO survey is based on interviews with more than 270 CFOs from a random sample of Canadian companies. The workers survey includes responses from more than 400 employees 18 years of age and older who work in an office environment in Canada.

CFOs were asked, "Which one of the following is most likely to cause good employees to quit their jobs?" Similarly, workers were asked, "Which one of the following is most likely to cause you to quit your job?" Their responses:




Inadequate salary and benefits



Unhappiness with management



Limited opportunities for advancement



Bored with their job






Lack of recognition



Other/don't know






"CFOs should be aware that salary and benefits are playing a larger role than many executives think when it comes to employees leaving their jobs. Talented workers with in-demand skills who feel they aren't being compensated fairly know they have options, especially in the current hiring environment," said Greg Scileppi, president of Robert Half, International Staffing Operations. "It is important that managers regularly benchmark salaries to stay current with market trends. To remain competitive, compensation levels must be at or above market standards, especially for in-demand positions."

In addition to offering below-market pay, Robert Half highlights five other mistakes that managers should avoid, as these can lead to employees quitting:

  1. Absence of a career path: Without a defined career map, employees may not see an incentive to stay. To foster loyalty and commitment, show employees how they can grow with the company. Work with staff to identify potential advancement opportunities and the resources needed to pursue them.
  2. Lack of training: Career development and training can help people feel more engaged and supported by the organization. A lack of skills-building tools and mentorship or continuing education opportunities could hinder your firm's efforts to keep and groom future leaders.
  3. Failing to customize recognition: One size does not fit all when it comes to employee recognition. Every employee has different motivations and needs. Offer rewards and incentives that your staff will value and personalize them to the individual as much as possible. Also, make sure to say "thank you" for a job well done so employees know their contributions are valued.
  4. Forgetting to listen: Employees may leave because they feel they do not have a voice in business matters. Maintain open communication and seek regular input from others. Listen to employees so they know they are heard and can act on their good ideas.
  5. Not tracking retention: If your company doesn't measure its employee quit rates, and which managers are better at retaining staff than others, the situation likely won't improve. Identifying managers who retain their best people – and those who don't – can help the business understand what makes a good leader and provide coaching to those who are falling short.