6.5 million workers plan to quit in search of better jobs next year, but it’s not all about pay

New research from the CIPD and the University of Birmingham reveals that more than 6.5 million people in the UK expect to quit their job in the next year.

Staff at work in an open plan office

The research also shows that those reporting the poorest job quality are the most likely to have itchy feet. Better pay and benefits are the main motivator to leave, but people are also looking for increased job satisfaction and better work life balance.

In response, the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, is calling for employers to not treat pay increases as a ‘silver bullet’ for attracting and retaining staff, but instead look at overall job quality by being more creative with job design and people management practices.

This year’s CIPD Good Work Index, a survey of more than 6,000 UK workers, found that one in five workers (20%) say it’s likely they will quit their current role in the next 12 months, compared with 16% in 2021.

Addressing job quality has never been more central to getting the most out of the employer-employee relationship including supporting better work-life balance through improved workplace flexibility and employee well-being.

Dr Daniel Wheatley, Birmingham Business School

Of those who are looking to quit their job:

  • a third (35%) are moving for better pay and benefits elsewhere
  • 27% want to increase job satisfaction
  • 24% are looking for better work-life balance
  • 23% want to do a different type of work.

The CIPD Good Work Index measures job quality across seven different dimensions and finds that at least six of these influence workers’ intention to quit: pay and benefits, employment contracts, work–life balance, job design and the nature of work, relationships at work, and health and wellbeing. When considering job quality, employers need to consider all dimensions of working life, recognising that employees across their organisation will face different challenges and opportunities. For instance:

  • New ways of working don’t necessarily ensure better balance: While hybrid workers tend to report higher levels of job quality than those who can’t work from home for any part of their role, they also appear to face the biggest difficulties in balancing work and life, including work–life spill over and working longer working hours than they’d prefer.
  • Poor leadership is a factor for many job moves: When asked why workers left their last organisation, one in five people (21%) gave ‘being unhappy with the leadership of senior management’ as a reason, rising to 30% for those who’ve changed jobs in the last 12 months.
  • Lack of development opportunities keeping people trapped in low paid roles: Just 39% of lower earners (those earning up to £20,000 per year) say their job offers good skill development opportunities, compared with 72% of higher earners (those earning £60,000 or above per year). And only 25% of lower earners say their job offers good career advancement prospects, compared with 51% of higher earners.

Melanie Green, research adviser for the CIPD, said: “Too often employers focus on roles that already have higher job quality when they look to improve job quality and retain people, and quite often the focus is on pay alone. While pay is the main motivator for job moves, there are many reasons why people leave roles, and numerous barriers preventing people from being able to leave.

“All jobs have the potential to be better and we should aspire to make good work a reality for everyone in the workforce. This means going beyond pay to think about how people’s roles are designed, how flexible their role can be – in location or hours – supporting good health and wellbeing, and investing in employee development so they have the means to progress in their career. The pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities and many issues still persist. By taking a holistic look at the dimensions of good work, and bolstering people management practices, managers and employers can make a real difference to people’s working lives.”

Dr Daniel Wheatley, of Birmingham Business School, said: “The last two years have been witness to unprecedented change in our working lives including the large-scale expansion of remote and hybrid working, growing uncertainty from periods of shutdown and furloughing of workers, and recent evidence of employees quitting their jobs captured in the moniker the ‘Great Resignation’ or ‘Great Rethink’. While we find support for arguments that some recent job movements are a product of delays in job changes due to freezes on hiring during the pandemic, in our analysis of the CIPD’s latest UK Working Lives Survey data we find that one-fifth of workers surveyed stated that they may quit their job in the next 12 months, and that the presence of lower job quality acts as a key driver of this intention to leave. Addressing job quality has never been more central to getting the most out of the employer-employee relationship including supporting better work-life balance through improved workplace flexibility and employee well-being.”

Notes for editors

  • For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348.
  • This report is based on data from 6,262 UK workers, collected between 19 January and 28 February 2022. The figures are weighted and representative of UK working adults. We also refer to longitudinal data from previous years of the Good Work Index.
  • There were approximately 32.6 million people employed in the UK in the three months to March 2022. If one in five people plans to quit their job, that would equate to 6,513,800 people. (ONS: Employment in the UK: May 2022)
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The CIPD is the professional body for HR and people development. The registered charity champions better work and working lives and has been setting the benchmark for excellence in people and organisation development for more than 100 years. It has a community of more than 150,000 members across the world, provides thought leadership through independent research on the world of work, and offers professional training and accreditation for those working in HR and learning and development.