‘I love it here, and I’m leaving’ — Are engagement and retention disengaging?
  • leadership
  • Blog post

‘I love it here, and I’m leaving’ — Are engagement and retention disengaging?

You’ve worked really hard on employee engagement, and your latest employee survey shows your efforts are bearing fruit — a substantial majority of your people express satisfaction and enthusiasm about their jobs. And so now you expect to reap the rewards, in the form of things like better productivity, more effective teamwork and, especially, higher rates of employee retention.

But what if your people are both engaged AND likely to leave? A recent survey by the worldwide HR consulting firm Mercer strongly suggests that this is increasingly the case.



The data we’re talking about comes from Mercer’s “Inside Employees’ Minds” survey, which the firm does every few years. The 2015 survey, which contacted 3,000 U.S. employees, showed that a slightly larger percentage of workers were seriously considering leaving their job than in 2011 — 37% vs. 33%. But that wasn’t the most interesting finding.

Happy but footloose
What WAS most interesting was the fact that many employees who felt very satisfied — and therefore, presumably, engaged — by their jobs expressed intentions of leaving their current employer anyway.

For instance, of the 37% who were thinking about greener pastures:

  • almost half — 48% — said they strongly felt they were paid fairly given their performance and contributions, and
  • 46% of the segment strongly believed they were being given good opportunities for growth and development.


In a summary of the survey’s findings, top Mercer executives Pat Tomlinson and Marcelo Modica pointed out that the trend was even more pronounced for senior managers. Some 63% of these people were seriously looking around, even though upwards of 90% of them were very satisfied with their jobs and their organizations.

A new kind of engagement
Wow. What are you to do if even the happiest and most engaged of your people are likely to be seeking greener pastures? Should you give up on promoting engagement?

Not at all. But the Mercer people suggest that you might need to consider a couple of strategic shifts in your thinking, given the increasingly fluid and mobile workforce you and other organizations are dealing with:

1. Accelerating the onboarding, engagement and training/development processes.

    • If you’re going to have the services of capable employees for only, say, three years instead of eight or 10, you need to find ways to maximize their contributions as fast as possible.

2. Committing to developing employees for somebody else they’ll meet down the road. This is a tough shift to process, but it may help if you remember that, increasingly, other employers are going to have to do the same for the people they’re hiring who will eventually end up with you.

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