The sustainability, as well as health and vitality, of any organization depends greatly on the retention of long-term, competent employees. When employees stay with their organizations over a long period of time, they develop a wealth of knowledge and experience that is not easily replaced when those employees leave. Because organizations across the globe invest an immense amount of time, energy and resources into the recruitment and training of their new hires, the problem of employee turnover poses a huge potential loss for any corporation. While technology is everywhere and is commonly used to make production efforts more effective, it is not the only factor that may help organizations retain their competent employees.

Recently, I conducted a study at a health care facility to determine not why long-term employees left but, instead, why they chose to stay. There were a number of studies offering insight as to why employees chose to leave their organizations, but there was a lack of literature that defined why employees were embedded in their job roles. Various authors conclude that some of the reasons individuals chose to leave organizations include lack of motivation, job-related stressors, lack of employee satisfaction and lack of commitment. In my doctoral dissertation study, 49 out of 100 participants, who had been with the organization for longer than five years and were considered long-term employees, answered the questions, “Why have you chosen to remain with this division of the organization as long as you have?” and, “Do you intend on working for this organization three years from now?” The responses of the 49 individuals were coded into categories, including:

  • Peer impact
  • Relationship with direct supervisor
  • Genuine happiness/intrinsic motivation
  • Salary, benefits and schedule
  • Mission, values and legacy
  • Opportunities for growth
  • Feelings of being stuck
  • Comfort in one’s job or environment

Out of all of those categories, the category that had the most responses – and the most unexpected category – was peer impact.

I originally intended to focus on the relationship that individuals had with their managers, but as the study transitioned, it also viewed the impact that their peers had on how they perceived their own workplace environments. There was a significant number of responses that led me to conclude that the organization’s social environment plays an active role in whether an employee will choose to remain there. Some of these responses included:

  • “We all make a difference together … We all serve a purpose here.”
  • “[I have a] great work family.”
  • “I am finally a round peg in a round hole! I love my co-workers.”
  • “I have some very good friends here.”
  • “[I stay because of] the co-workers.”
  • “[I greatly appreciate my] co-workers … We are family.”

The category with the second highest number of responses focused on the employees’ relationships with their supervisor. There were a significant number of responses indicating that employees remained with the organization because of their supervisor, in addition to their peers. Some of these responses included:

  • “I adore my supervisor!”
  • “I love my supervisor … [It is] mostly my supervisor and her work ethics [that are why I have stayed].”
  • “My supervisor makes the work environment meaningful. We are blessed to have such a supportive, open-minded and caring supervisor.”
  • “If I need advice or assistance, I can ask for it and my voice will be heard … My supervisor has my back.”
  • “I greatly appreciate my bosses.”

Based on the results of this research, I determined that the top two reasons that employees chose to remain with their organizations over a long period of time revolved around the relationships that they developed along the way. While it feels like the world is developing workplaces into technology-focused, autonomous environments, individuals are still social beings, and positive workplace relationships still matter – and lead to greater job satisfaction. When employers work to establish strong communication and positive working relationships, employees will want to stay.