Predicting Turnover: What Makes Employees Actually Leave Their Jobs?

Actively searching for a new job is one major predictor of turnover, even more so than a person’s intent to quit. Employees of an organization who spend their time browsing career websites, sending out resumes, and attending job interviews for other organizations are active job searchers. But under what conditions can we predict that a job search will ultimately become job turnover?


Current research suggests that there are three conditions to consider that predict whether a job searcher will actually separate from their current organization: job embeddedness, job satisfaction, and available alternatives. Embeddedness indicates how “tied” to the organization an individual is. This can mean that they have tenure, comfort, or tangible benefits (such as a pension plan) that may not be worth leaving. Job satisfaction simply refers to the reaction that people have to their jobs, and can be based on professional or social reasons. Lastly, job alternatives means that there are other jobs available to an employee in which they are qualified for and are willing to accept.

It should be no surprise that job satisfaction can be a determining factor of the job search-turnover relationship, as unsatisfied employees are not only more likely to search for other positions, but are also more likely to actually leave. Similarly, employees who experience low levels of job embeddedness are also more likely than not to turn their job search into turnover.  Finally, the more availability in alternatives for other positions, the stronger the relationship between job search and turnover.


Managers can use this information to better understand high turnover rates in their organization and focus on retention efforts of performing employees. Monitoring employee attitudes can aid in understanding the extent an employee feels embedded or satisfied. According to the research, by minimizing job search efforts, an organization will also be able to minimize voluntary turnover.


Swider, B. W., Boswell, W. R., & Zimmerman, R. D. (2011). Examining the job search–turnover relationship: The role of embeddedness, job satisfaction, and available alternatives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(2), 432–441.

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