September 2018 quarter spotlight topic: reasons why employees leave.

  • Published: 29 Nov 2018

Each quarter the Workforce Wizard ‘Spotlight Topic’ shines a light on an important sector issue.

It is: the reasons why employees leave.

We asked users to think about dissatisfaction drivers related to the job, factors related to individuals (such as people retiring) and/or anything symptomatic of the industry at large when answering the questions. In addition, we asked the users to think about why their employees choose to stay in the organisation. It’s important to remember that these are the views of CEOs, HR Managers and other Workforce Wizard users about employee reasons for leaving — the views of employees themselves would need a separate collection.

Who answered?

Not all organisations had employees leave in the September 2018 quarter. Hence, only 118 and 128 users shared their views on why their new and longer-term workers left respectively. More - 137 users - shared their views on why their employees chose to stay.

Why NEW workers leave

A perhaps surprising finding is that the most commonly cited reason for new workers (workers employed for 6 months or less) leaving disability organisations is that they were not well suited to the job. Fifty out of 118 responses mentioned this as the main reason for new employees leaving their organisation. This was phrased in a variety of ways:

‘Not suitable for the role’

‘Unsuitability to this type of work’

‘Poor fit with the job’

‘Unsuitability to disability field’

’Incompatibility with the organization’s philosophy’

‘Probation unsuccessful’

‘Unsuited to the role following paid work trial.’


‘Managers were not satisfied with their performance’>

‘We find with many new hires, their expectations of the role and duties are not aligned with what they experience when on the job, causing them to resign shortly after commencing.’ ‘The job wasn’t what they thought it was’ ‘(The workers) don’t like the isolation, not being part of a team e.g. working out in the community as opposed to working in office or team environment.’

Clearly, a considerable amount of recruitment is resulting in poorly matched new hires.

Issues relating to working hours was the second most frequently cited group of reasons for new employees to leave disability organisations. Not enough working hours and being unhappy with shift work were the two specific challenges. Other dissatisfaction drivers cited included the lack of permanent job opportunities, low pay and lack of career progression (see table below).

A smaller group of Workforce Wizard users (29) mentioned factors relating to the individual worker – personal reasons such as relocation, family issues, health concerns, change to full-time study or travel.

Table 1: The reasons recently employed workers left the organisation

Dissatisfaction drivers related to the job Number of times mentioned
The worker is not well-matched with the role / industry/ organisation 50
Working hours issues: 40
- Not happy with the roster/shift work 17
-Not enough hours/shifts 16
-Want more stable shift/hours 4
- Short working hours each shifts 2
- Overworked: too many hours 1
Want a permanent job 10
Low pay 4
Lack of career progression 3
Factors related to individuals
Personal reasons 29
Others 37

Why longer term workers leave

Providers gave quite different reflections on why longer term employees left. It seemed that the issue of suitability was no longer relevant and personal reasons, such as relocation, retirement and family and health issues, were the most common reasons for employees to leave. Fifty-seven out of 128 responses mentioned this as the main reason for longer-term workers leaving the organisation.

Working hours remained one of the top challenges in retaining workers who had been employed for more the 6 months. Not enough hours, roster problems and irregular hours were all identified. Limited career development was another commonly cited group of reasons.

The NDIS roll-out appears to be a cause of grievances for longer-term workers. Changes in service delivery approaches, work processes, administrative workload and workplace culture were mentioned as causing unhappiness to workers who left this quarter..

To retain a highly mobile workforce is a daunting task that disability providers face. A few respondents mentioned that their casual workers held multiple jobs and were unable to commit to the hours needed for service delivery. Others revealed that many workers were students who left for jobs related to their qualifications, after completing their studies. One respondent mentioned that they developed a trainee program in order to keep the staff employed after the traineeship finishes.

Table 2: The reasons longer term workers left the organisation

Dissatisfaction drivers related to the job Number of times mentioned
Working hours issues: 23
- Not enough hours 11
- Looking for work with reliable hours 5
- Unhappy with the roster 4
- Want work life balance 2
- Want a job with more hours in a shift 1
Limited career development: 21
- Look for career progression 11
- Feel that there are better opportunities elsewhere 10
Want a permanent job 10
Want a full-time job 7
Low pay 5
Factors related to individuals
Personal reasons 57
Performance/ disciplinary issues 8
Factors symptomatic of the industry
Reasons associated with a transient workforce: 14
- Students who left for a job related to their qualifications 7
- Commitment to other jobs 3
- Casuals no longer contactable 3
- Casuals shopping around agencies for more hours 1
Not happy with changes associated with NDIS roll-out 9
Look for career change 6
Clients change agency/location 4
Others 20

Why employees choose to stay

While issues related to working hours are often the main reason for workers to leave, they can also be the main reason they stay. Many respondents cited flexibility in working hours as the main reason for the disability support workers to stay.

Job satisfaction was also commonly cited. Some mentioned that the intrinsic rewards of the job is a key source of satisfaction to workers. Workers may find the job rewarding, and appreciate the opportunity to make a difference to the clients’ lives. Other important job-specific factors include the relationships with clients, rewards and benefits, and training and development opportunities.

A large group of respondents (80) cited organisation-specific factors such as workplace culture as the reasons for employees choosing to stay. Other important factors include good relationships with colleagues, commitment to the organisational values and the management support to staff in both the professional and personal levels. One respondent mentioned that establishing a social club is one of the employee engagement initiatives adopted by the organisation, while another practiced profit-sharing..

The key attraction of the industry, for many, is the opportunity to make a positive change to the clients’ lives. This is the sector-related factor mentioned most frequently, as to why employees choose to stay. .

Table 3: The reasons employees choose to stay

Factors relating to the job itself Number of times mentioned
Working hours issues: 45
- Flexible working hours 29
- Regular/stable hours 9
- The working hours are convenient to the individual workers 7
Job satisfaction: 37
- Job is rewarding 10
- Opportunity to do a variety of work 4
- Relationships with clients 24
Rewards and benefits: 23
- Competitive salary 11
- Fringe benefits 7
- Career progression opportunity 3
- Additional leave entitlement 2
Training and development opportunities 13
Job security 8
Full-time/ permanent opportunities 4
Factors relating to the organisation
Workplace culture 30
Good relationships with colleagues 18
Commitment to the organisational values 13
Management support to staff (professional and personal) 11
Proud to be a part of the organisation/Organisational reputation 8
Good performance measurement and recognition 3
Collaborative decision making 3
Profit sharing with employees 1
Factors related to individuals
Need the money 5
Job location (local, close to home) 5
Work life balance 5
It is difficult to find work in the area 1
Factors related to the sector
Opportunity to make a difference to the clients’ lives 22
Passionate about the industry 6
Others 39

Allied health professionals

Not all organisations had employees leaving their organisation. Hence, only 6 and 12 users respectively shared their views on why their new and longer-term employees left. However, 16 users provided reasons as to why their employees choose to stay.

Below is the summary of results.

Why NEW workers leave

As with support worker, unsuitability to the role is the most often cited reason for new employees to leave. However, respondents also identified some dissatisfaction drivers derived from the organisation or the role. These include the lack of career development and the lack of management support. Some are symptomatic of the industry. One respondent mentioned that their new allied health workers often moved to higher paying industries such as aged care and hospitals. Another mentioned that the role became redundant due to the transition to NDIS. The organisation tried to retain the worker by offering a new role with different job responsibilities, but the worker rejected the offer.

Why longer term workers leave

Indeed, role changes are a common dissatisfaction driver causing longer-term staff to leave. Some result from the transition to NDIS. For example, one respondent mentioned that the organisation had to make a position redundant due to the loss of block funding.

Alternatively, a respondent mentioned that the organisation won a tender. However, the organisation had to change the model from supporting children under 25 years to under 6 years old only, to comply with the new funding arrangements. This change led some longer-term employees choosing to leave.

One respondent mentioned that frequent changes in the management structure and programs in the past two years led some employees to leave.

“Based on our exit interview surveys the main reasons were: management/reporting structure, career opportunities, skill development, frequency of changing work conditions, available resources in which to perform duties. There has been a lot of change in our disability services program and the management structure has changed multiple times over the past two years, there has been a lot of instability and changes in the program.”

Another respondent mentioned that a recent change in the role caused an employee to leave because of the lack of consultation and increased workload that resulted.

Competition from other sector is another challenge to staff retention for the sector. One respondent mentioned that an employee moved to an organisation that is not within the NDIS.

“Staff member resigned following recruitment in another NFP (medical) outside of NDIS”

Another mentioned that a large proportion of employees expressed concerns with the lack of confidence and security in the NDIS environment.

“ “A large proportion of staff leaving reported a lack of confidence and security in the NDIS / disability environment and were contemplating a significant move to another sector including health and education.”

Other common reasons for leaving include career progression and personal reasons (such as relocation or family-related issues).

Why employees choose to stay?

Respondents believed that their employees choose to stay in the organisation because of:

  • flexible working arrangements
  • commitment to the cause advanced by the organisation
  • management support
  • having good relationships with colleagues
  • and the feeling that their opinions and inputs are valued.

Send us your thoughts

If you have an inquiry about the results, want a pdf version of this analysis, or suggestions for a spotlight topic in the upcoming quarters, please contact