To leave or not to leave

Young-Kook Moon’s research on employee motivations could help employers reduce staff turnover

| Author: Kara Owens

Picture of psychology graduate student, Young-Kook MoonIndustrial/Organizational Psychology doctoral student, Young-Kook Moon, researched employee motivations behind their desire to stay or leave their job and the resulting behaviors. Many Americans are leaving their jobs with or without another job in place, a trend being called the “Great Resignation.”  This research could be beneficial for employers looking to understand and reduce this staff turnover. Moon also envisions the research results helping employees and managers better understand each other and work together to improve employee performance and wellness.

Research of employees from across the US and South Korea, his home country, found that they fell into four categories:   

  • Embedded stayers (“I want to stay and will stay because I love my job”) 

  • Detached stayers (“I am not going to leave even though I have no reason to stay”) 

  • Script-driven seekers (“I will be leaving, and I have a clear plan”) 

  • Dissatisfied seekers (“I want to leave but I don’t have a tangible plan yet”) 

These categories were based on employee patterns of motivation (e.g., financial reasons, social reasons) and beliefs (e.g., job satisfaction). These categories predicted work behaviors and general wellness.  For example, embedded stayers were able to adjust to change and script-driven seekers reported the least wellness.

Equipped with this information, employers could implement wellness programs that target the specific needs of each employee group. Moon notes that taking this targeted approach may improve employee outcomes and organizational return on investment.

Moon was inspired by the work of other employee turnover researchers and was assisted by the feedback and direction of Psychology advisors Kimberly O’Brien and Terry Beehr.  Moon also received an $800 grant from the Office of Research and Graduate Studies in Spring 2021 to assist with completing this research and presented the results at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Annual Conference in Spring 2022.

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