As a recruiter, I get to hear the reasons why people leave conference firms. By extension, these reasons give an insight into how firms can therefore keep staff. Below are some observations – I have not included the less reputable conference firms in these observations, as they seem to be built on a model of high staff turnover of junior people – a cynic might say in order to suppress the wage bill – and therefore operate in a different way.
– For the majority of junior candidates (i.e. those in their first job in the industry) the top reason for changing jobs is money – maybe their current employer either hired them on a low salary or has yet to offer them a pay rise. They have heard that others with a year or so’s experience are earning more elsewhere. At this early stage in their career, a modest increase in pay can make a huge difference to expendable income. The second most common reason is lack of career progression – either they perceive a barrier to promotion, or feel they are not given enough training. The third reason is that they are unsatisfied with the company or subject area/format of the events – i.e. a core structural reason that cannot be changed. This means that either the job has not met expectations (maybe the company oversold in the interview) or they took the job because they could not secure a “dream” job elsewhere and thought it better than nothing.
– For more experienced candidates the most common reason is for career progression – again, maybe there is a perceived barrier above them or they feel that the company does not match their ambitions. The second reason is a change in circumstances – either personal, company or economic (i.e. relocation, need for flexible hours, new boss comes in above them that they do not like, company is making cut backs, their specific niche is in an industry sector that has been affected by market conditions). The third reason is a feeling of dissatisfaction with the career that the individual is in – I get a log of applicants with c. 5-15 years’ experience who tell me that they want to move out of the commercial conference industry and either join an industry association, corporate or transfer their skills into something like communications consultancy. Salary and company culture tend to be fairly uncommon reasons for leaving jobs at this stage – experienced candidates knew what they were getting into (on both counts) before taking the jobs, having been in the market longer.
These give a fairly general view on why people change jobs. A topic of discussion for another day might be how to pre-empt the above and keep the people you don’t want to leave (e.g. spotting when someone is unsatisfied, conducting effective appraisals/reviews etc).