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Why do people leave startups? 

A new survey of UK tech workers explores the reasons they quit their jobs

By Amy Lewin

No manager wants one of their star team members to resign. But resign they do — and increasingly often.

So, why do so many people have itchy feet?

A new report from UK talent consultancy ISL Talent digs into the reasons why tech talent swaps jobs. Spoiler: it most often boils down to three things — compensation, culture and career progression. 

200 people who have moved roles at UK startups and scaleups in March to June this year were surveyed. They ranged from junior to senior talent, were evenly split across all age brackets, predominantly identified as men (75%) and many of them worked in product and engineering, or management roles. 

Here’s what they said.

Career progression

79% of respondents said they left their role because they were dissatisfied with how their career was progressing. 

29% said the one thing they wanted more than anything else in regards to career progression was a development plan with clear targets, while 19% said that receiving ongoing feedback and regular reviews was key. 18% said that getting quality and plentiful learning and development opportunities was top of their list.

Culture

82% said that communication is a very important part of company culture, while 78% said that the team and office environment plays a big role too. 

Only 21% of respondents said that having a clear company mission and values wasn’t important.

71% called out their relationship with their direct manager as a reason for jumping ship — which makes sense, given that a huge majority of Sifted’s readers feel that startup managers are often poorly equipped to manage.

Compensation

Not getting paid enough is another big reason for leaving a job. 72% of respondents said that dissatisfaction with their salary and rewards prompted them to quit.

The most important part of a rewards package — for 92% of respondents — is salary. Holiday allowance is a big consideration for 75% of people, with pensions making the cut for 66%.

76% of people surveyed would rather ditch all other rewards on offer to secure a higher salary.

What tech talent is looking for

If you’re one of the lucky startups on a hiring spree, here’s what you should bear in mind. 

  • 91% of respondents said that working in a sector they’re passionate about is extremely important 
  • 88% said that the role itself and the learning opportunities it presented was a key consideration 
  • 82% said they had to be passionate about the product itself 
  • While 81% said they had to believe in the founder of the company they’d be joining 

The ability to work remotely is also a huge factor for the majority of employees now, with 83% expecting regular remote work as standard. 77% also care about having flexible start and finish times, while 72% of respondents are drawn to companies with no set working hours. 

👉 Read: The best UK startups for digital nomads

Amy Lewin is Sifted’s editor. She tweets @amyrlewin

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Tom Zrubecky
Tom Zrubecky

We did similar research at supertalent.io about the future of work in the CEE region, and below are our findings:

1. 87% of respondents told us they want full freedom of choice regarding where they will work from.
2. 74% of people prefer good cultural fit over salary.
3. 62% of people don’t have a dream employer. They prefer having a good fit with the team over the employer’s name.
4. 58% of respondents changed specialization throughout their career or plan to change it in the future.
5. 63% of employees left a job due to their mismatch with the team and company culture.
And more.