The Unspoken Reason Workers Leave – The Impact of the Arrival Fallacy

With businesses reeling amid unprecedented turnover rates and exceptional employee mobility, one of the most significant contributors to any sustained success is the ability to retain talent.

By now we are all familiar with the statistics — 44% of current employees are ready and willing to leave their jobs. The cost of replacing employees is skyrocketing, and employees are confident in the belief that they can, and will, find new and higher paying jobs with relative ease.

Today’s workforce is informed, socially connected, and trend savvy. They know what they are worth, they know that jobs are abundant, and they know that even during a prospective slowdown, the competition for talent is high.

In an attempt to win the talent war, most businesses have fallen into an escalating trap of trying to outbid one another by appealing to the wants of prospective employees—only to find that as soon as they fill one vacant position, another arises.

This leaves organizations, recruiters, and talent managers feeling the strain and mistakenly attributing turnover losses to an effect of the current labor market conditions. But this is not always the case.

One often overlooked aspect of escalating turnover has to do with the Arrival Fallacy, a condition that affects both prospective employees and hiring managers in equal but differing ways.

“Putting too much emphasis on specific goalposts can be problematic.”

In his book, Happiness, behavioural scientist Tal Ben-Shahar explains the arrival fallacy as the false assumption that when we arrive at a preconceived destination, achieve a particular goal, or acquire something we desire, we will then be satisfied. This is an illusion.

“Our drive to want is more powerful than our drive to like.” says bestselling author and executive coach Brad Stulberg. We are disposed to want what we don’t have, in greater capacity than liking what we do. Understanding this concept is critical for hiring managers working to halt the financial and productivity losses that result from unwanted turnover.

Turnover that is the result of a connected workforce who knows what their colleagues and competitors are getting by ‘job hopping’ and wanting the same raises for themselves.

In response to this phenomenon, most talent managers focus on the necessary attraction and acquisition of employees, while leaving the retention aspect of talent management lacking the attention it requires.

Lack of awareness around the subtle but powerful influence of the arrival fallacy is, in part, responsible for the escalating ‘job hopping’ numbers we are experiencing. Active job hunters are as much on the lookout for the next pay bump as they are a role that is more aligned with their current wants. The belief being that when they find such a role and win it, they will be content. But this feeling doesn’t last.

Dampening the Arrival Fallacy Impact

There are three things required to overcome the impact of the arrival fallacy casting unwanted influence over your talent management strategy:


Just as the new car, corner office, or promotion only brings temporary happiness, we can say the same about the fulfillment of a new hire. Savvy hiring managers recognize that just because they have filled a vacant role doesn’t mean it will stay that way for very long.

It’s important to be aware that the feeling of accomplishment your new hire receives by winning a role at your organization will fade, and that their drive to want something new will begin again.

Waypoints, Not Destinations

Author Josh Kaufman suggests that we should view an arrival at “your current objectives (making a hire) as waypoints, not final destinations.” Achieving an objective should be seen as a “useful way to orient and direct your attention, energy, and effort” toward sustaining that achievement, instead of considering it complete.

Talent managers must see hiring and retention as equal parts of an overall talent management strategy, deserving equal focus and effort to build a sustainable workforce.

 Invest in People

Ben-Shahar claims that the number one predictor of happiness and satisfaction “is the quality time we spend with people we care about and who care about us. In other words, relationships.”

Businesses can mitigate the effects of the arrival fallacy and its associated effects by investing in a culture built around appreciation, contribution, and recognition. Making investments into these essential human needs lessens an employee’s desire for the new, and increases the desire to stay where they feel appreciated and valued.

The goal of all companies is to make effective and profitable returns on their investments. A talent strategy that is too heavily focused on attraction, and lacking in understanding of the arrival fallacy’s role in turnover, will be at a loss to do so.

 Article by Paul Huffman, Talent Management Partner, TalentHunt Inc.

CHPTA Affiliate Member TalentHunt Inc. is your talent management partner dedicated to attracting and retaining the best possible talent across North America. Their partnership is backed by years of talent acquisition, leadership coaching and mentoring program administration experience. If you’re looking to attract and retain the best talent please look into their 4-step process here.

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