Employers around the world have been combating the Great Resignation for almost two years now and are looking for ways to stop valued employees from leaving. However, there is no indication that the Big Quit movement might come to an end any time soon.
The mindset of the workforce has evolved and transformed under the pressure of the changes in the world, and this is shaping the job market, the way of working, and business altogether.
That said, social trend researchers and HR professionals have been studying the phenomenon, and, with the accumulated data, it seems that we are finally starting to better understand the issue and the driving forces behind it.
This data allows employers to look for practical solutions and even benefit from the changes, instead of fighting them.
In this article, we provide insights into what has been making people leave their jobs en mass, and highlight ideas on how to retain employees during the Great Resignation.
Understanding the Great Resignation
As people who live in interesting times, we are starting to experience firsthand why this is considered a curse and not a blessing.
Life, as we know it, has changed, old models have been disrupted, and we need to figure out new coping mechanisms regarding practically any aspect of our day-to-day.
And this includes our jobs and professional development as well.
How It Started?
Although the Great Resignation is considered to be a product of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has its roots much deeper than that.
The pandemic was just the last drop in an ocean of pressing issues that the modern world has been facing. And it initiated an avalanche of changes that dragged people outside of their comfort zones, took away their sense of security, pushed them beyond their limits, and challenged, not only their physical, but their mental health as well.
It made us all think hard, reevaluate our lives, and reconsider our priorities.
And this is how it all started.
People realized that they don’t want to waste their lives at the wrong job and/or company.
The rise of remote work unlocked new opportunities for a good majority of the workforce and employees rushed to explore this. Some were forced by their circumstances, i.e. they lost their jobs due to the pandemic, while others just figured out that they could do better.
At the same time, employers that had been rejecting or postponing their digital transformation and/or the adoption of flexible working models simply had no choice but to give it a try or go out of business.
Why It Happened?
The Pew Research Center (PRC) recently issued an insightful report analyzing the reasoning behind the en mass resignations in the US. It analyses the answers of 6,627 American adults who quit their jobs in 2021, and breaks down the results based on education, gender, race, and whether or not the person quit the job willingly or was forced to.
However, the key finding for employers has been that most of these people were unhappy even before the pandemic hit. They were looking for a way out, and saw one in the open work market that the quarantines created.
Among other things, these people felt underappreciated, underpaid, disrespected, overworked, and found it difficult to manage an acceptable work-life balance. They didn’t feel that their employer cared enough about them as people and/or valued them as professionals, and thought they deserved better.
The reasons why these people didn’t leave before the pandemics have been complex.
Firstly, the remote opportunities back then were fewer and many companies were against even the hybrid model.
Furthermore, changing a job involves a level of risk that even confident professionals don’t take lightly – because it takes away their sense of security.
However, the pandemic did that to them anyway.
As a result, people felt bolder and became more willing to gamble their current position for the sake of better conditions, pay, and development opportunities.
And, according to the abovementioned PRC research, the majority of these people are now happier.
However, we can’t say the same about employers, as the unstable job market threatens their own sense of security and causes them to lose their grip over their teams.
Furthermore, as employees see their counterparts leaving, their own loyalty may be shaken and this creates even further issues for businesses.
How to Fight It
Truth is, you can’t fight it. You can evolve, adapt, and change to facilitate the needs of your employees.
The Great Resignation is happening for a reason.
If your employees were happy, they wouldn’t have left.
In fact, some large companies such as DuPont, Microsoft, Intel, Best Buy, American Express, Cisco, Coca-Cola, etc. have reported a significantly lower turnover. They were cited among the best places to work before the pandemic, and managed to hold it together even through turbulent times.
Among the reasons why they remained resilient is that they had the loyalty of their employees.
However, for most businesses, the Big Quit has been like a tsunami that devours large and small companies alike.
Can you stop it? No.
Can you fight it? You can try.
Can you surf through it, though?
Well, that’s the one thing that can actually help you to stay on top of events and retain your valued employees.
How to Retain Employees During the Great Resignation
To retain talent during the great resignation, you need to create an employee-focused culture in which people feel valued and appreciated.
To that end, consider implementing the following effective employee retention strategies:
1. Revisit Your Payroll
The easiest way to prevent employees from leaving is to revisit your payroll and compare it with the average benchmarks for your industry.
Providing reasonable wages should be a default. If you underpay your employees, nothing else that you offer can keep them around. Even the most loyal of people, need to feed their families and pay rent, and, due to the post-pandemic economical landscape, are facing ever-increasing expenses.
The inflation in the US right now is 8.5% – that’s higher than it’s been in the last 40 years.
Yet, people are receiving the same wages they had a few years ago.
To keep your valued employees around, you need to be proactive and increase their pay before someone makes them a better offer.
However, right now, this is far from enough.
If proper remuneration is all that you have up your sleeve, it will become increasingly difficult to keep valued employees around.
2. Prioritize the Health and Well-Being of Your Employees
The pandemic has had a lasting impact on the physical and mental health of people around the world, and, in one way or another, seriously affected the well-being and quality of life of all of us.
The thing is, such traumatic experiences are not something that goes away easily. They become part of who people are and something that they need to cope with on a daily basis.
And this can influence the way employees feel and behave at work. It can hurt their productivity, cause them to lose focus and motivation, and even make them question whether this is the job for them or not.
As an employer, if you ignore these changes and try to keep your expectations the way they were, you risk losing your employees for good.
Regardless of whether it is their physical or mental health that needs attention, you should take care of your team. This can be as simple as asking how they are feeling and providing moral support.
However, this may not be enough.
You should consider offering additional mental health days off as well as paid sick leave. And above all, you should try your best not to make people feel guilty about wanting time away from work.
They may need to spend more time with their family and loved ones, go to therapy, or may just need some time to themselves.
And that should be ok.
When people feel that their well-being is a higher priority to you than simply doing their job, this will bring you closer. What’s more, it can boost their loyalty and encourage them to give back to the company with increased dedication.
3. Value Your Employees as People
With the opportunities the open job market presents, employees don’t feel the need to stay at companies where they don’t feel valued and appreciated and/or where they don’t see a future.
When employers have plans for their team members, they need to be sure that what they offer will not be too little too late.
The pandemic and the Great Resignation that came as a result made people rethink their life choices and prioritize their own happiness.
In other words, they are now more likely to make changes happen and take life into their own hands, rather than wait for someone else to serve what they need on a platter.
What you can do to retain these employees is to go the extra mile to get to know them better and understand them:
- Ask about their professional development ambitions and try to cater to them.
- Learn about their personal goals and values and facilitate them, if possible.
- Allow people the time and space to focus on their side projects and grow.
If you show your employees that they are valued not only as professionals, but as people, you can strengthen your relationship, and – who knows, you may even find new ways to benefit from it.
Furthermore, this will allow you to assure them that you are both walking in the same direction and that you are there to help them unfold their potential and support them along the way.
And if, for some reason, you are not – well, then there’s no reason to keep them around and hold them back, is it?
4. Be Flexible About Your Working Model
Nowadays, creating a custom remote or hybrid model that facilitates both your business’s and your team’s needs is the new normal. If you deny people this freedom, this can be a major dealbreaker.
Furthermore, there are people who will always find a way to slack in the office, and those who will be happy to put in an extra hour of overtime, just to see the job done, regardless of where they are.
It’s up to you, as an employer, to assemble a dream team, cater to its needs, and inspire a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.
Then, remote work shouldn’t be an issue.
Another post-pandemic approach to consider against the Great Resignation is the result-oriented work model. In it, companies allow their employees to choose when they put in their hours and manage their own working time, as long as they meet their deadlines.
This way, people can work when they are most productive and better balance their work, personal life, and side projects.
Meanwhile, management can notice more easily the employees who are dedicated and deliver results, and those who waste time and work inefficiently.
Of course, whether you should consider implementing this model, depends on the type of business, as not every job can be done remotely or independent of timing. Furthermore, there are leadership styles and working environments that are incompatible with the result-oriented model as they favor a more hands-on approach.
Still, regardless of the industry, increasing your flexibility is a must if you want to retain talent in today’s turbulent market.
Retaining talent during the Great Resignation may seem like a challenging task, but if businesses are willing to change their ways and adapt, it can be an opportunity to grow and develop together with their teams.
In order to keep their valued employees around and fortify their employer branding, companies need to embrace a people-first culture and mindset.
After all, the relationship with your team is a two-way street – if you want people to give you their best work, you need to give them your best in return as well.