You've built your team. Here's how you can avoid losing your top talent.
The last two years have seen a massive shift in employment dynamics that some experts expect to continue for years to come. The business lockdowns of 2020 have been followed by millions of workers quitting their jobs in 2021. The phenomenon is so widespread that some observers have dubbed it the Great Resignation. And make no mistake, the current trend in resignations shows no sign of disappearing any time soon. According to Joblist, 73 percent of surveyed workers say that they are thinking about looking for a new job.
If you are a business leader, the challenge is clear: how can you retain talent on your team during the Great Resignation and for years to come? In this post, we will explore some of the key reasons so many employees are thinking about quitting their jobs and examine some of the best strategies companies can use to entice those workers to stay.
Employee retention is more important than ever
For business owners and managers, a tight labor market always presents challenges. In most economic cycles, however, labor shortages generally coincide with extremely low unemployment. This most current crisis is almost unique, since it comes in the aftermath of a widespread economic shutdown that put tens of millions of Americans out of work. Many analysts had predicted that those workers would eagerly return to their companies once the lockdowns ended. Instead, more than 10 million jobs remain unfilled.
Some of those jobs would ordinarily have been filled by workers returning to the workforce after extended lockdowns and forced unemployment. Millions of other jobs have been left open by workers who have decided to resign over the last several months. Government estimates suggest that more than 15 million employees have quit their jobs since April 2020, including more than 4 million in August alone.
For months, U.S. employers have struggled to find the workers they need. That labor shortage has been cited as one of the leading causes for the economy's slow recovery from the Covid recession. Given that many workers have been slow to return to work due to Covid fears and other concerns, employers can ill afford to lose their existing employees too. One of the best ways to mitigate the current labor shortage is for companies to focus more on retaining the workers they currently employ.
Why employees are looking to leave
Any successful employee retention effort begins with an understanding of why workers quit their jobs. In ordinary times, those reasons are easy to identify: the desire for better pay and benefits, or various levels of dissatisfaction with the job. It has become increasingly obvious that these are not ordinary times, though, as workers and analysts are now pointing to resignation reasons that go well beyond simple pay or dissatisfaction concerns. Some of those reasons include:
A desire for more work flexibility
The pandemic took a toll on the psyche of many American workers, regardless of whether they were laid off or continued to labor during the Covid crisis. Many laid off workers discovered that they enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time with family, while many who worked during the pandemic have realized just how little work-life balance their jobs afford. Burnout has become a real problem for many of those employees.
Re-evaluating life and work priorities
The existing labor shortage has empowered workers to be choosier about the jobs they hold. Since demand for jobs is so high, millions of employees have new freedom to resign and pursue better employment opportunities.
Feeling undervalued at work
As a result of lockdowns and labor shortages, some firms have renewed efforts to offshore American jobs to insulate themselves from future lockdown policies. That lack of loyalty to employees has left some workers feeling unappreciated and undervalued.
Ongoing pandemic anxiety
Many workers still fear Covid, and the perceived dangers associated with a return to the office. For those employees, remote work can offer the safety and flexibility they are seeking.
According to Gallup, the Covid crisis has impacted nearly half of surveyed workers, affecting everything from their stress levels to their feelings of workplace engagement. The workplace disruptions, combined with Covid mitigation policies like social isolation, masking, and intrusive testing have left many workers with increased stress, worry, and anger. A growing number of those workers are concluding that their current work environment is simply not a healthy place to be.
It is worth noting that the desire for better pay and benefits is still an important reason for resignation. However, it does not appear to be the only reason for the current crop of resignations. Companies that want to retain talent should understand that they may need to go well beyond compensation if they want to inspire their employees to remain in their current jobs.
7 tips to help you retain talent on your team
Fortunately, there are ways that you can increase your company's ability to retain top talent on your team. Your company may want to consider adopting several of these strategies and practices to improve employee retention, since no single solution is likely to address all the reasons why today's workers are so eager to quit their jobs. In combination, however, these steps can not only slow resignations but will also strengthen your entire corporate culture.
1. Strengthen employee-manager relationships
It is important to recognize that the pandemic has weakened employer-employee relationships in ways that many managers have been slow to grasp. Obviously, remote work has been a contributing factor to that disruption, especially for companies that were ill-equipped to manage that type of work arrangement. But the same is also true for those companies where employees continued to show up at the job site each day.
Managers need to redouble their efforts to manage their people rather than just managing the work. Consider checking in on your reports' well-being as well as how they are handling their workload, as opposed to staying strictly results-focused. If possible, try to find time to recognize people's efforts at work, individually and in team settings.
2. Make remote work a priority
If you had workers who grew accustomed to working remotely, you should consider options for continuing that work arrangement in some capacity. While many companies have rushed to bring every worker back to the work site, that has frustrated employees who had come to appreciate the benefits of working at home. Other large companies, like Amazon, are leaving it up to team leaders to decide whether or not employees need to be in the office.
If you're in a similar position, try to find ways to incorporate at least some level of remote work into your company's routine. This flexibility will benefit every employee, but especially working mothers.
3. Develop strategies to counter employee burnout
Burnout is a leading cause for job dissatisfaction. In the current work environment, that burnout can include everything from workplace stress to mental or physical health concerns. If you want to retain your employees, you need to enact processes and strategies that can counter burnout, identify and address mental health issues, and secure your employee's physical well-being. Make sure that paid time off is being used regularly and be proactive about getting employees any help they need to deal with stress, worry, and burnout.
Related read: Unhappy at Work? What You Can Control and How to Handle What You Can't
4. Empower your workers
One of the biggest reasons for job frustration is a lack of empowerment. When employees feel like they are mere cogs in a machine, they can become disengaged in their jobs. Your company can prevent that disengagement by working to empower each worker. Discover what each employee needs to do their job, and make sure they have the resources, tools, and support to succeed. More importantly, do this for every worker – those in the office and those working from home.
5. Address career advancement
Career advancement is more important than ever to many employees, so find ways to develop your current talent and help them enhance their skills and value. Invest in them wherever possible and develop a solid plan for advancing internal hires. Promotions and changes in job responsibilities can be one of the best ways to retain your team talent.
6. Be mindful of workplace safety
Covid-19 claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since early 2020. As a result, many workers are understandably fearful of being in any kind of group setting. You can help to set your employees' minds at ease by developing sane but effective Covid-mitigation policies and enforcing them. You may want to survey your employees to ask them to cite their safety concerns and suggested solutions, and take those suggestions under serious consideration.
7. Boost compensation
Finally, do not forget to address compensation – both in terms of wages and benefits. While those concerns are no longer the sole reason people quit their jobs, they are still prominent issues to resolve. Many workers have been negatively impacted by rising inflation, medical bills, additional support responsibilities, and increased utility bills due to working from home.
If they feel that their wages are stagnant, valuable employees may be moved to quit. Since it can cost up to two times an employee's annual salary to replace them, try to accommodate your top talent before they hand in their letter of resignation.
Alternatively, if your company is not able to entice great workers to stick around, send your employees off with an excellent recommendation. You may even want to take advantage of this Great Resignation to look for your next move!
The American economy is experiencing unprecedented labor shortages, largely due to the lingering impact of the Covid pandemic and ongoing worker frustrations and dissatisfaction. By implementing these strategies and practices, your company can better ensure that you retain talent on your team during the Great Resignation and beyond.
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