The Great Resignation: How to Retain Your Talent

By: Amanda Hawthorne- Director of People and Culture

No matter your role in the workforce, you’ve surely heard by now that we’re not only in the midst of a global pandemic, but we’re also seeing an epidemic of people leaving their jobs. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report released earlier this month, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in December 2021. Though that number is a slight downtick from the month prior, the number of quits is still outpacing years prior; in fact, more Americans quit in 2021 than ever before recorded. The Great Resignation’s acceleration of employee turnover just adds to the difficulty of running a business in these challenging times. So, what can employers do to cope? What’s the solution?

Here, we explore some of the ways to increase worker satisfaction and reduce turnover -- and be ready for the inevitability of some churn within your workplace.

But any efforts to increase retention may fail if you haven’t first understood the reasons for employees leaving in the first place. Let’s explore some common themes for employee resignations in today’s work environment:

Employees leaving to handle caregiving responsibilities. It’s undeniable that Covid-19 exposed serious gaps in our country’s caregiving infrastructure. Some parents have dropped out of the workplace because of the intensive care burdens of young children and the lack of available daycare facilities – not to mention the increasing costs of such care. Others are leaving to care for an elder parent because long-term care facilities are expensive and perhaps less desirable during the pandemic. Still others have school-aged kids at home who just aren’t going to make it through Zoom school without supervision. The choice to leave the workplace may have been most common among caregivers whose jobs require their presence onsite, versus remote or schedule flexibility, but even those whose jobs allow such flexibility may find the competing pressures of work and caregiving to be in conflict – and overwhelming. It’s not surprising that some of these people decided to leave the workforce or seek out new opportunities with additional flexibility.

What can employers do? Employers should remember that employees are people, too – with complex lives and competing responsibilities beyond their paid employment. Consider whether offering benefits such as childcare subsidies or backup childcare assistance could benefit your workforce. These benefits can be a win-win for employees and employers, offering much-needed assistance to workers and potentially a tax credit for the business offering child are subsidies. Many employers already offer access to an Employee Assistance Program, which can offer referrals for child or elder care resources. If this is something you offer, make sure your employees know about the benefit – EAPs are easy to forget if you’ve never accessed one before.

Employees leaving for greener pastures: more flexibility, stronger benefits… Now that we are through the initial shock of being in a pandemic, when many people may have held steady in jobs they might have otherwise considered leaving, people are now starting to re-evaluate. Employees may be taking stock of their position on a total-rewards basis: what benefits is my employer offering? Are they helping cover the costs of healthcare for me and my family? Do I have access to progressive benefits coverage like telehealth? Especially as workers see peers leave their roles for greener pastures, they may be more likely to start wondering what else is available, and how their current opportunity stacks up.

What can employers do? Working with an insurance broker, companies can evaluate whether their existing benefits offerings are competitive. Employers must remember too that they are competing with larger companies for talent. It may not be possible to offer all the bells and whistles, but where can you really add value? You may want to work with your broker to survey your team to find out how they’re using their current benefits and where else they’re looking for you to assist.

Employers should also evaluate their workplace policies to see whether offering increased flexibility or other family-friendly policies could benefit their teams. At Managed Solution, we’ve offered varying degrees of remote work and schedule flexibility for years. Before the pandemic, this was more cutting edge, but as many jobs went remote for Covid-19, work-remote opportunities have become more of an expectation among workers. Now, employees are looking to their employers to understand what policies and programs will exist beyond the pandemic: will they continue to have access to remote work? Can they adjust start times to accommodate day-care or school drop off? Do you offer flexibility for part-time roles or job-sharing to accommodate those who need more time for caregiving? Now is the time for employers to start defining what the future will hold for their workers – and the more flexibility you can offer, the better!

Employees leaving to secure a raise. Inflation is real, and employees are aware of the rapidly increasing costs to even maintain a current quality of life. According to Bloomberg, “U.S. consumer prices soared last year by the most in nearly four decades, sapping the purchasing power of American families” -- and even as minimum wages have increased in parts of the country, “rising prices are eroding those advances.” For most workers, the best way to secure a significant wage increase is not to wait for an annual review at a current employer, where they may see a small cost-of-living adjustment, but to seek an offer at another firm.

What can employers do? Take time to look at your current team’s wages. How does it stack up to the market? Remember, too, that with the rise of remote work opportunities, you may be competing against wages on a national scale, as employees’ options are no longer limited to a local work market. Although it may not be possible to offer significant increases across the board, it may be prudent to identify key talent and ensure the individuals in those roles are paid appropriately. If base wage increases aren’t an option and you’re already paying market-fair wages, perhaps you can offer other creative incentives based on specific organizational outcomes… which may be written in a way that requires employees to remain employed with your organization for a specific duration to receive payment. (Future bonus opportunities may not be enough to overcome other significant deficiencies in employee satisfaction, so be sure there aren’t other underlying issues with workplace rigidity, culture issues, or lack of growth opportunities.)

Employees leaving a toxic or lack-luster work environment. As much as we’d like to think we can throw money at a problem to solve it (and sometimes that does help), recent data published by MIT Sloan Management Review suggests that a toxic corporate culture can be a top predictor of attrition – more than pay: according to the article, “a toxic culture is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to attrition than compensation… Our analysis found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.” With so many job openings, employees in such toxic environments can feel compelled to explore new opportunities in organizations that prioritize recognition, respect, and collaboration.

Additionally, many employees are feeling disconnected from their workplace without an office to visit. Employees may seek opportunities with organizations that prioritize team building, including those that offer virtual or hybrid events to help them get to know coworkers beyond their day-to-day work interactions. According to Angela Ashenden, citing findings from her co-authored paper (“Employee Workplace Technology Survey, 2020”) in an article posted on Reworked: “Although most of the technology basics are now in place to enable them to access their work tools remotely, employees highlight a lack of social interaction with colleagues (33%) and a lack of connection with what's happening in their organization (22%) as their biggest challenges with remote work.”

What can employers do? Employers should evaluate their own corporate culture. What are employees saying in exit interviews? What’s being reflected in employee surveys? Do you have a defined Code of Conduct or set of company values that outlines how your company engages internally and externally, to ensure that all team members feel respected? If these documents already exist, how are you reinforcing them on a day-to-day basis with your teams? Do your team members have ways to identify individuals whose behavior falls short of those standards, without fear of reprisal?

If you’re feeling good about the basic foundations of respect, inclusion, and equity within your organization, start considering how you’re engaging your remote or hybrid teams. Do you have an accessible intranet and collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams? (If not, let’s chat!) Are you helping team members connect on those platforms by announcing important company updates? Here at Managed Solution, we’ve leveraged Microsoft Teams to build community through Virtual Spirit Weeks, where our team members posted photos or responses to various topics. We were blown away by the responses to our prompts, such as “ManSol’s Got Talent” - where employees showed off their painting, cooking, athletic, and other skills. From virtual trivia night to a hosted virtual escape room, to “Quaran-teams” pods to connect folks across the organization for 15-minutes social breaks throughout the week, there are so many ways to help your team members feel connected on a social level.

Employees leaving for growth opportunities not available in their current environment. At the end of the day, most employees are looking for the opportunities to succeed at work – and the opportunity to grow into new roles within a company. If employees don’t see a clear path for growth within an organization, they may begin exploring ways to grow beyond it. Employees left in the dark about what opportunities exist in their organization, or who aren’t provided coaching support to take on stretch goals, may not want to languish in the same position forever.

What can employers do? First and foremost – make sure your employees know what opportunities exist! Particularly in a remote environment where there’s less of a chance someone can hear of something ‘through the grapevine,’ employers need to take care to publish job openings across the organization. Be sure to take seriously any employee who shows interest in an open role: at a minimum, someone in HR and/or the hiring manager should meet with that person to discuss the role, even if the person isn’t yet qualified. If that person isn’t yet eligible or suited to a role, help them understand the gaps – and provide guidance on how to close them! Engage your supervisors and managers in development efforts. Are they regularly meeting with team members to discuss performance and growth? And if someone in your organization has been promoted, how are you highlighting this story in your recruiting and internal communication? Employees want to know that internal growth is possible – and how to achieve it for themselves. Particularly for industries like IT, where there’s always something new to learn, consider how you are helping your team members learn. Can you offer professional development funding or tuition assistance? Reimbursement of certification costs? Outline these programs, and make sure they’re published across the organization. Helping people see opportunities and see your commitment to their achievement can keep employees committed to your organization for the long haul.

These are just some of the reasons employees are re-evaluating their careers during the Great Resignation. Whichever factors are driving turnover in your organization, making a concerted effort to uncover the reasons and address them will be critical for improving retention.

And while evaluating your strategy for retention is a must, employers must realize that it can take time to implement new programs or policies and see any impact. So, what to do in the meantime, when the Great Resignation is still underway? With the combination of a tight labor market and an acceleration of turnover, employers need to also be ready to engage in a competitive recruiting market to fill those inevitable openings. In many cases, this can mean looking to an outside recruiting firm for help.

Managed Solution has developed a consistent, proactive recruiting practice to ensure we’re connecting with qualified talent and building our pipeline for common IT roles, sometimes even before we have an active opening. But not every company is going to have a dedicated internal recruiting team building that pipeline even before it’s needed. Given today’s intensely competitive recruiting marketing, where candidates may have multiple offers in front of them, working with an outside recruiting firm can help your company improve success in hiring the right talent, fast – which is even more important when you get that unexpected two-weeks-notice letter from someone in a key role!

Do you have a critical opening you need filled yesterday? Just received a devastating two-weeks-notice letter from an employee in a key role? Let us know -- we can help!

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