Problem: A staggering 52 percent of employees intend to search for a new job in 2021, according to Achievers’ Employee Engagement & Retention Report. This number is no surprise to companies across the nation.
The United States Department of Labor reported 11.5 million workers quit their jobs in April through June alone. As turnover rates and labor shortages surge across the U.S., many employers are left wondering why workers are leaving — and what can be done to build retention.
The pandemic triggered economic shutdowns and subsequent layoffs across the U.S., but for workers who remained employed, 2020 acted as the reset button. Employees used their time to reflect on what they value most in their careers: greater flexibility, job satisfaction and fair compensation. Many employees experienced unprecedented levels of stress and uncertainty in their jobs and personal lives. Some workers felt disconnected after being forced to work remotely, while others valued the flexibility and work-life balance that virtual work provided. The pandemic gave everyone an opportunity to pause, look inward and make meaningful steps toward improving their circumstances.
Last year was the reset button, and 2021 was the time to act. We built tolerance to ambiguity and change, and at the earliest indication of a return to normal, employees began to take action. What do you have to lose when change has become your new normal? Workers took control of their own professional lives and, in a nearly synchronous exclamation, filed their resignation papers in search of new opportunities.
This “Turnover Tsunami” is cause for concern. Recruiting, hiring and onboarding are costly processes that require considerable time and resources. Vacancies increase burdens on current teams, which only exacerbates feelings of fatigue and stress. It is important for employers to identify the root causes of employee turnover in their organization before the situation becomes unstable.
We are witnessing a massive shift in worker needs and it is critical that employers take the time to adapt to the realities of a post-pandemic workforce. I’ve outlined a few important considerations for employers as they work to recruit and retain talent during this time of transition.
1. Listen to your employees and give them a voice. Be proactive, not reactive to your employees’ concerns.
Your organization should be providing opportunities for employees to offer input, and employers should listen and respond appropriately.
The caveat: Take advantage of this opportunity only if you plan to address concerns and respond accordingly. There is nothing worse for an employee than being asked to respond to a survey or give input, only to be left without feedback, a solution or support.
2. Build competitive offers about which your workers are actually excited.
While competitive compensation can drive employee attraction and retention, employees also heavily weigh the work environment in their career decisions. A manageable workload, supportive and collaborative colleagues and competitive benefits can often outweigh below market wages in an individuals decision to join a company or organization. Employees are seeking work environments that can support a good quality of life, a lesson most of us have realized from the pandemic.
3. Practice empathy and understanding.
Many of us have learned through managing our current work environment that there is a lot on everyone’s plate. Whether it is the new hyflex or remote working conditions, competing responsibilities (personal health, family health and at-home tasks) or adapting to our ever-changing assumptions about our ‘new’ normal of daily life and personal safety, employees are struggling to manage the day-to-day.
Take the time to check in with employees about how they are managing it as a way to open the door to conversation in a setting where one feels comfortable sharing. Allow them to take advantage of more flexible work schedules (including remote work) and remind them of other opportunities for support (e.g. leave programs and policies).
For more information about custom program opportunities through the UCCS College of Business’ Office of Executive Education, contact Dr. Meghan Stidd at email@example.com.
Dr. Karen Markel is dean of the UCCS College of Business.