What are the elements that make up a satisfying job? Obviously, competitive pay and benefits and a good work-life balance come to mind. What about the not-so-obvious elements, more difficult to articulate, that shape corporate culture like happy hours and lunches with co-workers, teamwork and collaboration, and certain rituals like celebrating milestones. COVID-19 robbed us of so much in our personal lives and also wreaked havoc on our working lives, taking away many rituals and practices that make our jobs enjoyable and satisfying. For many, when work was reduced to well, work, employees came to the conclusion they didn’t really like their jobs. According to the Department of Labor, nearly four million people quit their jobs in April, the most ever, and “the great resignation” shows no signs of stopping. According to a Prudential study, one in four employees is preparing to seek new employment opportunities once the pandemic threat has subsided. Further, more than 40% of people participating in Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, a global survey of over 30,000 people in 31 countries, said they are considering leaving their job this year. The pandemic made it blaringly obvious what employees value most and has given them the confidence to tell employers, “Take this job and shove it.”
Let’s Take a Deeper Dive
Economists believe another reason more employees are leaving their jobs is simply due to a backlog. Turnover is natural and, by some estimates, more than five million fewer people quit last year than in a typical year. Some employees chose to ride out the pandemic storm since it wasn’t a particularly good time to be job searching, and millions of other employees were involuntarily terminated accounting for some of the reduction in resignations. Now that the economy is getting back on track, employees may suddenly feel more secure in heeding their impulses to quit.
The pandemic also fueled unprecedented consumer savings. The U.S. personal saving rate, the percentage of people’s income remaining each month after taxes and spending, skyrocketed to a record 32.2% in April, up from 12.7% in March, while consumer spending fell 12.6%. With more money in the bank creating a financial cushion, dissatisfied employees feel free to leave their jobs.
Another contributing factor is that many retirement-aged employees have decided to take an early retirement. From March 2020 to March 2021, 17% of Americans aged 55 to 64 retired, up from 16.8% in the two years prior to March 2020. More savings, businesses closing, job losses and being at a higher risk for coronavirus complications could have prompted some older employees to retire sooner than they originally planned.
On a more rudimentary level, the pandemic caused many to reassess their lives and how they spend their time. Where work was once the center of people’s lives and formed their identity, a shift has occurred. Overworked and disengaged employees have taken a hard look at their lives and may have decided to leave their jobs to pursue a new career path or go out on their own, develop more interests and hobbies, travel the world, or simply focus on time spent with family and friends.
What’s A Company To Do?
Whatever the reasons may be, employees have left, and will continue to leave, their jobs in record numbers. Compounding the problem for companies is the hot job market. With the economy quickly rebounding, companies have shifted from layoffs and terminations to recruiting in high gear. While many companies may still be reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic, all employers would be wise to plan ahead to mitigate the effects of a wave of resignations and stiff competition for good talent. Focusing equally on retention and attraction is a good place to start. Here are some key retention strategies to help keep the valued employees you already have.
Identify And Engage Top Performers
Don’t make the mistake of assuming top performers are engaged. They set the bar very high for their employers. Because they work harder, and often better, than their peers, superstars expect to be treated well through stimulating work and stretch assignments, lots of recognition, professional growth and development and the opportunity to share in the organization’s financial gains. The pandemic made it very difficult to keep employees engaged so it’s likely top performers are feeling burned out and unsatisfied. It’s time to take their temperature and ensure your valued employees are reaping the employment benefits they deserve. Figure out what high performers value and give it to them. A good way to accomplish this is through a “stay interview” in which you directly ask your superstars what they value and what is lacking in their jobs and how you can provide them the opportunities they crave and deserve.
Most employees want some form of frequent recognition which, when given, according to the Achievers Workforce Institute, is a prediction of lower intention to job hunt. Some employees like very public recognition in front of peers. For those employees a “shout out” during a meeting or email blast to the entire team does the trick. Others don’t like the spotlight and appreciate positive feedback in one-on-one emails or informally in-person.
Compensation and enhanced benefits are the ticket for some high performers and still others, may seek specialized training for career development. Figure out what makes your superstars tick, and give it to them. If you don’t, someone else will.
Introduce More Flexible Policies
Let’s face it, remote work in some form is here to stay, and many employees will look elsewhere if not allowed to work remotely. Envoy, a design-centric software development company, recently released a report in which they surveyed employees asking about their views on hybrid work. Nearly half surveyed stated they’d leave their jobs after the pandemic if their employers don’t offer a hybrid work model. While 47% said they would likely leave their jobs in that scenario, 41% said they would be willing to take a job with a slightly lower salary if it offered a hybrid work model.
Implementing looser and more varied policies also shows employees corporate leadership’s commitment to their well-being, going a long way towards establishing mutual respect for one another. Job sharing, telecommuting, and compressed workweeks have already been implemented successfully over the past year, and studies show productivity has actually increased amid these employee-friendly policies. Employees like to have control over when and where they work, and as long as the work gets done, why does it matter how it got done? Some other ideas to consider include unlimited vacation, sick/vacation leave donation and expanded maternity and paternity leave.
Draft and communicate a clear policy and train management on its implementation before rolling out any new or altered policy. It’s also a good idea to start slowly and even take a trial run before making a new policy or policy change permanent. Err on the side of giving less at the onset with the idea you can always make the policy more generous or flexible in the future. It’s a disaster to employee morale when a policy is implemented and then later scaled back.
Focus On Employee Benefits
According to a Prudential survey, almost eight in 10 employees want their company to focus on providing benefits central to their economic well-being such as health, disability and life insurance and participation in retirement plans. With over a year under their belts dealing with a pandemic and the havoc it wreaked on mental and physical health, 40% of employees in the same survey said they are more likely now than a year ago to accept a job with a new company offering better benefits. Survey your workforce to determine what benefits they value. It is a mistake to simply offer a new benefit that seems popular among some populations. Some benefits to consider are more paid leave which allows employees to recharge and, ultimately, be more productive, financial planning, health benefits like gym memberships and pet insurance. It’s important to continue to ask employees the benefits they value as that changes over time.
Continue Focus On Work-Life Balance
During the pandemic, many companies recognized their employees were suffering, and they made a conscious effort to focus on how to improve employees’ work-life balance. Now is not the time to reign in that focus. Of course, competitive benefits and flexible policies are a great way to demonstrate a corporate commitment to work-life balance, but there are other ways to do it as well. A healthy work-life balance is certainly a component of corporate culture and should be demonstrated from the top down. Establish boundaries for when work should and should not be performed and get buy-in from the top. It’s important for employees to know the CEO is on vacation and not accessible while away. Managers need to feel supported when they allow employees to cut out early to attend a child’s school performance or to drive an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment. Also keep in mind and respect that everyone’s “family” doesn’t look the same and make a conscious effort to provide benefits that appeal to everyone.
Employee Retention Planning With Smart HR
Talent migration is already occurring and will continue through at least the end of the year as employees seek increased flexibility, enhanced benefits and career growth opportunities. Weary HR staff could likely use some support with employee retention planning, and Smart HR is here to help. Whether your priority is auditing your employee benefits and compensation practices or taking your staff’s pulse on these issues, Smart HR consultants have the breadth and depth of knowledge to ensure you are prepared and well-positioned to engage and retain your staff. Keep your employees focused on you and prevent their wandering eye. Call today.