Call it the Great Resignation, the Great Attrition, the Big Shift, the Great Reshuffle, or the Great Discontent. Call it whatever you want, but it’s not actually a great (or even a good) thing.
Or is it?
There’s a war for talent nowadays. Organizations are madly pulling out all the stops to be judged as the winner in this pandemic-induced beauty contest. If you find your company engaged in this battle for talent, it's wise to pause and first ask yourselves– “do you know what actually matters to your employees?"
Look deep into what supports your culture-- your employee experience– and seriously ask whether you’re creating a great place to work. Or, are the free learning lunches and ping-pong tables just a way to get recognized in the beauty contest?
Employee experience is not just the “fun” parts of the company culture. It’s an all-encompassing term to describe the trust, safety, respect, and fun of a company. It lends support and enhancement to a company’s culture.
Do you want your people to want to continue working for your organization? Then read on to learn more about how companies can capitalize on employee attrition to attract new employees (and keep those tempted to leave).
How Could the Great Resignation Hurt Your Organization?
The “Great Resignation” is a term coined by a Texas A&M University management professor, Anthony Klotz. It’s essentially describing the willingness of employees to quit their jobs post-pandemic– with or without having another job lined up.
More than 15 million U.S. workers have quit their jobs since April 2021. And, 40% of employees (whether located in the U.S., Canada, or even the U.K.) are at least somewhat likely to leave their current job in the next 3–6 months, according to McKinsey.
That’s a lot of uncertainty, risk, and expense for organizational HR departments to shoulder. It generally takes 6-9 months to effectively onboard a new employee. As you know, though, organizational instability and productivity loss can last much longer than that. And, the replacement expense is significant ranging from half to double the employee’s salary.
If Your Employee Experience is so Great, why are Your Employees Quitting?
In “The Great Resignation: How employers drove workers to quit,” the BBC reveals that for both job-leavers and job-seekers, how companies treated their employees during the pandemic years is determinative of its attractiveness as a company to work for. In simple terms, workers stayed at companies that offered support, and bolted from those that didn’t.
For many, the decision to leave came as a result of the way their employer treated them during the pandemic, not as taking the opportunity to explore some dream job. That was the case for Melissa Villareal, who decided to leave a beloved teaching job due to concerns her employer wasn’t taking safety seriously enough.
If a company is enduring a mass exodus, it’s a signal to job-seekers that something’s not quite right and they should explore opportunities elsewhere. Billionaire Mark Cuban prophetically warned, “How companies respond to that very question [of going back to work too soon] is going to define their brand for decades.”
Those companies with poor pre-pandemic employee experiences tended to double-down on decisions non-supportive of its employees… to attritive consequences. Organizations with non-supportive decisions like layoffs, pay reductions, and ignored safety concerns rendered them that much more vulnerable to the Great Attrition.
In the U.S., 41% of employees who left their job did so with or without having another one lined up, according to a widely-reported Microsoft survey.
Losing employees not only means losing your best stars, problem-solvers, and innovators. It also seriously threatens morale and customer relationships. Identifying how to attract and retain talent is essential for stemming the post-pandemic tide.
Do You Know What Your Employees Really Want?
Offering a “hybrid workplace” is widely reported as the panacea to getting employees to stay. But is that REALLY what your employees want? How do you know? Have you asked your employees, and more importantly, your exiting employees?
McKinsey found a disconnect between why companies believe employees are leaving and why employees are actually leaving. Employers think it’s all about being able to work remotely, having advancement opportunities, and of course, an attractive compensation/ benefits package. That outlook tends to be superficially transactional, though, and turns out to be far from what employees really want.
Employees are only human. And humans are emotional and social creatures. What employees say they want is more of an emotional connection to their work and the company.
The top three factors employees cited in the McKinsey survey as reasons for quitting were:
- not feeling valued by their organizations
- not feeling valued by their managers
- not feeling a sense of belonging at work
Worryingly, minority employees who identified as non-white or multiracial were also more likely to say they left because they didn’t feel they belonged at their companies. It’s a strong sign that organizations are not doing enough to create a sense of belonging for everyone.
It’s time for organizations to invest in a more satisfying employee experience. If more worker autonomy and true flexibility is the price to pay for retention, isn’t that a bargain?
How to Build a Better Employee Experience
Building a better employee experience can deliver measurable impact, especially when crafted with the employee at the center. Here’s how do you do that:
✔️ Remind Employees how Their job Contributes to Society
For many, work is more than just how they pay the bills. Employees want to know their work is meaningful.
Of course companies exist to make money. No one wants to believe, however, that their job has no meaning other than to add to the coffers of the company. Ensure your organization’s employer branding can communicate that truth in a different way.
Direct sellers, for example, often use storytelling to convince employees that their efforts are changing the lives of the sales consultants selling their products. Employees then become more invested as they feel more connected to “doing good” in the world. More controversial industries might focus on the number of people they employ in a region or how sales contribute to their charitable foundation.
✔️ Train Leaders to be Compassionate People Managers
Leaders need to motivate, inspire, and lead with compassion and trust.
During difficult times, leaders who are able to:
- show caring for their team members,
- communicate clearly and authentically, and
- remove obstacles
are the ones to engender trust, pride, and a sense of community. Imagine the exponential effect such leadership would have on the employee experience.
People have a fundamental need for autonomy. Dissatisfaction often arises when management becomes too involved in the employee’s work. A leader who can build trust and a caring team environment, not only empowers their team members but inevitably achieves better results.
Most people managers tend to have little or no actual people management training. To create an employee experience where the workplace empowers employees, managers need to learn to let go of the reins. Gallup finds that it takes next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers but more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them.
Training in connection with SMART goals can be used to reinforce this idea. Reward leaders for their people skills (not just their bottom line) based on people-oriented KPIs such as: team turnover rate, team engagement level, percentage of team to be promoted/ leaving the team to follow other internal advancement opportunities.
People-oriented training and goals communicate the broader message that people are important. They also incentivize managers to put employees--and their experience-- first.
✔️ Prioritize Inclusivity
Over half a million employees of the 100 Best Companies told Great Place to Work that what matters most are inclusive, high-trust cultures.
Employees want to bring their whole selves to work and they want a culture that welcomes them to do just that. Efforts such as onboarding, mentoring, community work, and social activities can help employees connect to their coworkers and the organization.
In fact, Great Place to Work found that black employees’ experience and trust scores skyrocketed when their company instituted meaningful and continuous efforts around racial injustice conversations.
U.S. insurance company, Nationwide is proof positive that this approach works. Trust Index scores skyrocketed after instituting policies aimed to show black employees that it was committed to creating a genuine, and hopefully productive, on-going conversation about racial inequities.
As part of its efforts, Nationwide:
- made large financial commitments to fair housing and social justice organizations.
- widened the reach of its charitable matching program to specifically include social justice.
- instituted a program to bring in civil rights speakers
- held a “unity day” to encourage employee conversations about racial injustice
Scores on the question of whether “my work has special meaning” was 90% among Nationwide’s black employees- an astonishing rise of 16 points– compared to just 49% on average in the U.S.
When employees feel heard and valued, they are more engaged and satisfied. Diversity has long been the answer for successful employee engagement.
✔️ Create a High-Trust, Caring Environment
Employees who feel taken for granted are not likely to stick around. Authentic gestures that go beyond tokenism to engage and reward employees is the key to actively demonstrating respect and caring to employees so they stay.
Among the 100 Best Companies, organizations that climbed the ranking were those that went the extra mile in their efforts during the pandemic-- in caring for their employees, customers, and society. These included, for example, sizable donations to local charities, job-protected voluntary leave, backup child care, and job retraining to prevent layoffs.
Supermarket chain, Wegmans went beyond mere payout gestures, filling true needs and appeasing concerns among workers– while simultaneously– satisfying business needs. The company reimagined compensation, leave, and benefits to include:
- income-protection efforts for those affected by quarantine or illness,
- job-protection policies and efforts aimed at retraining and retaining,
- direct monetary compensation
- back up child care
- among other retention efforts
Organizations are always trying to entice employees to care about them. Now that employees are constantly connected to the job, they want to see and experience caring as a mutual endeavor.
As an organization, you don’t want to be “runner up” in the employer beauty contest. Those cultures with faith in leaders and shared purpose are the ones that thrive through crises. With a lot of compassion, and keeping the employee at the center of your policies, your employee experience can keep attrition at bay.... and also retain your employees.