July 2021 was a record-breaking month. Four million Americans quit their jobs, which left a record-breaking 10.9 million jobs open at the end of that month. Called the “Great Resignation,” this trend has seen an unprecedented number of people leaving their current jobs or, at the very least, exploring their options in a labor market that is highly favorable to employees for the immediately foreseeable future. How can companies continue to thrive by keeping top talent? Let’s take a look.
Breaking Down the Numbers
People analytics firm Visier analyzed more than 9 million employee records from more than 4,000 companies to get a better idea of who has been driving the “Great Resignation.” The results reveal a few intriguing trends. Employees between 30 and 45 years old had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. Overall, the increase in resignations has been driven chiefly by mid-level employees.
Visier Vice President, Ian Cook, offered a few explanations in the Harvard Business Review for the trends. For one thing, the shift to remote work has led employers to feel that hiring people with little experience would be riskier than usual. The result of this is an increased demand for mid-career employees, who then are more likely to leave their current jobs for a better offer in a job-seeker-friendly market. Another group of job-changers is comprised of the people who hesitated to change jobs during the pandemic, but are now comfortable enough to make a move.
There are many other factors at play for employees across the board. Much has been reported about people who feel burnt-out or underappreciated. Others have become frustrated with a lack of career development or advancement opportunities. They might also simply look at the market and decide they could be earning more.
Some workers also feel frustrated with oversized workloads. Perhaps their company downsized during the pandemic, forcing everyone to carry a larger basket of tasks. Though times have improved, many companies have not moved to increase staffing. If talking to management about the situation gets them nowhere, expect the overworked crowd to look elsewhere.
Much reporting is devoted to workers who like working from home and are resistant to returning to an office. On the other hand, another, less publicized group of workers have come to hate their company’s hybrid work model. The hybrid-haters could feel this way because they experienced dramatic negative changes in either job requirements or expectations, or they feel distressed by leadership shifts resulting in either too much micromanagement or no management at all.
While there are many reasons why employees leave, it is possible to reduce churn at your organization. According to a poll conducted by Gallup, “Fifty-two percent of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job.”
If you are looking at your retention strategy, three areas to focus on are:
- Your employee value proposition
- Reboarding current employees
- Investing in a culture where belonging plays a starring role
Evaluating Your Employee Value Proposition
In a labor market where flux is the norm, it pays to frequently evaluate your employee value proposition, making sure it is competitive for current labor market conditions.
An employee value proposition (or EVP, for short) is the set of benefits you offer employees in return for everything they bring to the position. It’s the overall “reasons” why employees should or would choose to work for your company, from basics like salary and benefits to other perks, career development opportunities, company culture, and more. An employee value proposition that aligns with an employee’s goals and values can play a big part in retaining top talent, as well as attracting it, especially in a challenging labor market.
Ultimately, your EVP should represent your company’s core values and support your employees in feeling proud to give their best work to your company. The exact components will, of course, vary from company to company, but common elements might include:
- Financial rewards like stock options and bonuses, as well as base salary
- Career development opportunities (leadership or technical training, career paths and promotions, mentorship, education or tuition opportunities, etc.)
- Benefits that support the whole employee (flexible work arrangements; parental leave, retirement funds, paid time off, etc.)
- Community Involvement & Impact (in an age where employees want to connect with the mission, vision, values of an organization this is key; this is particularly important when also looking to engage with targeted talent communities)
To evaluate an EVP and strengthen it, start with an honest assessment of where you currently are. Think about what you would consider your strongest “selling points” to prospective employees, and ask current employees for feedback as well. Once you have an EVP that represents your company and employees, remember – communicating your EVP is just as important as actually building it! You can keep an eye on the effectiveness of the EVP by monitoring important metrics like turnover rates, employee satisfaction, reviews of your company, applicant numbers, and more.
Companies focus lots of resources on attracting new talent and onboarding new employees, but it’s just as important to take care of current employees. The reasons why people joined your organization can be different than why they stay. It’s crucial to talk to people now, not when they have one foot out the door.
In the same Gallup poll mentioned earlier, they also reported over half of exiting employees (51%) say that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the organization.
Onboarding is defined by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) as “the process of integrating a new employee with a company and its culture, as well as getting a new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team.”
Blue Rock Search defines reboarding as “the process of re-integrating current employees with the company and its culture, to ensure they are aware of the full scope of tools, benefits, information, and opportunities available to support ongoing personal development and ensure they have what they need to be a productive member of the team.”
Reboarding could be a formalized program bringing people together at similar points in their careers, or it could be a meaningful, one-on-one conversation to ensure your current talent is happy, fulfilled, and invested in a long-term future with your organization. In any form, it reinforces that you care about employees and want to keep them. It’s also an opportunity to remind them of forgotten benefits, such as mentorship, career development, and “reskilling” opportunities.
When you reboard, it’s a win-win for you and your company.
Invest in Belonging
In conversations around DE&I, the term “belonging” has come up a lot, but it really is a word that we all can relate to. We all want to be valued and part of something. The key question to ask here is, “what do people want and need?” Avoid making assumptions; instead, go straight to the source and investigate what your employees need, what other companies are offering, and how you can stay competitive.
Part of “belonging” is about ensuring the whole employee is taken care of, not just their “work” skills. This means investing in ways to combat burnout and offering perks and benefits that support a healthy work-life balance. Employees are much likelier to feel a sense of satisfaction and belonging at a company that understands they are more than just their work hours. A company that invests in DEI work, parental leave, tuition reimbursement, student loan assistance, or other benefits is one where more people can feel like they truly belong and are truly welcome.
“Belonging” is also closely related to trust between employers and employees – and that trust goes both ways. Employees want autonomy, the ability to (within the bounds of their job requirements) shape their own work, environment, and methods of accomplishing tasks without micromanagement. A FlexJobs survey from August 2021 revealed a few key statistics, including the fact that 56% of workers would change jobs to get a better work-life balance – higher than any other motivation, including a higher salary. Workers are also looking for a more meaningful career (49%), expanding their skill sets (43%), and the ability to pursue a passion (17%).
By addressing these within your company, you can help your current employees stay more engaged and feel a greater sense of belonging, rather than feeling like they have to pursue it elsewhere. The “Great Resignation,” after all, is a mass movement of workers finally feeling empowered to address long-simmering questions and concerns. For the companies that address those issues head-on and with integrity, the Great Resignation is instead a great opportunity.
By Ruben Moreno
About the Author
After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben Moreno and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.” Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR Executive Search practice specializing in the identification, assessment, recruitment, and onboarding of Chief HR Officers and Chief Diversity Officers and their respective teams — inclusive of leaders in Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HRBP’s, Learning & OD, HR Technology, HR Operations, and HR Analytics. Ruben has helped place hundreds of HR Executives and built deep relationships within the CHRO community across multiple industry verticals. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their business and add value beyond executive search.