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What Workplace Leaders Can Learn From the Great Resignation

Ivan Chiosea Alamy Stock Photo.jpg

Image: Ivan Chiosea - Alamy Stock Photo
The nation's "quit rate" reached a 20-year high in November 2021. The top reasons include low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. But will this employee-driven dynamic persist—and how can workplace leaders retain the employees they want to keep?
First, employers should figure out if employee quit rate is a short-term issue or a long-term one.
“Most employers in my circle believe this is not a permanent trend, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting productivity right now,” Robert Harris, industry analyst and No Jitter contributor, said. He added that [employees demand] higher salaries with more flexible working conditions. Supporting his point, HAYS recently released its Salary Guide that states, “74% of employees said the pandemic has made them consider their job or career choices.” Harris noted, what we have learned is employee sentiment needs to be responded to—even if it's temporary—or it could drive a company out of business. He said, “Don't make your employees beg to maintain their current standard of living.”
Companies must also prioritize the employee experience, Beth Schultz, Vice President of Research & Principal Analyst, Metrigy, said. In a recent survey Metrigy conducted on employee experience, only 17.6% of companies said they were comfortable with the employee experience strategy they had in place before the pandemic. Far more companies—almost 80%—said they've needed to revamp (52.3%) or initiate (26.6%) an employee experience strategy in response to changing workplace dynamics.
HAYS Salary Guide also reported that 42% of employers are losing talent because they can get higher pay elsewhere, and 62% of respondents considered leaving their role due to a lack of career growth. To demonstrate to their employees that there are growth paths, employers “must prioritize training and education for career development as part of their employee experience strategies,” Schultz said.
Metrigy’s research found that 56.1% of companies identified this as one of their most important goals, second only to keeping employees informed.
Data from Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report shows the Great Resignation is more of a workplace issue, and it’s not limited to specific roles, industries, or pay levels. To increase employee engagement and create healthier, more resilient, and better performers, Schultz said from a technology standpoint, workplace leaders have a wide variety of tools available to measure, encourage, and facilitate engagement among employees.
Schultz noted that social engagement software could encourage interactions among employees around shared interests, like pets, food, exercise, or whatever, creating an intradepartmental rapport that’s not solely task- or team-based. In Metrigy’s employee experience study, 44.7% of companies said they already use social software, with another 26.5% planning to adopt it this year. Apps such as Microsoft Yammer, MixR, and Workplace from Meta fall in this category, explained Schultz.
Gallup data also shows the highest quit rate is among “not engaged and actively disengaged workers.” Harris corroborated this with an anecdote about a family member who recently had been hired remotely for a position. This family member initially worked 100% remotely but soon started going into the office a few days a week. Harris said this new employee is more engaged because of that on-site time. The employee also had tighter relationships with colleagues, with a better understanding of the less formal aspects of their personality and work style.
The employee also had tighter relationships with colleagues and better understood fewer formal aspects of their personality and work style. “In my opinion, real on-site work is the key to keeping people engaged. That doesn't mean going on-site because they ‘should,’ [and] sitting in a cubicle [with] nobody talking to them all day.” On-site work should coordinate alongside organic, productive interactions, Harris added.
Gallup finds that it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers. So how can workplace leaders identify and mitigate future resignation risks?
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report also says the most critical factors for attracting and retaining your top talent are company culture and work-life balance. To address the former, the Professional Leadership Institute recommends that employers consider providing proper management training; to address the latter, they should consider implementing more comprehensive wellness programs.
When asked where to begin and what to always keep in mind for workplace leaders who want to re-evaluate their company culture, Harris said it depends on the size of the company. “Culture is much harder to replicate in large enterprises and may not be as appropriate.” In that case, Harris added, it may be better to clearly define the mission and ensure employees feel like they're an important part of the business.
Employees do not expect every day on the job to be easy, Harris said. “If there are days when an employee “hates” their job, but the work is important enough and a company thanks to them [for doing it], that can go a long way in preventing them from uploading a resume to the job sites that weekend.”