Whichever way you view this major global shift in hiring and attrition, the things that will help you ride this wave are:
1. Understanding what’s driving it.
2. Understanding what you can do to hang onto your high performers.
Three key things to note about The Great Resignation
Although reports of employees leaving their jobs seem to be widespread, it pays to be aware that the devil is often in the details. Here are three examples of this.
1. It’s mid-career employees who are resigning
Although over 88% of executives in a PwC survey said they’re seeing higher attrition than normal, it’s important to be aware that this turnover isn’t happening across the board. It’s concentrated more heavily for employees mid-way through their careers, who are typically millennials.
We already know that millennials are less loyal to organizations, so it’s no surprise that these are the ones who are leaving, with Gen X and Boomers tending to stay put. Thus your retention strategy needs to be tailored with these segments in mind.
2. There’s a mismatch between why employees are saying they’re leaving and why managers think they are
According to a recent report by McKinsey and Company on The Great Resignation, the top three reasons employers assumed their people were quitting were:
- Work-life balance
- Physical and emotional health
While there’s certainly a grain of truth in these, the reasons employees cited were starkly different and much more about relationships than incentives or working conditions:
- They didn’t feel valued by the organization (54%)
- They didn’t feel valued by managers (52%)
- They didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%)
Thus to truly get to the bottom of why staff are leaving, you need to seek out both sides of the story.
3. Tech and healthcare are responsible for the largest proportion of resignations
This makes sense on a number of levels. Firstly, and without stating the obvious, because we’ve been in a global pandemic, health workers have been subjected to more extreme working conditions, more pressure, stress and workload increases, inevitably leading to turnover.
Secondly, whether it’s video conferencing and remote working tools, ecommerce, fitness apps or social networking, the tech industry has exploded (and largely profited) as a result of the pandemic. Naturally, this has created a higher demand for talent in this area, who can consequently demand higher pay, which has led to greater movement within the industry (and a skills shortage.)
The key takeaway here is that various different factors drive attrition and not every industry will experience an increase in turnover. However, the learnings in this article are still relevant for all HR teams and managers.
3 key things you can do about The Great Resignation
1. Listen to your employees
Since The Great Resignation has come about, there have been a number of studies trying to identify its root cause.
As we mentioned before, McKinsey and Company found a discrepancy between employer and employee reasons for leaving an organization, with employees citing feeling valued by the organization and managers and belonging at work as their top reasons for leaving.
Other studies have cited alternate reasons, with Limeade reporting burnout as the most common factor, followed by company changes and lack of flexibility. In another survey conducted by Indeed, employers reported their workers’ top priorities as: higher pay, flexibility and work/life balance and remote work options.
This lack of consensus reiterates that, though the great resignation problem may be global, due to the varied and unique nature of organizations, the solution has to be tailored to local factors. This means listening to your employees.
Ask them how they’re doing, how they’re coping. If they’re okay in and outside of work. Find out what matters to them, what they’re satisfied with, what they want to see change, and if there’s anything you can do to improve (an eNPS is a great way to do this).
And if they do leave (which some inevitably will), ask them why. Ask their managers why too, and see if there’s any mismatch in what they’re saying.
The answers to these questions can be collected en masse using employee listening tools like intelliHR and the data analyzed at both a micro and macro level, providing important insights and clues to what’s driving attrition and retention, and what you can do to help.
2. Treat your employees as individuals
Although asking questions at scale through continuous feedback and regular employee pulse surveys will allow you to track trends and overall sentiment occurring at an aggregate level in your organization, it’s important to look at each employee as an individual, too.
Every employee is unique and what drives one won’t even register for another. What may cause one person to get extremely stressed, will be a “fun challenge” for someone else. Your HR software and analytics can help with this too.
For example, if you send a regular (i.e., monthly) employee wellbeing pulse, you can use it to get a detailed understanding of each individual employee’s “typical” level of wellbeing. This enables managers to be sensitive to shifts or issues with their team members and provide appropriate support, which, when personalized and timely, could be just what’s needed to prevent them from leaving.
Similarly, as “not feeling valued” is a top reason that employees leave, managers need to make a conscious effort to understand how their team members like to be recognized and rewarded. Something as simple as a personal “thank you, you’ve done a great job” can go a long way.
Even better, linking their work and achievements back to the organization’s goals and mission will help to show employees exactly how and where their contribution counts.
Capturing these nuggets of wisdom using surveys, feedback tools or manager notes that are stored on employee profiles helps to create a dossier of information or “reference guide” that managers can use to tailor their approach
These materials also aid with continuity when there is a changeover in managers, which increases the risk of direct reports leaving.
3. Create a sense of belonging
One of the key focuses of HR is to build culture (with many HR teams now called “People and Culture” teams). This is usually done through lunches, events, perks, ping pong tables and team bonding days.
While such initiatives provide opportunities for staff to get together and build connections, it’s important to qualify that culture ≠ belonging!
The Cambridge dictionary defines belonging as:
- Feeling happy or comfortable in a situation.
- Being in the right or suitable place.
Many of us can probably think of a situation (aka a work event) where we feel anything but happy or comfortable, or a time when work has felt like the opposite of the right place. Indeed, EY recently found that around 40% of Americans feel emotionally isolated in the workplace.
Belonging and feeling comfortable don’t come from the big events or gestures. It starts with and is maintained by the small, everyday interactions.
Belonging comes from creating a sense of psychological safety where everyone feels valued and heard. From seeking out everyone’s contributions and opinions, not just those with the loudest voices. From truly listening to those contributions and checking your bias to ensure you’re not unintentionally favoring or discriminating against a particular group.
It comes from encouraging staff to try new things and making it okay to make mistakes. But most of all, it comes from connection.
The same EY survey found that 39% of respondents felt the greatest sense of belonging when colleagues check-in with them regularly.
Sounds easy to do, but to be truly meaningful, it needs to be intentional and personal, not just professional. It needs to be “how are you doing?”, not “how are you doing with your work?”.
Recognizing that employees are multi-dimensional human beings with lives outside of work is a key part of psychological safety. Making them feel like it’s okay to take off the mask and bring their “whole self” to work will not only increase that feeling of belonging, but has the added benefit of enhancing performance.
It’s important for managers to check in regularly in this way, too, especially in hybrid and remote teams where you don’t see employees in front of you every single day.
To help with this, intelliHR sends automatic prompts to managers to remember to check in with staff (because let’s face it, even with the best intentions it’s easy to forget or de-prioritize). Our check-in templates also help to ensure you’re asking the right questions and provide a mechanism to capture responses so that you can refer back to them any time (if you need some inspiration, download our free 1:1 template).
All of these little things, from gathering feedback and checking in and using tools that help track and report on responses over time will help you to get to know your team members as the complex and unique individuals they are and will alert you to any potential issues or signs that they’re at risk of leaving. So if they do leave, you can rest easy knowing you did absolutely everything you could to prevent it.