Managing people

The great resignation: How you can keep top talent

The 'great resignation' of post-pandemic employees leaving their jobs is hitting organizations hard. Why are people leaving in droves? How can you keep top talent at your organization? This article covers the reasons behind the trend, the impacts on business and offers 5 tips on how to retain your best employees.

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Has your inbox been inundated with resignations over the past few months? If so, you’re not alone; so many other organizations are in the same boat.

Analysts are calling it the great resignation – with 25% to 40% of mid-career staff expected to leave their jobs this year – but why are employees suddenly leaving en masse?

Here’s what we cover in this article:

What is the great resignation?

The great resignation is the name economists and analysts have given to a post-pandemic surge of people leaving their jobs.

According to one survey, 41% were thinking of quitting their jobs. In reality, it means that over one-in-three of your colleagues are considering a move. That’s huge.

However, the reality of people actually upping and leaving is slightly different, with around 5% of employees leaving since the start of the pandemic—but that’s still one-in-20 employees quitting.

Translation? We’re not out of the woods yet, and people will likely continue to hand in their notices.

That means business owners and people teams need to act now by looking at how they can  not only attract top talent, but make them want to stay too.

Why are people leaving their jobs?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that’s caused the great resignation. It’s likely several factors, many related to the pandemic.

After the recent period of uncertainty we’ve had, more people than ever are suffering from burnout.

35% of Canadians are feeling burned out.  The exhaustion employees feel from being swamped in work or the stress as a result, have been rapidly increasing, suggesting employees are becoming more aware than ever of how their employment is impacting their lives.

Another reason is that the pandemic has convinced many people to re-assess their priorities in life.

With 74% of employees expecting remote work to become standard, many employees are likely to be looking for jobs that offer more flexibility if their employers are requiring them to go back into the office full time.

Many others have made the decision to take a career break or just have a fresh start somewhere new.

5 tips to keep top talent at your organization

There’s never a good time to sit back and let your best talent leave, but organizations are being tested to their limit to keep hold of their employees.

It’s up to HR and People teams, along with other business leaders, to think carefully about how they can retain employees and start taking action now.

Here are five top ways you can hold on to your best people.

1. Find out what your employees want from their workplace

Don’t guess what your employees want from their employer in this new world of work. Ask them with the likes of pulse surveys and ‘always listening’ surveys.

By asking the questions you need answers to, you’ll have the data to support your decision-making.

And, as a result, you should find it much easier to make decisions that benefit your workforce and allow them to feel that they’re shaping the organization as it changes.

2. Encourage a healthy work-life balance

Burnout is directly correlated with employee turnover. In other words, the best way to stop employees leaving is to make sure they are not suffering from burnout and support their wellbeing.

And if they are suffering from burnout, put initiatives in place to support them, so they get a healthy work-life balance.

Some of the most popular ways to improve work-life balance and wellbeing during this new era of work include:

  • Implementing meeting-free hours during the working day
  • Mandating all employees take their designated vacation time
  • Encouraging staff to take lunch breaks
  • Encouraging staff to finish work on time
  • Looking at remote and flexible working options.

At the heart of preventing burnout is also ensuring teams are well resourced, objectives are realistic, and managers are supportive.

A lot of this comes from the tone and culture set by senior leaders in the business, so this is one thing to be very aware of.

Think about ways to encourage managers to be mindful of when they send emails, what hours they expect employees to work, and their role in supporting a healthy work-life balance.

This comes right from the top.

You may also want to consider giving employees extra days off or an early finish on a Friday, with the implication that they use this time to help them maintain a healthy work-life balance.

3. Provide plenty of development opportunities

Career progression is one of the many business areas disrupted by the pandemic.

A significant 45%  of workers were ‘sheltering’ during the pandemic. This term means staying in a job not because you want to, but because you feel you need to for your own job security, which pushes career progression down the agenda.

Meanwhile, 21% also said the pandemic had a direct impact on their career progression.

So, a big part of why we are seeing a career-switching trend is because people will be looking to make up for lost time.

Talk to your employees about their progression. How can you support them to reach their goals, and get to the next level of their career?

What do they want from their career in one, three-, and five-years’ time? Are there any internal positions they can take to move into a position they want?

If you can offer employees the career progression and opportunities they seek, it may stop them from walking out the door.

4. Benchmark your benefits against other organizations

Ultimately, employees want to be happy in their job—but it’s important to recognize the role their rewards package plays in that, too.

In a competitive job market, pay and benefits could prove the deciding factor when it comes to employee retention. Now’s the time to take stock of what your company offers and compare it to your competitors.

Look into your competitors’ job postings to learn more about the kinds of perks and benefits they have to offer.

Remember, with many now working remotely, you will probably need to think ‘outside the office’ when it comes to choosing new employee benefits.

It’s also important to focus on what really matters. Ping-pong tables, bean bags and Friday drinks after work aren’t necessarily the perks your people want.

Speak to your employees and really understand what they need to help them get the right work-life balance for them.

Examples of the types of benefits they need to include things like as childcare support, longer annual leave entitlement, and more investment in development and skills training.

5. Carefully consider your policies around ways of working

The rules around your office will have changed over the past few years.

A remote-first policy has plenty of benefits for companies, including increased productivity. Many employees appreciate the flexibility and work-life balance that remote work provides, which leads to increased employee satisfaction and retention.

If your company chooses a full or hybrid return to office, here are some considerations.

Check in and see how comfortable employees feel. There may be people who feel uncomfortable with going back to the office or are cautious due to personal or family health. Consider these concerns and make sure your policies reflect your stance.

Make sure you have enough space to accommodate your staff. During the pandemic, some companies downsized or closed their office space. Or perhaps the company has grown and there are more employees than available desks.

If one of your primary reasons for going back into office is team culture, intentionally create the space and time for this. For example, you can encourage teams to reduce meetings on in-office days or to schedule collaborative sessions in-person. If you have team events or lunches, schedule them on a consistent in-office day and encourage staff to connect with each other.

These are all factors you need to consider.

Ultimately, your employees will want to feel that they’re being heard and taken care of, so your policies should reflect this in a sensitive and carefully considered way.

People might leave for the right reasons

People leave jobs—it’s a fact of life.

Whether that’s for better pay, employee benefits, a new role or progression in their current career, or simply the opportunity to try something new, sometimes the lure of a new role is too strong.

Remember to empathize with your employees. Help them to feel reassured. Then implement policies, procedures and initiatives that will make them feel valued.

If they do leave, you’ll feel safe in the knowledge you’ve done the best you can to retain them, and for those who decide to go, don’t lose contact with them.

With so much movement in the job market, you never know—employees who leave today may find themselves ready to come back to your organization in the future.