Managing people

How to keep top talent amid ‘The Great Resignation’

If your inbox has been inundated with resignations over the past few months, you’re not alone – many other HR professionals are in the same boat.

Although America and Europe have been hardest hit, signs of the Great Resignation are emerging in South Africa along with an increase in the gig economy.

At the end of last year, Old Mutual’s reward-management platform, Remchannel, showed that employee turnover had increased by 16% across all industries and that just under 69% of those surveyed said it was hard for them to find new employees or keep the ones they already had.

But why are employees suddenly leaving en masse?

The great resignation explained

The great resignation is the name economists and analysts have given to a post-pandemic surge of people leaving their jobs. Most of the reasons have to do with the newfound freedom of remote work and flexible schedules, as well as the fact that people were already unhappy with their jobs, especially Millennials and Generation Z.

HR teams need to look at how they can retain their top talent and introduce initiatives that will make them want to stay, now.

People are leaving in droves. Why?

It’s difficult to pinpoint one cause of ‘the great resignation’ – it’s likely to be a combination of factors, many of which are related to the pandemic.

After the last few years, more people than ever are experiencing burnout, which refers to the exhaustion employees experience as a result of being overburdened with work or the stress that results, indicating that employees are more aware than ever of how their jobs affect their lives.

Another reason is that the pandemic has convinced many people to re-assess their priorities in life. Because it is widely assumed that hybrid working is here to stay, many employees are likely to look for jobs that provide more flexibility if their employers require them to return to the office full-time. Many others have decided to take a career break or to start over somewhere new.

There is never a good time to sit back and let your best talent go, but organisations are being put to the test in order to retain their employees. It is up to HR and People teams, as well as other business leaders, to think carefully about how to retain employees and to take action right away.

Here are our top six ways HR and People teams can stop the exodus.

  1. Watch for signs of churn in your People data and analytics

Firstly, keep your eye on the numbers.

Only 31% of HR and payroll professionals have time to track critical KPIs, spot trends, and make business-related predictions through HR data and People analytics. This increases to 44% for users of cloud-based systems.

However, forward-looking metrics can predict who is a flight risk and the consequences of their departure, including the impact on your business operations and bottom line. This allows your HR and People team to identify potential problems and devise contingency plans to ensure that they have a minimal impact on the business.

Look at creating interactive dashboards with your HR and People system to closely monitor the trends that really matter to your organisation.

  1. Ask your employees what they want from their workplace

Don’t guess what your employees want from their employers in this new world of work; instead, use pulse surveys and ‘always listening’ surveys to find out.

This brings us back to our data point. By asking the questions you need answers to, you’ll have the data to back up your decisions, making it much easier to make decisions that benefit your workforce and allow them to feel like they’re shaping the organisation as it changes.

  1. Encourage a healthy work-life balance

If burnout really is the main reason employees are looking for greener pastures, don’t ignore it – you have the power to do something about it.

Burnout is directly related to employee turnover – in other words, the best way to keep employees is to support their wellbeing, and if they are suffering from burnout, to put initiatives in place that help them achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Some ways to improve work-life balance and wellbeing include:

  • Implementing meeting-free hours during the working day,
  • Mandating all employees to take their designated holiday time;
  • Hosting online tea breaks;
  • Encouraging staff to take their full lunch breaks, and
  • Looking at remote and flexible working.

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. Consider ways to encourage managers to be mindful of when they send emails, what hours they expect employees to work, and their role in promoting a healthy work-life balance. This comes straight from the top.

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

  1. Provide plenty of development opportunities

Career advancement is one of the many business areas that has been impacted by the pandemic. As a result, a large part of the reason for the career-switching bubble is that people will be looking to make up for lost time.

Talk to your employees about their progression. How can the company support them to be even better? 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.

  1. Benchmark your benefits against other organisations

Employees ultimately want to be happy at work, but it’s also important to recognise the role their compensation package plays in that. In a competitive job market, pay and benefits may be the deciding factor in employee retention. Now is the time to assess your company’s offerings and compare them to those of your competitors.

Examine your competitors’ job postings to learn more about the types of perks and benefits they provide. Remember that, with many employees now working remotely, you will most likely need to think “outside the office” when selecting new employee benefits.

It’s also important to focus on what really matters. Employees don’t see ping-pong tables and Friday drinks after work as perks. It’s time to really consider what your employees need to make their jobs easier and their lives more enriched for working where they do – consider benefits such as childcare support, extra leave, and more investment in development and skills training.

  1. Carefully consider your policies around ways of working

Your office’s rules will have shifted over the last few years. If you’re encouraging your employees to return to the office, keep track of how comfortable they are with the decision and make sure your policies reflect your stance so everyone knows where they stand.

Will your employees feel comfortable returning to work if your policy requires them to maintain social distance and wear masks in and around the office? Will they still believe it’s too soon? You should also consider whether they will benefit from returning to the office. It may be less beneficial if, for example, your meeting rooms aren’t large enough to use due to social distancing. All of these factors must be considered.

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.

Employees come and go, but make sure they leave for the right reasons.

It is a fact of life that people leave their jobs. Whether it’s for better pay, employee benefits, a new role or advancement in their current career, or simply the chance to try something new, the allure of a new role can be strong.

However, it’s important to remember that the entire world is feeling the pressure, and understandably so – we’ve all been on a rollercoaster over the last few years, which has clearly contributed to how many employees feel about their jobs.

So the time has come for HR and People teams to act and do something about this. Understand your employees’ feelings. Assist them in feeling at ease. Then put in place policies, procedures, and initiatives that will make them feel appreciated.

If they do leave, rest assured that you did everything possible to keep them, and for those who do decide to leave, maintain contact with them. With so much turnover in the job market, you never know if employees who leave today will be ready to return to your organisation in the future.

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