The year 2021 saw significant disruptions in the labor market, as a record number of workers quit or changed jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.7 million workers quit their jobs in March 2021, rising to a historic 4.5 million in November 2021. This trend, dubbed the “Great Resignation,” has continued well into 2022. Preliminary numbers suggest another 4.5 million quit in March 2022.
Although much of the Great Resignation has been blamed on the disruptions seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, some experts suggest that it began before the public health emergency. The rate of voluntary job loss has been rising for decades. This not only creates persistent turnover and retention issues for employers, but also indicates persistent employee concerns that companies must address head-on. Here are some of the ways that employers can address these concerns on both sides.
Understand reasons for quitting
New data from a Pew Research Center survey in February 2022 reveals some of employees’ most common reasons for quitting in 2021. These include:
- Low pay (cited by 63% of employees)
- Few advancement opportunities (cited by 63%)
- Feeling disrespected at work (cited by 57%)
Other reasons include better employment options elsewhere, seeking better work-life balance, and physical or mental health needs. These are all serious concerns that require responses from employers. However, not every reason applies to every workplace. Individual organizations should seek a thorough understanding of the specific reasons why their individual employees are leaving their jobs. This may involve not only studying data from organizations like Pew, but conducting exit surveys or soliciting anonymous feedback of current employees.
Include employees in changes
Employers have many options for responding to the Great Resignation. Whatever they choose, however, should include current employees. Company leadership should ask their employees questions such as:
- What type of work arrangement (onsite, virtual, or hybrid) do employees really want?
- Are there problems within the company culture?
- Is company leadership contributing to employee turnover?
- Does your pay and benefits reflect your priorities?
- What advancement and development opportunities could the employer provide?
The answers to these questions should help guide the employer’s response to the Great Resignation.
Create retention and succession plans
Although higher compensation and additional perks may stave off turnover, they are not necessarily a long-term solution. Companies should establish retention strategies for all employees, starting their first day on the job, as well as succession plans for standout employees. Retention plans should include:
- Ensuring that new hires understand their role and how it furthers the organization’s values;
- Greater flexibility when it comes to employee benefits, scheduling, etc.;
- Transparency about company policies and expectations;
- Creating an efficient process for applying, hiring, and onboarding; and
- Offering and soliciting employee feedback.
In addition to the above, succession plans may include:
- Scheduling time with all employees to discuss their trajectories withing the company;
- Allowing employees to self-select and make a case for their own advancement and development, rather than relying solely on leadership selection based on evaluation; and
- Establishing mentorship programs.
“Assess your workforce and ask yourself where you see each person fitting within your operations,” says Vince Dawkins, president and CEO of Enertia Software. Promising employees can then be paired with more established employees. “Each pairing will have different objectives, and participants should revisit these objectives regularly to keep knowledge transfers on track and ensure ownership among the team.” Understanding the causes of the Great Resignation, and how to respond appropriately, will help employers reduce turnover while making their organization more attractive to outside candidates. With the right approach to the Great Resignation, your organization can not only weather the storm intact, but benefit from it.