War on Talent. The Great Resignation. The Rise of the Career Nomad. With statements like these shaping the reality of the work world we inhabit, perhaps it goes without saying; talent is top of mind for many HR practitioners and people leaders as we look to 2022. What will have a significant impact on organizations achieving their goals? What has the potential to decrease company costs as the year unfolds? What will create an enticing and engaging culture, driving success? The answer to all of these questions begins with talent, our people— a company’s most valuable asset— and yet it has never felt more difficult to maintain this key piece of the workplace puzzle.
I hear the question being asked over and over again by the best practitioners in the business; amidst ‘crisis’, how do we seize an opportunity to retain talent through intentional development in the year ahead? What could that look like?
With the workplace shockwaves of the pandemic still resonating (the ‘Great Resignation’ notable among them), employee turnover has never been more consistently high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 15 million US residents quit their jobs between April and October 2021. Every resignation costs a company on average $4,000 just to replace and rehire, without considering additional costs such as lost productivity, training, and new equipment. This is significant. This has an impact.
How can you mitigate this trend for your organization? Our team has a few ideas that could get employees with one foot out the door reconsidering.
How Employers are Retaining Workers in 2022
The first immensely impactful tool is often overlooked— employee surveys. Employee surveys are beneficial, since keeping your employees engaged requires understanding where they’re coming from. Don’t assume that their aspirations and priorities are what they were when you hired them. We live in tumultuous times: employee motivations can change, and fast. Do you know where your employees are struggling? Is it a pain point that your organization can move to address in time to retain them? Now more than ever, employees are looking for agile leadership as we walk through times of constant change. Surveys are an excellent starting point to show that your organization is open to feedback and looking to collect meaningful data on what matters now. Exit surveys can be especially valuable, since results gathered allow you to zero in on the reasons why you’re losing employees and develop your work culture and environment to appropriately address any themes that arise.
Sense of Purpose & Community are Essential for Employee Retention
As we’ve learned, much of what drives the Great Resignation is dissatisfaction. While many employers feel that economic considerations such as salary and benefits are front and center, data gathered by management consultant firm McKinsey does not reflect this. A sense of unhappiness in the work culture is the primary driver: 54% of workers leaving or considering leaving felt their work wasn’t valued. 51% felt like their organization wasn’t doing enough to make them feel like they belonged there. While benefits and salary increases can mitigate these and other concerns, ultimately it is a recognition of the workers’ humanity that is the most apt response to these findings. Organizational leaders are being asked to prioritize employee well-being in new ways. This is more than just fitness perks; this is training leaders to have conversations about mental health & wellness with those they oversee and creating opportunities to gather together, sparking that sense of community. All of this likely involves flexing new muscles. Investing in leadership development, and equipping leaders with the tools to execute these initiatives, is crucial for increasing employee retention and satisfaction. Often, it is day-to-day leaders who have the strongest impact on shaping an employee’s experience and influencing culture.
Additionally, the seismic WFH shift of 2020 has caused monumental changes in employer-employee relationships. Greater flexibility has been one commonly-reported advantage. Unfortunately for some, a negative aspect of this change has been the depersonalization and dehumanization of workplaces. If your employees’ view of your company has been transformed by the pandemic from a team of humans with relationships and shared goals to an impersonal and distant machine, purpose and community will be lost, and your workplace culture has the potential to wither fast.
Recognizing the Humanity of Your Workforce
How, then, to humanize remote work? Simply, leaders must take more interest in their employees, not as company assets, but as people. Engage them in their interests that have nothing to do with their jobs. Check in around meaningful goals. Meet your employees where they’re at. Consider launching Employee Resource Groups or scheduling regular weekly touch points with each team member. Working from home has muddled the line between personal and professional life, and it creates a powerful impact when leaders acknowledge this. We have an opportunity in this new remote age to invite more humanity in, connecting the other elements of employees’ lives to their daily workflow through tools and conversations.
Employees mourning family losses (as many are these days) or facing childcare or elder care struggles are under particular pressure. What are tangible measures that your organization can take to support your employees in these situations? More importantly, how can you institute a workplace culture where employees feel comfortable bringing up these issues? On a practical level, flexible work schedules, tailored benefit offerings, and generous company-instated leave policies signal to employees that their humanity matters. This workforce is the most diverse that the US has ever had, and that means that greater flexibility on the part of leadership is necessary in order to accommodate employee needs. Families of all kinds are being squeezed harder than ever before. Companies that can adapt to these environmental factors, and support their employees in the process, will endure. Companies that cling to talent retention strategies that no longer serve the events of this decade risk hemorrhaging many of their best and brightest employees.
We have an opportunity in front of us to meet the moment – to reinvent amidst crisis and engage talent in new, meaningful ways that will carry organizations into the workplace of the future. Let’s not miss it.