By Jessica Stitz, MBA, SHRM-SCP
If you’re a leader or business owner, you have probably heard about “the Great Resignation” by now. Chances are, it may have even been keeping you up at night. This year, about 40-50% of the workforce is going to be looking for a new job. And it’s no surprise that, according to a Gallagher study, 61% of businesses have listed attracting and retaining their talent as a top priority this year.
Keeping your current talent is a huge concern, especially because of the extremely tight labor market we are in; there are one million more job openings than people to fill those jobs. It is more cost-effective and efficient to keep your current talent than to try and recruit new talent, onboard them, and cross your fingers that they stay.
What’s causing the Great Resignation?
Many Americans are seeking a new path after taking time for introspection during the pandemic. Many people have realized they are dissatisfied with their current career options and opportunities for development with their current employer. They also want or need more flexibility at work than prior to the pandemic. Some employees were dissatisfied with the way leaders managed things with the pandemic and social movements. On top of these factors, there are plentiful job opportunities available and a compensation bubble. So, many people have decided to leave their jobs.
There’s plenty to feel nervous about as a leader or business owner, but there are also some actionable steps you can take, too. We’re here to offer our support and share our 5 tips to retain your employees during the Great Resignation:
1. Build trust and psychological safety
The number one way to retain people is through trust: your team members need to trust you and feel a sense of psychological safety at work. If employees don’t trust you, then they won’t believe you have their best interests at heart. Without trust, you won’t know if your team members are unhappy or looking for other opportunities until it is too late—when they’re already out the door.
Think about a previous experience when you had a leader or manager that you did not trust. Would you have spoken to them about feeling restless, burnt out, or wanting a new opportunity? Probably not. Without trust, employees can feel that what they share could be used against them or that a leader simply won’t do anything to help them.
So, how do you develop trust and psychological safety among your team? You can build positive, trusting relationships by being self-aware, showing empathy, and showing the team you have their back. Let them make mistakes, be honest, and include your team in decision-making.
As Aron Ain said:
“Trust is the magic glue that makes professional and personal relationships thrive. When we trust each other, everything becomes possible.”
2. Offer career development and opportunities for growth
The numbers don’t lie: According to a Linkedin Learning Study, 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if they invested in their career development. I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken with lately who are currently looking for a new job because they don’t feel like they are growing or learning anymore in their position. They just want a new challenge, to utilize their skill set, and not feel like they are wasting their talents and time. Your team members need hope and forward momentum; this includes your hourly workforce, not just your salaried employees.
So, how do you find out what your employees desire? Just talk to them! Have conversations with people about their wants and needs as well as their short-term and long-term aspirations. But, you’ll only get people to open up if they’ve established trust and psychological safety with you (see why we started this list with trust as the #1 way to retain your employees?).
If your organization doesn’t have a robust training and development program or the means to provide it, that’s okay. Delegating growth opportunities is a great way to develop talent and grow your organization. When delegating new responsibilities, give your employees the resources they need, be there to support them, and give them some grace to make mistakes along the way.
3. Support open communication and transparency
Now more than ever, open communication and transparency are driving employee engagement. For many companies, team members might never even be in the same room! It is also harder than ever to drive engagement in new hybrid and remote workplaces.
So, how do we create clear communication as the physical distances between teams grows? As leaders, we sometimes take for granted the information we know would be beneficial for others to be aware of. At Turning the Corner, we have seen many organizations succeed when they meet regularly and provide business and project updates to the rest of the organization. It turns out that people feel valued when leaders share information with them. Even if it is not pertinent to your whole team, sharing information still helps people feel connected and like they belong in the organization. Also, it helps them understand the big picture—which drives productivity.
Of course, there are times when there is no positive information to share. To not jeopardize that essential trust between your team, it’s best to talk about challenges openly. That doesn’t mean you have to paint a picture of doom and gloom—just present the facts. Open communication will also squash the rumor mill because people will hear what is going on directly from you.
For example, I worked for a company going through significant changes globally to improve the organization’s financial health. The leadership team at the time did not want employees to worry, and they also felt like the full team did not need to know the details of these big organizational changes. It created a lot of unease when people started to notice changes like leaders changing roles. When we humans lack information, we make up our own stories—like that the company was in trouble, layoffs were coming, or we were about to be sold. So, people started leaving the company.
Six months later, we had a new, transparent CEO who held company-wide town halls for all employees. He provided business updates, clear goals for us all to work towards, and answered questions right on the spot. He painted a picture of where the organization was headed and each person’s role to help us get there. He listened to his employees, and he genuinely cared. He also didn’t shy away from hard questions or conversations. He effectively changed the culture of our organization by communicating and being transparent—and employee engagement soared.
4. Contribute to something meaningful
After months of introspection during the pandemic, many people have realized that they want to be making a difference; they want to have a purpose. Now, more than ever, people don’t want to spend the majority of their waking hours working—they want to be working towards something that has a purpose and makes a difference.
A BetterUp study found that more than 9 out of 10 employees are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. This is not just a feeling from Generation Z or millennials; it is all age groups and income levels. So, how do leaders create meaning in the workplace?
One way to make an employee’s work more meaningful is to discuss the organization’s overall purpose and show how that person’s role fits into the bigger picture. There’s an opportunity for you to talk about that every time you meet for employee reviews. Of course, it is easier to describe meaning in some jobs than others; however, you can cultivate a sense of purpose in all kinds of ways, regardless of the role.
For example, in hourly jobs with more repetitive tasks, you can ask your team members how to improve things they think would make a difference in their role or the organization. Giving people opportunities to improve things provides more meaning to their daily work. It’s been proven that people who feel a sense of purpose work harder, miss fewer days, and tend to stay with the organization.
5. Create flexibility in the workplace
We can all remember that dramatic change: we were in the office one day, and then the next day, we were working from home! For some, this was an easy transition. But many others worked from home with multiple people and children who had to attend school remotely. Across the country, makeshift offices popped up in bedrooms, kitchens, basements, and garages.
This transition from the office to the home office was quite an adventure on so many levels. But now, with people returning to the office, a majority of employees say they would like to continue working a few days a week remotely. The biggest surprise of all— we discovered that we could be even more productive at home than in the office! People have realized how much time and money can be saved without commuting, paying for parking, packing lunches, etc.
According to Ernst and Young data, 9 out of 10 employees want flexibility around when and where they work. Over 50% of employees are willing to leave their current employers if they don’t receive an option for flexibility. So, we challenge leaders and business owners to forget what work looked like before COVID and think about when and where work really can be accomplished.
Don’t be the leader who says everyone must be here every day, all day, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Instead, have trust in your employees. The more control leaders give to employees over their schedules and locations, the more engaged they will be because they will have more of a sense of control. Lack of control leads to burnout. There have been so many things that have been out of peoples’ control over the last year and a half, so why not give them control where you can?
We know there are many positions that employees hold that can’t be done remotely, so what do you do in those cases? Many other options can create flexibility for those employees. Can they change their work hours to make it home to pick up a child from school? Can they work four ten-hour days? Can they job share? The goal is to find something that works both for your employees and your business.
Next steps to better employee retention
When it comes to increasing employee retention, remember to take things one step at a time. Prioritize what will have the most significant impact on your current workforce and then get to work. If you are not sure where to start, “stay” interviews are a helpful way to understand your organization’s turnover risk and areas of opportunity. Stay interviews are a way to connect with people while they’re in their roles—not just in hiring or exit interviews.
As Danny Nelms from The Work Institute explains:
“Stay interviews, conducted by third parties, where the employee feels more able to be authentic in their responses, express truer risk factors related to why employees would consider leaving.”
That’s just one of the services Turning the Corner enjoys offering to our clients. We’re proud to have helped several companies and leaders reduce turnover, increase trust, psychological safety, develop flexible work policies, and build development programs.
Attend our upcoming webinar
There’s so much more we want to share with you! Join us to learn more tools for retention during the Great Resignation in a free webinar with Amanda Sarti, our Director & Consultant of HR Services.
Free Webinar: Retention During the Great Resignation
Tuesday, October 26, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm (MDT) | Register
At Turning the Corner, we believe that meaningful work that we enjoy is one of life’s greatest rewards—it’s why we do what we do! Our mission is to end suffering in the workplace and empower businesses to thrive through various HR services and training opportunities.