As Resignations Soar, Businesses Must Put in Effort to Retain Talent
Here's how to make sure your team remains intact.
An estimated 55% of the U.S. workforce expects to be looking for a new job within the year to come, Bankrate’s jobseeker survey revealed in August. The survey followed a tidal wave of resignations in late spring and early summer, dubbed by commentators "The Great Resignation," leading many to believe we’re only at the onset of the mass workplace exodus.
The problem at hand, as it happens these days, owes a lot to the pandemic. The resignation rate was already picking up pace in 2018 and 2019. The pandemic and its shockwaves put it on hold at first, but now, as vaccines build up our confidence in a safer tomorrow, the pendulum swings right back in motion.
Staying in one company for years to climb up that corporate ladder is a thing of the past for most, as it just doesn’t pay as well. Changing jobs once in about two years boosts an employee’s income, especially if compared with annual raises. While this in itself is enough to amp up the quit rate, the pandemic added fuel to the fire. Many set off on a new quest for meaning in work life while others also made use of the chance to pick up new skills, which is also a good incentive for making some changes in one's career.
Also playing into this is the sense of burnout instilled in many by remote work and other shakeups, all contributing to soaring levels of stress. Thankfully, the public is now more thoughtful about mental health, and this deep awareness must reach the corporate world too. Covid-19 put the issue into the spotlight, and it’s about time businesses began to take the matter as something more than a bullet point to tick off.
Established enterprises benefit most from reduced turnover
High turnover is not necessarily too critical. Throughout my time in the startup world, known and infamous for its through-the-roof talent attrition, I have seen many companies take off and succeed despite — if not because of — a non-stop revolving door. New people bring new ideas, drive and vision, and when moving from place to place, they tend to collect skills in different fields that can come in handy further down the road.
That said, what works for a nascent small company with no clearly defined structure may not be ideal for an established enterprise. Finding the right person for the job takes time — between 33 and 49 days, according to some estimates — and investment. So does onboarding and training the new hire. Unfilled vacancies also suggest lost productivity, and the revolving door also posits other, less obvious risks, such as IP and data loss.
In today’s world, businesses must learn to retain their talent, and their efforts must tread beyond the regular pizza parties and weekly free pastries.
The humans behind the resource
While some of the factors behind the rising tide of resignations have more to do with today’s business paradigm than specific policies of specific businesses, companies can still do a lot to keep their talent. After all, some of the available research indicates that almost 80% of voluntary resignations could have been prevented, so it is not all doom and gloom for businesses looking to keep their employees on board.
Given the low morale and high anxiety in the workforce, employers must put mental health at the top of their list of priorities. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but the problem obviously remains relevant throughout the year, so measures to help employees deal with the pressure would go a long way in fostering their loyalty. Research proves remote therapy helps patients deal with anxiety and depression, and some HR-management solutions, such as BlockWRK, have announced plans to incorporate telemedicine tools to support employees struggling with mental health.
Other helpful tools include the various solutions for managing employee performance. As handy as those may be, though, they must be part of a larger talent-growth policy. Challenges are a great way to keep people motivated. An employee acing his or her KPIs is probably ready to take on more responsibilities and complex tasks, but when handing those to him or her, be prepared to invest more in the person. Additional responsibilities without more pay will hardly motivate anyone for anything other than resignation.
Making employees feel like their feedback matters is another good strategy. Setting up a channel for employees to speak out — especially anonymously, to avoid fear of personal repercussions — is always a good step toward reducing stress. The next step, though, is following up on the feedback, which would require more commitment, but it would also reinforce the retention.
The persistent theme in all these is that in the time of soaring attrition, businesses can no longer take talent retention for granted. Leaders must remember that they’re managing humans, not just faceless resources, and commit to their well-being by showing appreciation and care. Performative gestures won’t work this time — and those who stick to them will see their top stars leave for rival businesses.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor