Turning the Tide on the Great Resignation Take an employee-centric approach to improve retention, loyalty and engagement among employees.

By Susan Lang

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

2021 was a year to remember as The Great Resignation routinely made headlines as record numbers of employees quit their jobs. This pandemic-driven phenomenon is largely attributed to people re-evaluating priorities and re-thinking how and where they work. This assumption is further developed as results of a recent survey by Gartner show that 65% of employees pondered the place work should have in their lives amid the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the high level of resignations that is driving a more volatile labor market is predicted to continue. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million workers left their jobs in December 2021, and 73% of currently employed workers say they are actively thinking about quitting their jobs, according to Joblist. The number of Americans quitting has now exceeded pre-pandemic highs for eight straight months, according to Statista.

If companies large and small don't find a solution to address the problem, turnover and company growth will continue to struggle. It's vital to address this issue and look for ways to improve retention, loyalty and engagement among employees. As The Great Resignation continues, the only way to retain employees will be to evolve and adapt.

What is the solution? Take an employee-centric approach that includes strengthening the relationship of managers with their direct reports, embracing flexibility, expanding company wellness policies and offering professional growth opportunities.

Related: As Resignations Soar, Businesses Must Put in Effort to Retain Talent

Strengthening manager/direct report relationships

Having a set of great managers will help to encourage company loyalty. According to Gallup, great managers reduce turnover more effectively than any other role in an organization, finding that it takes a pay increase of around 20% to lure most employees away from managers who engage them.

Amid The Great Resignation, consistent two-way communication between managers and employees can help strengthen their relationships. Purposeful communication in once-a-week touch-base meetings or informal "coffee chats" to catch up on what employees are working on and what issues they might be having is key to developing relationships and more effectively managing goals and outcomes. In today's remote and hybrid working paradigms, managing at a close level and paying attention keeps employees engaged and builds trust. All of this encourages employees to be as open as possible with their managers, providing opportunities for real-time feedback and discussion.

Employees today also want to know that the work they do matters. Simply throwing employees into a system where they don't have any skin in the game leads to disengagement and potentially an employee who joins The Great Resignation. To avoid this, clearly communicate the company's mission and where employees fit in to make that mission happen.

Related: How to Keep Your Most Valued Employees During 'The Great Resignation'

Embracing flexibility

To stem the tide of The Great Resignation, listen to what employees want. A survey by Ernst & Young found that nine in 10 employees continue to demand flexibility from their jobs, and 54% of employees are considering leaving their job if they're not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work. In 2022, adapt working models to support hybrid or fully remote work to keep employees happy.

Think about the structure of work in the same way their employees think about it. The bottom line is that employees want work integrated into their life.

The old hierarchical, 9-5 in the office just doesn't work anymore. This is especially true for women in the workforce. During the pandemic, as schools and daycares closed and quarantines were implemented, many parents (mothers in particular) left the workforce to take care of home and childcare responsibilities. Between March and April 2021, approximately 3.5 million mothers living with school-age children left active work — "either shifting into paid or unpaid leave, losing their job, or exiting the labor market all together," according to data from the census bureau.

To remain in the workforce, many women need the flexibility to work from home. According to a FlexJobs survey, 80% of women feel remote-work options are among the most important factors to consider when evaluating a new job.

The majority of employees today expect flexible working arrangements to support work-life balance. Provide that flexibility, including time off and flexible hours, so employees can take care of their families and achieve that balance. Providing a level of autonomy on where and when work gets done avoids burning out employees, boosts employee satisfaction and productivity and improves outcomes. If that flexibility isn't provided, turnover within the company will continue to rise.

Expanding company wellness policies

As survey results show 48% of employees report that employers don't prioritize their well-being, embedding employee wellbeing into company culture is a priority. A survey by Paychex shows that less than half of respondents (48%) reported that their employer prioritizes their well-being.

This could include implementing new-parent policies like paid parental leave for women, men and adoptive parents, on-site lactation rooms and a return-to-work program. Promoting healthy snacking options, offering physical fitness programs, providing access to a third-party behavioral health service and offering access to employee assistance programs are also excellent ways to promote employee well-being.

Financial wellness is another area where companies can help support employee well-being. The survey by Paychex found that nearly one-third of employees identified financial wellness as a component they're struggling with most. Offering financial education can go a long way to reducing stress in employees and engendering greater loyalty. From personal experience, one tool found to be effective in reducing employees' financial stress is to offer personal healthcare advisors who review employee medical bills. This creates a foundation for healthy personal finances and minimizes worry about overpaying for surprise medical bills.

Related: Innovative Strategies to Achieve Workplace Wellness

Offering career growth opportunities

Employees want career growth opportunities. If they don't find that in an employer, they will quit. Prudential's Pulse of the American Worker Survey found that among employee respondents planning to seek new employment post-pandemic, 80% said they are concerned about their career growth.

This finding underscores the importance of investing in employee growth and development. Programs such as educational group training across all levels, personalized employee developmental opportunities and career development coaching and planning can support employee development and provide the training and opportunities for advancement employees want.

The Covid-19 pandemic fundamentally changed how employees view their work-life balance. This shift is driving The Great Resignation and creating an imperative for employers to transform the employee experience. Take an employee-centric approach that focuses on strengthening the relationship of managers with their direct reports, embracing flexibility, expanding company wellness policies and offering professional growth opportunities have an opportunity to turn the tide on The Great Resignation.

Wavy Line
Susan Lang

Founder and CEO of of XIL Health

Susan L. Lang founded XIL Health, a woman-led strategic analytics and technology company in the drug economics space. Lang is passionate about helping companies compete by leveraging disruptive technologies that redistribute drug economics to benefit consumers.

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