COVID-19 has led to the Great Resignation — millions of people, from frontline workers to senior executives, voluntarily quitting their jobs. Looking forward, 23% of employed Americans plan to resign by November 2022, with the majority of those employees (70%) planning to resign by the end of February 2022.
Causes of the Great Resignation
Anthony Klotz, an associate professor at Texas A&M University credited with coining the term the “Great Resignation,” attributes the departures to four main causes:
- Backlog of employees who wanted to resign before the pandemic but held on a bit longer
- Burnout, especially among frontline workers
- "Pandemic epiphanies" in which people experienced major shifts in identity and purpose that led them to pursue new careers or start their own businesses
- An aversion to returning to offices after a year or more of working remotely
Even employees who are staying in their jobs are now feeling empowered to request additional compensation, both salary and benefits, as well as more accommodating working conditions, such as remote work and flexible schedules.
Strategies to Combat the Great Resignation
1. Understand how employees’ needs, priorities and expectations have changed.
Businesses are increasingly requesting, in some cases requiring, employees to return to the workplace. However, employers must understand that employees’ lives have changed substantially since the onset of COVID; they’ve been homeschooling children, started a side business, taken on large home projects and, in general, have a new daily routine. With these changes have come new needs, priorities and expectations; therefore, it’s critical for managers to speak with each employee to understand what those are and then do whatever is possible to accommodate them. These accommodations in combination with demonstrating that your organization cares about their unique life situations are key to countering the effects of the Great Resignation.
2. Address employee burnout.
A first step in preventing burnout is to create a supportive environment. Take a hard look at your culture — is it one where employees feel valued and cared for? One where they feel comfortable asking for help? One way of showing compassion is through your communication efforts. Consider positive notes of recognition and encouragement that come directly from senior leaders and direct managers. Regularly ask employees how they’re doing and about their workload so you can make adjustments and offer additional support as needed.
Additionally, encourage self-care. At a minimum, managers should encourage the use of PTO and other benefits. Regularly remind employees of resources, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), that are available to assist them. EAPs are typically underutilized, so be sure to incorporate regular promotion into your overall communications strategy.
3. Boost workplace wellbeing.
While providing opportunities for employees to get active, like offering virtual or in-person fitness classes, is great, understand that employee wellbeing encompasses much more than physical health. It’s also mental wellbeing, feeling financially secure, having healthy, supportive relationships and having a sense of purpose. Try to schedule virtual or in person coffee meet-ups and team-building activities to help promote connectivity. Professional or personal development can be a great way to boost wellbeing, as well. Topics to consider include financial planning, boundary setting and building resiliency. Remind employees of your company’s vision and mission and how each individual contributes to its success.
To see a significant return on investment, consider implementing a comprehensive employee wellbeing program. Not only do you get a happier and more engaged staff, but you also attract better talent to your company.
4. Enhance the employee experience.
Outside of compensation and benefits, a positive employee experience is essential to retaining talent. By improving the employee experience, you are also increasing the level of employee engagement in the workplace. High employee engagement has a direct correlation with increased productivity and profitability, as well as a lower percentage of employee turnover. Essential elements of the employee experience include quality of employee-supervisor relationships, quality of peer relationships, opportunities for growth and development, a sense of purpose in one’s work, perks, flexible work arrangements and amenities within the physical workplace. Other important pieces of this component are team-building and social opportunities, minimal politics and gossip, fun and enjoyable events, ergonomically sound workstations, access to healthy food, and good aesthetics such as natural light, plants and art.
Are you doing everything you can to engage your workforce? Use our Employee Engagement Scorecard to see how your company ranks and determine if you need to take action.
5. Encourage and reward employees who have chosen to stay.
The Great Resignation is affecting your remaining employees as much as it is your business. When resignations become abundant, it’s a huge hit to morale, so keeping employees who have stayed becomes increasingly difficult. They’ve lost friends and coworkers they relied on. More duties are likely being asked of them. They may feel lost and stretched thin. Focus available resources on these employees to encourage them to stay. For example, have a team-building event where employees can get to know coworkers whom they may not have met before. This will go a long way in boosting spirits and redeveloping bonds and a sense of community.
When it comes to compensation and benefits, traditional employee perks are no longer enough to keep employees satisfied. Today's hyper-competitive job market is completely transforming the benefits and compensation landscape. In addition to offering flexible work arrangements and robust total rewards packages, another key component to motivating and retaining top talent is setting an attractive compensation philosophy. As employee attrition rates rise, consider consulting a compensation expert to help reexamine your company's approach to merit increases, equity refreshers, and remote workers' compensation.
6. Utilize interim talent.
While the ultimate goal is to avoid employees from leaving, it’s likely not possible to avoid any resignations. Interim executives, contract professionals and contract-to-hire solutions have increased in popularity because of the solutions that this talent can provide quickly. These resources can step in to fill Great Resignation openings, provide support to remaining employees or pitch in to accomplish a short-term project that doesn’t require permanent staff.
The Great Resignation is disrupting businesses of all sizes and in all industries, and at all levels of the organization. However, employers who utilize strategies to combat the mass exodus, such as those discussed in this article, can minimize the loss of top talent.
Moving Through the Great Resignation
With an over 40-year history of finding, vetting and placing first-class leaders, EFL Associates, a CBIZ company, has been a trusted partner for organizations navigating their way through unprecedented times — including the current financial climate and what that means for executive hiring. We are here to help your business succeed no matter what the world has in store. Get in touch with one of our talent experts to discuss other proactive measures for retaining current talent and mitigating the effects of the Great Resignation.