A “title wave of turnover,” a “turnover tsunami,” call it what you like, but 52 percent of employees plan to leave their jobs in 2021, a 43 percent increase over the two previous years, according to Achievers’ data. Most people quit or stay for reasons related to your workplace environment. Understanding specifically why they come and go enables you to rethink your people strategies and their possibly unintentional consequences.
After the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, working longer hours from home, and being disconnected from company culture and values, people are feeling overworked, burned out, and undervalued. Research by Robert Half finds that 70 percent of employees say they’ve been working on weekends and working more hours than they did before the pandemic, yet 51 percent of them worry that their manager doubts their productivity. Who can blame them for looking for new opportunities in happier, healthier, and more trusting work environments? Employers cannot sit back and passively hope for the best. Listen hard to what your people want today, accept that your workplace will look different; and demonstrate that you value your employees and will fight to retain them.
As employees reconsider and reevaluate their priorities, the top ten reasons they quit haven’t changed dramatically in the last few years. People still want more appreciation and recognition, opportunity to grow and advance, meaningful work, and fair compensation and benefits. What has increased in importance over the pandemic are a desire for better work-life balance, more flexibility, and stronger connection—the kinds of things most companies find hardest to understand and implement.
The global pandemic has changed almost every aspect of work. As employees’ needs change, most companies are struggling to meet them in terms of policies, culture, and benefits. Here are some areas to focus on as you reconsider the effectiveness of your retention strategies.
Don’t try to go back to the way it was. It may seem easier to go back to “normal” but it’s neither possible nor desirable. Sadly, this is exactly what’s happening in companies everywhere. Our workplaces are more diverse now than ever in the past, in terms of generations, gender differences, and ethnicities. Cultures have changed, leadership has changed, needs have changed. We have to have faith that we can not only handle it all but will benefit from moving forward.
Listen and take meaningful action. Turnover prevention boils down to understanding what your people need. Employees have complained for decades that leaders are terrible at making needed changes in response to their feedback. Today’s employees won’t put up with lip service. Act on their feedback so they know you are listening and understand that they are appreciated and valued.
Create a culture of communication and recognition. When people feel underappreciated for their contributions, it’s impossible to have a positive employee experience. Increasing recognition, along with prioritizing open and transparent communication, builds the strong connections and trusting relationships that employees want most.
Nurture a healthy work–life balance. Putting a higher priority on productivity than the well-being of employees leads to disengagement, burnout—and turnover. Focus more on work output than time spent. Give employees manageable workloads and the flexibility to get the job done in a way that fits their life holistically.
Let go with gratitude. Letting go of valued employees can be hard for us as leaders, but don’t hang onto people simply to increase your retention level. Sometimes good people no longer fit into your culture or no longer have the needed skills. Maybe you need them to work in the office and they want to continue to work from home. It’s critical, and beneficial to both you and your employee, when you have an honest conversation about what each of you wants and find a solution. Loss and change are inevitable. Viewing them through a lens of gratitude brings cherished memories that last forever, and opportunity that’s achievable only when you let go.
Changes in the way we do things and think about things are happening in our workplaces faster than ever before, without much time to adjust to them. It’s a mistake to try to cling to the good old days, but totally appropriate to be grateful for them and for the people who created them.