Where’s Everybody Going?
Kate liked her work, her colleagues, and the company. In her late fifties, Kate assumed she would stay through to retirement. But after working from home for over a year she was surprised to find the return to her office unsettling. At first she wrote her feelings off as adjustment nerves, along with a degree of uncertainty about the safety of her health. But as time went on, she realized it was much more. After the initial shock and adjustments, Kate found working from home had given her a new perspective. She hadn’t had to deal with a lengthy commute, for which she was so grateful that she was often at her desk earlier and later than if she had to go into the office. Her productivity and work quality improved. She had more control over her time and was better able to juggle work and life. No commute and eating at home saved money and reduced stress. Her work allowed the flexibility to get it done at hours that worked better for her and enabled more time with her family. Not wanting to leave her job completely, she attempted to discuss the possibility of some hybrid option but was only told “it was under consideration.”
“No one heard me. If they would have just worked with me, I would definitely have stayed.”
Instead, Kate quit. She started her own consulting firm and now has the work situation she wanted, working part-time for a number of clients.
The Great Resignation, or “The Big Quit” is real. Pundits attributed the phenomenon to generous unemployment benefits and stimulus checks and pointed to Millennials and Gen Z as the majority of those leaving their jobs. But data shows that the trend started in 2018, before the pandemic, and was only exacerbated by it. The greatest increase in resignations is among mid-career, management-level employees between the ages of 30 and 45, while the numbers actually decreased for workers in the 20 to 25 range. While older workers represent a significant percentage of the resignations, they aren’t all going into retirement. Many of these talented and experienced workers are starting their own businesses. Even CEOs have quit at record rates, according to a report from Heidrick and Struggles, an executive recruiting company. The end of extra unemployment and stimulus checks didn’t change things. In fact the unemployment rate, at 4.6%, is the lowest it’s been since the pandemic hit.
As a recent article in The Atlantic put it, “this level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, ‘We can do better.’”
Can your business answer “We are better- come work with us?” In a highly competitive job seekers’ market, how does your business stand out?
It’s all about retention.
If you want to attract, motivate and retain the right people, focus your efforts on retention. The “better” things job seekers are looking for are the same things that keep people in their jobs.
The benefits of retaining your best employees are significant. Replacing an employee can cost up to 1/3 of their annual salary: recruitment, hiring, temp workers, training, lost productivity, impact of extended vacancies, etc. Not only is turnover expensive, it takes a significant toll on employee morale and gives your business a bad reputation. If you’re looking to expand, change, and grow your business, consider the difference between having a skilled and experienced team behind you, vs a bunch of new, green employees still learning the basics.
Why are people leaving jobs, and what are they looking for? Turns out that they are pretty much the same reasons.
Burnout, the combination of overworked, stressed, and underpaid, tops the leaving list. According to Limeade’s 2020 Employee Care Report: The Hidden Causes of Turnover, the impact crosses all generations. In the chart below, the first number reflects the percentage who have job searched; the second is the percentage who have taken a new job.
Gen Z 94%/58%
Gen X 82%/47%
Burnt-out employees are 2x as likely to convince co-workers to join them, multiplying your turnover rate!
Other top reasons people give for leaving are poor communication, lack of flexibility, no career development opportunities, bad managers, and dysfunctional cultures. 47% of HR professionals believe new job opportunities are a bigger motivation for employees to quit than their dissatisfaction with their current job. In reality, over a third of workers report the opposite.
What can you do to up your game?
- Start with your current team. Do you measure employee engagement? Employee engagement is the emotional, mental and physical commitment a person has for an organization and their goals. Highly engaged people describe themselves as fulfilled, excited, happier, healthier, valued and motivated. Disengaged employees, who represent more than 50% of the workforce, do the job they get paid for and no more. Actively disengaged employees demonstrate their discontent, spread contagious unhappiness and do below-par work. If you measure employee engagement, what trends are you seeing? According to Harvard Business Review, overall employee engagement has decreased for the first time in a decade. In the last half of 2021 the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers in the U.S. is 2.1 to 1, down from 2.6 to 1 in 2020.
- Home in on your target demographic. Expand your research to understand their specific work goals and priorities. Is it culture, flexibility, childcare issues, healthy workplace concerns, etc? Are you a good match for the type of employees you’re looking for?
- Assess your business image. Does it appeal to your target job seekers? Often their first impression is your website or your business’s LinkedIn profile. Do they convey the image you want? Is it easy to apply?
- How are you measuring performance and productivity? Many of the metrics we are used to relying on are no longer relevant in today’s workplace environment. According to McKinsey, there are at least two new KPIs that can benefit companies and employees: self-discipline and communication effectiveness when working remotely.
- Most importantly, take a long, hard, objective look at your company’s culture. Culture is what’s really going on, as opposed to what executive management would like to believe is going on. If a candidate were to talk to a few of your employees, would their assessment of the company culture align with what the candidate heard during the interview? Because they will. They will do so much research on your company they may end up knowing more about it than you do. What will your employees say about communication, flexibility, leadership, quality of managers, pay, challenge, ability to grow, employee development, working conditions, work satisfaction, workplace culture, well-being, benefits? Their honest answers are all you need to know about attracting, motivating, and retaining highly engaged employees. If you’re not fully confident that their answers align with your perspective, you’ve found your starting point.
The workforce has changed. The genie is not going back in the bottle. Successful businesses will lead change, not resist it. Netflix was not a “flash in the pan”, to the dismay of the former executives of the former Blockbuster.
“If you think you’re going to come in and operate your business as if it’s February 2020, you’re going to get crushed…you have to change or get out of the way. There’s no turning back. This is the big reset, and that’s where hope and opportunity live.” -Scott Sonenshein
Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.