5 ways companies can keep their people during The Great Resignation

5 ways companies can keep their people during The Great Resignation

The year 2020 became known as The Great Pause. In 2021, we’re in the midst of The Great Resignation, with people around the world quitting their jobs at historic rates.

UK job vacancies hit an all-time high in July 2021, more than a third of German companies report a shortage of workers, 25-40 percent of Australians say they’re looking for a new job, and Americans have been quitting at a rate of 3.5-4 million people per month since April. In Canada, 51 percent of senior managers “are considering leaving, retiring, or ‘downshifting’ to a less-demanding position.”

There are many reasons for this exodus. Burnout is a huge factor. People who have wanted to leave their jobs for a while but didn’t dare make a move during the pandemic’s early chaos are doing so now. A variety of opportunities that used to be limited by location are now available to anyone. People in high-risk, low-wage jobs such as food service are evaluating the risk-reward balance as more industries reopen. Many people took an early retirement. And scores of people are “epiphany-quitting” after some soul-searching.

This challenging situation put employers’ values in the spotlight, and not everyone liked what they saw. These values are in play again as more and more companies are pushing to get people back in the office full time. There’s a huge new population of people who have gotten used to remote work and/or flexible hours, and don’t see a reason things should go back to how they were before.

This quote from a digital agency worker in Leeds sums up the way a lot of people are feeling: “Lockdown provided an opportunity to reflect – and help me realise what I want from work. I want a job that suits my life and means I’m not tied to a desk all day, every day. And if I don’t feel happy, I can just quit. There are more than enough jobs out there.”

Office vs. remote is just one factor fueling The Great Resignation. New research from Wiley shows that the companies losing talent are the ones who fail to emphasize a people-centered approach, one that “leverages the unique needs, insights, and capabilities of your people.”

Wiley surveyed 4,500 working professionals from a variety of industries in July 2021, and the results appear in the new ebook Keep Your People: How to Navigate The Great Resignation (.pdf). They found that “although the transition to working from home should help with work/life balance in theory… that’s not exactly how it’s played out,” with only 18% of respondents feeling very satisfied with their work/life balance.

Wiley correlated respondents’ stress levels with the policies their organizations have in place to illuminate the policies that make the most difference.

Top 5 policies correlated to lower employee stress:

  1. Additional PTO and mental health days
  2. Greater flexibility (both where and when work happens)
  3. Non-work time to connect with colleagues
  4. Listening sessions with leaders
  5. Training opportunities

Examining where your organization stands with these five benefits is a great way to assess how well-positioned you are to move toward a more people-centered culture.

Illustration of someone working from home with the text "83% have embraced more casual hair, makeup, or clothing"

Wiley also gathered data on how respondents’ work practices have changed, including:

  • 83% have embraced more casual hair, makeup, or clothing.
  • 59% have had their kid, spouse, or pet interrupt a work meeting.
  • 51% have learned something unique/quirky about their colleagues.

People have been through a lot. Employees have changed, and many have clarified their values. Now they’re taking a fresh look at if their values and their organizations’ values align.

With the rapid growth of remote work, companies can lose their employees not only to other companies in their city but to new remote opportunities around the world. As Wiley writes, putting people first will be “the difference between the way things were and the way things will be in the new normal.”

Keep Your People: How to Navigate The Great Resignation will help you assess how people-centered your organization is. Then you can focus on building up the policies that reduce employee stress and keep your people happy.

Read the ebook here. (And why not send it to your boss?)

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