Managing Flight Risks: How to Keep Employees from Leaving During the “Great Resignation”
Nearly two years into the global pandemic, many things seem unstable; entire markets, industries, companies, and individual jobs have all been impacted, often adversely, by upheaval from health precautions, changing consumer trends, and general economic meltdowns. As a result, it may not seem like a great time to leave a stable, decently-paying job–and yet, that’s what millions of employees are doing world-wide. Termed the “Great Resignation,” or sometimes the “Big Quit,” this increasingly weird version of the timeline involves millions of people quitting their jobs en masse, often without clear prospects lined up to replace the erstwhile employment.
If you’re one of the employees quitting with the hopes of heading to greener pastures, this period represents a mix of uncertainty and possibility. (We’ll discuss that in a different blog!) However, if you’re an employer suddenly faced with record numbers of vacancies, then the Big Quit is also a big problem. Recruiting correctly-skilled new candidates is costly and time-consuming, not to mention the potential adverse impacts on productivity and workflow when the deck remains unmanned for long periods of time.
This all leaves companies with two choices: Either they accept (and expect) that employees are going to up and leave for potentially better offers, and eat the associated costs–or, they up their game to retain valuable employees with incentives, better workplace culture, and stronger management.
Really, there is no choice.
So, how can employers keep top talent from becoming “flight risks”? We’ve compiled a few best practices to keep those MVP’s from leaving for greener fields, or worse yet, being poached by the competition.
1. Invest in Your Team
According to a study from 2019–before the Great Resignation began–a whopping 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer for one simple reason: If it helped to train them. Conversely, one of the main reasons employees leave companies is a feeling of stagnation, or that there is no further growth to be experienced. A good manager can fight that inertia by upskilling employees: providing meaningful opportunities for learning new skills or technologies, training team members to take on new and greater responsibilities, and raising the ceiling of career progress for all employees involved.
Note that, besides avoiding employee flight, investing in your employees has an upside for companies: By reflecting on what skills are necessary for business optimization and then cultivating them within an existing workforce, companies can ensure that they have a steady supply of people with the skills they need for business success, all while keeping employees engaged, challenged, and fulfilled.
2. Remain Flexible
During the pandemic, workers have become used to working arrangements that may not even have been on the table two years ago. Full-time remote work, hybrid work situations, and non-traditional work hours have become staples of work–and while some company execs may bemoan a loss of a certain corporate culture, a lot of employees no longer consider it a reasonable requirement that they show up at the office from 9-5. Particularly given changes individuals might be experiencing in familial responsibilities as a result of the pandemic (kids at home more, concern about exposing vulnerable relatives, etc.), it makes sense for employers to be flexible about working arrangements.
And in fact, that’s exactly what employees want. According to a recent PWC survey, a desire to find a more flexible work situation is one of the top four reasons that employees are resigning. It seems likely that flexible work arrangements will be one of those trends that remains long after the pandemic has wound down–even if everyone isn’t taking off to work in exotic locales for twelve weeks at a time anymore.
3. Offer Appreciation and Support
A series of studies by behavioral economist Dan Arieli demonstrated that there are significant motivating factors other than salary that matter to employees. These include feeling that their work is meaningful, that it helps others, that someone will look at it, that it is appreciated, and the experience of receiving positive reinforcement for it.
A good manager lets employees know when they’ve done a great job, emphasizes that their work is valued and important, and offers feedback that is constructive and warm-hearted, even when delivering criticism. When employees feel that their contributions are noticed and appreciated, they are far more likely to remain engaged–and to stay put.
4. Prioritize Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity
A 2019 study of workplace discrimination found that Black employees experienced a 60% higher rate of discrimination than White employees, and women reported 53% higher rates of discrimination than men. Older workers, too, experienced discriminatory treatment. This discrimination encompassed all types of mistreatment including threats, harassment, bullying, ostracization, aggression, unwanted attention, and hindrances to hiring, promotion, and advancement.
It goes without saying that these experiences would drive employees away from a company. Bosses who truly prioritize inclusivity and diversity among their workforce don’t just “talk the talk.” Not only do they have a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behavior in their place of work, they also take active steps to recruit a diverse workforce, to seek out the input and opinion of minority employees, and to help to promote success and advancement for these individuals. They understand that supporting diversity, inclusivity, and inclusion is not just ethical–it is also conducive to a productive workplace that benefits from diverse insights and perspectives.
5. Support Healthy Work-Life Balance
Popular media extols the image of the “go-getter,” who comes in early, stays late, and works on weekends in a display of unparalleled commitment and drive to succeed at the job. But the reality is that, for the most part, skilled employees will be turned off by a workplace where this is the expectation, or the norm. In part due to the challenges of the pandemic, employees are looking for a workplace that is flexible and supportive of personal time.
Businesses looking to promote this type of healthy mentality can focus more on productivity than hours when evaluating employees; they can also offer more vacation, shorter hours, breaks within the day, flexible schedules, support for parents, and healthy perks–subsidized gym memberships, yoga classes, therapy, and healthy food.
The Bottom Line
In this time of rapid and constant turnover, it’s important for company heads to remember that their employees are people, too–and to ask themselves some serious but important questions about whether they are creating an environment in which people will want to stay put. Ideally, they can create a company culture in which employees are inspired, happy, and productive, and incentivized to grow along with the business.
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