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How to retain employees in the face of the Great Resignation

By Derek Irvine, SVP Strategy and Consulting, Workhuman

411 - Business Express

The ‘Great Resignation’ continues to loom large in the minds of employers all around the world. In the UK, this has coincided with a so-called ‘talent crisis’ – with a new record high of 1,247,000job vacancies according to the latest ONS report,as well as a pre-existing digital skills gap that is affecting organisations across industries – particularly as our reliance on technology has grown over the course of the pandemic.

All of this has combined to create a perfect storm for HR leaders, who will be makingeffective employee engagement and retention strategies top priorities for2022. But in order to understand how best to tackle the Great Resignation, and ensure employee retention, we must first look at the reasons behind this crisis.

Why the UK is facing a ‘Great Resignation’

The pandemic caused people all over the world to reassess their priorities, particularly when it comes to their work life.Indeed, after almost two years of uncertainty and strain, British workers now have a very strong idea of what they will and will not tolerate at work.

Many are seeking new opportunities which offer greater flexibility and benefits.Workhuman’s recent research, for example, showed that greater flexibility was one of the top reasons for UK employees wanting to leave their jobs. TheWorkhuman Fall 2021 International Survey Report, which tracked the mood of more than 3,500 full-time employees in the UK as well as the US, Canada and Ireland, also found that British workers are the most likely to move roles, with 48% of UK men and 45% of UK women claiming they plan to quit in the next year.

This research also revealed one of the primary causes behind this– namely, a rise in burnout and stress. Of those surveyed, almost two-thirds of women (65.5%) and 59.5% of men stated they had experienced burnout during their careers, and, of those, 81.5% of women and 78% of men stated this had occurred during the last 12 months. These findings are not unique. A recent MyBankTracker survey, for example, also found that burnout is the top cause of employee attrition.

How leaders can identify flight-risks

Workhuman’s research found that the biggest flight-risks in the UK workforce are working parents – 52.5% of which stated they intend to resign within the next year. Of those, just over one-third (35.5%) stated they wanted more flexibility at work.This is perhaps unsurprising given the increased childcare responsibilities that many parents have faced due to multiple lockdowns in the UK.

While flexibility can mean different things to different people, many employees are simply looking for a better work-life balance.Data shows that working parents want flexibility and empathy to accommodate both their families and their careers. Offering a hybrid work environment or flexibility around working hours may help these parents balance work and family obligations.

Most importantly, leaders will need to gauge their own employees’ unique preferences. One way to do this is by implementing frequentemployee pulse surveys – a key tool for discovering and understanding the employee concerns that are most common and threaten employee attrition. “Anonymous surveys are a great way for companies to put their finger on the pulse of changes that they’re considering,” says attorney Alecia Winfield, “Talk to your underrepresented groups, your affinity groups – talk to their leaders.”

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How organisations can retain their employees

As Eric Mosley, CEOat Workhuman,notes, except in the worst-case scenario, people don’t usually leave to get away from something – they leave for something. Employeeexpectations worldwide are now attuned to a future of hybrid work – with 73% of workers surveyed for Microsoft’s 2021 Annual Reportwanting a continuation of remote work options, whilst 67% also want more in-person time with their colleagues. In short, employees want more control of where, when and how they work – and it will be up to organisations to both manage and meet these expectations where possible.

As well as offering greater flexibility, particularly for those, such as working parents, who have been particularly affected by the pandemic, organisations should also focus on the following areas to ensure effective employee retention:

  1. Frequent recognition

Frequent acknowledgement and appreciation in the workplace, particularly peer-to-peersocial recognition,helps create a culture of mutual gratitude in which all employees are recognised for both individual and team achievements. This has become even more important during these challenging times, especially for those working from home who may otherwise feel overlooked. Such recognition has a proven impact on retention, with Workhuman’s Fall 2021 International Survey showing that only 26% of workers recognisedin the last month were looking to move jobs, whilst almost double (49%) were looking if they had not been recognised recently.

  1. Psychological safety

Put simply,psychological safety refers to the ability to bring one’s whole, authentic self to work, without fear of repercussion. Accepting and understanding employees as the individual humans that they are is fundamental to organisations aiming to create an inclusive workplace culture. Moreover, Google’s Aristotle Projectfound that individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leavethe company, more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, bring in more revenue, and are rated as effective twice as often by executives.

One way to achieve psychological safety across an organisation is by weaving it into a comprehensive recognition and rewards strategy – for example allowing for celebrations of achievements outside of work. This allows for the acknowledgement of the full human, rather than just the employee or colleague, and will furthermore encourage more authentic connections within the workplace.

  1. A culture of connection

Even in the face of such unique challenges as we’re currently facing, and all the consequent changes to the world of work, at least one thing has remained constant–it is the people that make a workplace, as without the human, it’s just work. More than anything else, what will make employees wantto stay at an organisation is the strong relationships that they have with their colleagues and mentors. In fact, recent research has shown that work friendships are crucial for long-term happiness. Organisations wishing to ensure effective employee retention should therefore make creating a culture of connection a priority for 2022.

The UK is facing unprecedented challenges in the world of work – with a double whammy of mass employee resignations and ever-increasing number of vacancies across industries.Organisations will undoubtedly need to make employee retention a strategic objective in the coming year, and beyond. Creating an environment in which employees are frequently recognised and rewarded for their work, employee needs are prioritised, and authentic human connection allowed to flourish, will bring leaders closer to this goal.

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