Just when we thought we were in the clear, the Great Resignation has got companies dealing with a new problem: having to retain their workforce. But turnover costs are increasing, and in 2019 it already cost American companies 630 billion dollars. So really, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep staff on board. But in our post-pandemic world, a lot has changed about how people view their jobs. And in order to reduce attrition, organizations need to start thinking outside the box.
More than money
Jobs are more than a way to make money. Modern workplaces can be anything from a source of friendship, experience and learning, to romance, entertainment, or even just a way to get out of the house. And after two years of being stuck at home, many people are realizing just how integral the workplace can be to their lives.
Yet the old adage, “like what you do and you never work a day in your life” is moot unless those bottom level Maslowian needs are first met, and a competitive salary is the foundation of that. So before companies start thinking out of the box to retain employees, start by providing decent pay and benefits.
But in a buyer’s market, a good salary isn’t always enough, which is why many companies are still finding it hard to retain talent even after implementing sign-on bonuses and pay raises. And it’s also the idea behind why churn rates are high in not only blue-collar sectors (such as apparel and fast food), but white collar professions (management consulting and IT) as well.
So if companies want to keep their staff onboard and money alone isn’t working, what’s to be done?
What employees want
The pandemic gave many people the chance to slow down. From lockdowns and work from home mandates, many employees could stop and take a step back from their normal 9-5 lives. This allowed people to reprioritize work, especially with the thought of humanity’s impending doom looming over everyone’s head 24 hours a day.
This was coupled with a new way of working. “Nice to have” perks were within reach to many for the first time. For example, remote and hybrid work. Allowing employees to begin reconsidering what “the new normal” could be at the office.
All this means that in order for companies to retain talent, they need to understand what it is that employees are looking for in a post-pandemic job. Money is a good starting point, but what else is important to employees?
3 ways to boost employee retention
1. Stop snooping, start trusting
Up until the beginning of 2020, remote work was a foreign concept. Even if most jobs can be done via a laptop and a few choice tools, the method of working wasn’t widely implemented until it had to be. Then with organizations scrambling to master their remote workforces, there was a question of finding out whether those virtual teams were actually doing their jobs. Or if they just appeared to be.
So to ease these fears, there was a dramatic rise in monitoring tools bursting onto the scene. Some recorded website visits. Others logged keystrokes. Some even recorded employees all day long. Of course it’s fair for employers to know that tasks and assignments are getting done, but is the price for this an Orwellian hellscape for remote workforces?
Many employees say no. In fact 73% of workers feel these tools diminish trust between themselves and their employer. And 57% think there’s less benefits than that comes with their use. There is a strong correlation between trust and employee happiness. Not only that, but it actually increased productivity. And it helps create a workplace that people are happy to be a part of.
This should all be obvious. Very few people want to work at a company that acts suspiciously towards them from the get-go, and that’s precisely what happens when you welcome someone onboard, and in the next sentence outline all the spy software that comes with their work computers. Why hire them at all if you can’t trust them to do the job?
Remote work isn’t going anywhere, and employers need to learn how to effectively manage virtual projects and teamwork. Not just install quick fixes that only widen the trust gap.
The same goes for in-person and hybrid jobs. Ditch the micromanaging and hidden cameras (unfortunately a bigger issue than we’d like to think) and build an atmosphere of communication and transparency. Employees say one of the top drivers of trust is clarity of purpose, and it’s important that they know what they are supposed to be doing, without someone second guessing them all the time. Find ways to be clear about assignments, dates and goals, and actually have confidence that your team will deliver. You might be surprised at what a difference this makes.
Actionable tips for increasing trust:
- Implement solutions that track accountability, not keystrokes.
- Replace toxic management methods such as micromanaging and spying, with communication and transparency
- Don’t start off new hires on the wrong foot, be confident in them from the start
2. Make room to grow
What’s the fastest way to clear a room of under-40’s? Start a sentence with “back in my day…”
“Back in my day we got hired out of high school and stayed with that company until the day I retired.” Bully for you, but life doesn’t work that way anymore. In the modern work landscape, jobs are often a jumping off point until the next thing, and as a way to gain new experience.
Shouldn’t a company be happy to make new hires with people who are willing to grow and learn more? Employees seem to think so. In fact, 94% of employees would stay at a company if it invested in helping them learn. But what does that mean?
Well, for Dolly Parton (inarguably as close to saint as you can get) this means providing tuition for her Dollywood workforce to pursue education. If college tuition is out of your price range, consider other forms of reimbursement for work-related courses. For others, this might be as simple as providing more training and skill sharing opportunities.
Also consider shaking things up on the corporate ladder. Provide temporary opportunities for employees to explore other teams and departments. This can give them a chance to share information with new people and gain a different perspective in the process. Another idea is allowing lateral job moves. Instead of taking on more responsibilities, employees can take on fresh challenges. Such opportunities are actually 12 times more predictive of employee retention than promotions.
Actionable tips for helping your employees learn:
- Provide lateral career opportunities and temporary reassignments
- Pay for or offer reimbursement on work-related courses, training and education
- Multinational companies can offer postings in different countries and branches
3. Provide work-life balance
Work-life balance isn’t a new concept. In fact in 2019, it was the second biggest reason behind employee attrition. And since the pandemic, it has become even more of a priority. It’s true that, with remote work, more people were able to cut out their commutes. But that didn’t mean they had more free time. On the contrary, employees reported longer working days and making up time on weekends as a frequent scenario in 2020.
It’s obvious that workers would want to avoid a repeat of this. Yet returning to fully on-site work also isn’t the best option. And 25% of surveyed employees said they would rather leave a company than go back to their cubicles. Instead, 50% would rather see a hybrid model implemented – one where they had the option to work from home 3 or more days per week.
And this makes sense! Not only is a work-life balance highly valued, but so is an increase in flexibility. As well as a larger emphasis on employee well-being. Hybrid workspaces can help in all these instances. But this model may not be available for every type of job. In this case you need to find flexibility in other areas.
Instead, consider more flexible working hours in general. Leave it up to employees when they start and stop. Crises aren’t limited to after 6 PM, and a lot of tasks don’t need to be done only between 9 and 5. Or consider the benefits of a 4 day work week or even longer lunch hours. Both of which have been shown to increase productivity.
Actionable tips for providing a work-life balance:
- Offer remote and hybrid working opportunities if possible – there’s a high correlation between both options and employee attrition.
- Initiate flexible working hours that revolve around the work delivered, not necessarily time spent on tasks.
- Don’t overburden employees with more than they can take on. Implement resource management strategies into your project management workflow and do more with less.
Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And what the pandemic and the Great Resignation is really showing us is that it’s often an opportunity for improvement. So seize it!