A record number of American workers are quitting their jobs. According to SHRM, from January through November 2021, an average of more than 3.9 million workers quit their jobs each month. That’s the highest average on record, topping the 2019 average of 3.5 million. (Note: The article linked above is an interesting read—the eye-opening data shows just how much volatility still exists in the jobs market!)
What caused the Great Resignation?
A number of factors likely converged to create the current scenario, among them:
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Perhaps most glaringly, COVID-19 kickstarted the record number of resignations seen in 2021. But perhaps not in the way many people think.
Beginning in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused lockdowns, companies began layoffs, and the economy contracted dramatically.
By summer 2021, “Companies that laid off massive swathes of employees needed to scale up and scale up fast, so they went on a hiring spree, figuring people would flock to apply. But, alas, hesitancy over the virus remained, and a traumatized public proved reluctant to return to work until they were a little more confident they wouldn’t be risking their and their families’ health. (Forbes)
…The only thing that happened is that workers proved able to recognize that they had genuine leverage for the first time in most of their careers. For the first time, the company needed them more than they needed the company.”
“For the first time, the company needed them more than they needed the company.” Click To Tweet
Remote/Hybrid Work Models
People have always liked the flexibility and autonomy that working from home provides. When the pandemic forced this type of work arrangement, many realized they actually preferred it. Now that workplaces are reopening, employers must make a choice—do they require a physical presence at the office or allow their employees to continue working remotely? Many employees are willing to leave their current employer to find a remote work job.
For many employees, workloads increased or shifted during the pandemic. Additionally, non-related stressors—finances, childcare, health, etc.—also took a toll, causing levels of burnout and mental stress never before noted in the workplace.
Employees are now lobbying for more mental health support, resources for reducing stress, wellness initiatives, increased pay, and holistic approaches to employment as a part of a healthy life. Employers who ignore these requests are seeing their employees leave in high numbers.
Well before the pandemic, employees were already lobbying for greater compensation. Now, after experiencing several years of stress, employees are doing the same thing again. Walk-outs, quitting en masse, etc., are all tied to compensation issues in addition to feeling burnt out and undervalued.
For employers, all these things existed before COVID-19, they just weren’t as prominent. Now, it’s more difficult than ever to find new employees—a situation that leaves employers hurting.
What can employers do to keep their employees? 5 Practical Solutions
Employers need to seriously address each of the four areas identified above. Practically, it would be impossible to satisfy employees’ wishlists 100%, but there are things you can do to decrease turnover rates and stabilize your workforce. The best place to start is by acknowledging how your employees feel and work toward improving your company culture. Here are some practical steps to take:
- Be in tune with your employees. Listen to their pain points and goals. Saying “I hear you” is not enough—employees want leaders to truly understand what they’re saying, and take action to address the issues.
- Review your “back to office” policy. For many companies, going back to an office building is assumed—but perhaps it shouldn’t be. Consider all your options, including pursuing a continuing remote/hybrid work model, adjusting schedules to accommodate more days working remotely, gradual returns to the office, officing only when necessary, and complete remote work environments.
- Address burnout. Not only are burned-out employees more likely to leave your company sooner, but they’re also not doing good work while they’re under your employment. This is a core issue leaders must address. Evaluating workload is the first and most important step —all the benefits, wellness programs, and perks in the world won’t stop an employee from leaving if they don’t feel they have managerial support to achieve the mission or their individual goals. If you don’t have it already, consider offering stress management or other types of training available to alleviate the burden of burnout.
- Revisit mental health programs. If your benefits package has a mental health component, publicize it. Your employees may not know about the offering or how to take advantage of it. They may also see it as a last-resort option. If you don’t currently have an offering like this, consider implementing one so employees have someone to turn to who can help them before issues become too big for them to handle.
- Review employee compensation. As an employer, we know almost every business out there has taken a hit in the last two years. It’s tough. You’re probably feeling handcuffed and paralyzed, and just when you think you’ve gotten through one pandemic, you’re facing another: the resignation pandemic. Nonetheless, you must address the issue of compensation. If you aren’t paying your employees a fair wage and offering them benefits, you will lose them.
What trends can employers expect to see in 2022?
“We’ve been living through the greatest workplace disruption in generations and the level of volatility will not slow down in 2022. New Covid variants will continue to emerge and may cause workplaces to temporarily go remote again. Hybrid work will create more unevenness around where, when, and how much different employees are working. Many employees will be greeted with real wage cuts as annual compensation increases fall behind inflation. These realities will be layered on top of longer-term technological transformation, continued DE&I journeys, and ongoing political disruption and uncertainty.” — Harvard Business Review
- Employees looking for access to remote or hybrid work models.
- Compensation increases more now than ever.
- Finding the right solutions for employee engagement.
- Increased difficulty with finding the right hire for your open positions.
It’s not all doom and gloom, especially if you have the right people in your corner. GenesisHR can help you find—and keep—talented, satisfied workers.
If you weren’t panicked already, this article probably induced a pit in the bottom of your stomach.
No one is saying the next few years as an employer will be easy, but there are strategies that can help you turn things around and become an employer of choice—one who’s capable of attracting new employees and retaining excellent ones.
At GenesisHR, that’s exactly what our PEO does—help you become an employer of choice. We put our decades of experience and expertise to work helping you find and retain the best people. From the start of the pandemic to today, we help our clients make practical, common-sense HR decisions and find creative solutions to address workplace challenges. From finding and retaining the best employees to managing every complex aspect of HR, we can help your company too.
What does your company need help with? Give us a call today!