According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary from the Labor Department, a record number of 4.5 million workers in the U.S. quit their jobs last November 2021. This trend was observed in various industries, including retail trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities, and professional and business services.
While 4.5 million resignations within a single month is already a staggering figure, the prognosis looks even grimmer for employers at least. More workers are looking into quitting their jobs. The Great Resignation is here, and employers need to adjust.
Why are people quitting?
The Great Resignation is and will be triggered by a variety of reasons. But, arguably, the top reason is how most employees have learned to reevaluate their life choices throughout the pandemic. COVID-19 has made people rethink whether they have been living their best lives.
Now employees premium on previously neglected concepts like self-help and work-life balance. Gone are the days when they won’t mind working overtime until midnight or taking work home for a weekend hustle. Instead, they need to balance the things they do to feed their bodies and the things they do to feed their souls.
Related to work-life balance is the inherent appeal of remote work to most employees. The arrangement has afforded them freedom in terms of both time and space. They have learned to be productive without the rigid structure of an office-based job. They have mastered how to maximize their time, juggling professional and personal activities with ease.
Some even gained the privilege of choosing where to work remotely, not from home but somewhere more fun and exciting, like a tropical island, for example. These are remote work perks that are difficult to give up.
When the time comes that employers reopen offices, it might be too late to convince employees that such an arrangement is worth their while. The situation becomes more of an uphill battle for employers negotiating reduced salaries with employees who refuse to go back to the office. But, of course, the latter would be inclined to say no.
And that leads us to the following reason why a large chunk of the labor force is confident enough to quit their jobs despite the pandemic’s precarity economic-wise. While the country and the entire world ease into limiting COVID restrictions, more and more jobs are added to the labor market. Last April alone, 9.3 million jobs opened. That means options. Employees do not need to stay in a position that makes them miserable. They can always apply for a new one that’s, ideally, better.
How can employers prepare?
It’s vital to rethink how you do business and adjust it according to the demands of present circumstances, especially in terms of employee management. Consider employees as your internal customers. They, too, need to feel satisfied with the work they do. Here are ways to put that goal into actionable plans.
1. Formalize flexible work policies
Just because it will soon be safe for everyone to go back to the office does not mean you need to require your entire labor force to follow such a directive. Accept that remote work is here to stay and that it’s not only beneficial to employees. The setup has advantages for businesses too. For instance, think about reduced operational costs.
So do not dismiss the functionality of a hybrid workplace. Allow in-person work arrangements only from employees who can’t do their jobs offsite. Meanwhile, employees who only require a computer and a reliable internet connection may continue working remotely. Or, at the very least, they can have flexible work hours that can be divided between remote and office-based setups.
More importantly, formalize these work arrangement policies. Write these as official documents disseminated across the organization. Avoid the risk of misinterpretation. Also, the same standards for performance evaluation should apply for both in-person and remote workers.
2. Rethink how productivity is measured
If in the past you were impressed by employees who show up at the office before everyone else and leave after everyone else has gone home, this time it’s best to recalibrate that way of thinking.
Remember that the number of hours spent at the office does not automatically equate to productivity. It’s a bit suspect that an employee needs to spend more hours at the office than colleagues with the exact deliverables. It could mean they are not using their time wisely.
It’s best to favor quality over quantity, value over volume. Sure, an employee with a great deal of output within a day is admirable. However, if those outputs don’t yield any tangible outcome, what’s the point?
And employees are becoming increasingly aware that their worth does not hinge on the qualified work output that they produce. Instead, they matter more if they significantly impact the organization’s goals and objectives. And sometimes, someone can come up with a winning business pitch even while they’re on a mountain getaway, doing yoga in between work duties.
3. Review compensation strategies
One of the most commonly cited reasons employees quit is that they feel they are not getting what they deserve. Anyone who finds they aren’t renumerated fairly for their work will look for other options.
Remember that the salary you offer is not just about you being a responsible employer tending to the financial needs of your workers. It’s also about expressing how much you value a person’s contribution to your business. Better pay means you have the highest respect for what an employee brings to the table.
While fairness is vital when deciding the salary for in-person and remote employees, since the latter still qualifies as a reasonably fresh work paradigm, consider looking into compensation strategies for remote work that might not have been standard procedures in the past.
For example, you cannot zero in on market data or reference points that somehow validate your current compensation packages. Instead, you need to look into new sources of perspective, such as the existing demand and supply for a particular job title.
Just because one of your employees doing an in-demand and low-supply job moved to a cheaper city to work remotely does not mean reducing their base pay is a smart idea. You’re potentially sabotaging a relationship with a competent professional from a very niche market.
4. Provide relevant employee benefits
If there’s one thing we all learned from the ongoing pandemic, it’s how healthcare is a fundamental human right. It’s unfair that only the wealthy can afford their medical bills. Meanwhile, wage earners’ savings go kaput as soon as they need to spend a few days at the hospital.
You can provide benefits like health insurance, paid parental leave, paid time off, and subsidized internet, among others. Get clever with the perks you offer employees and see your business become a recruitment superstar.
5. Improve company culture
Mental health is a critical component of holistic health. And in recent years, people have become more attuned to how external forces affect their state of mind.
One of the most common culprits of deteriorating mental health among working adults is toxic company culture. If you have this problem at your organization, address it ASAP.
Establish clear policies against bullying and harassment in the workplace. Champion diversity. These commitments will send the right message to your employees that is, you’re running a progressive enterprise that deserves their loyalty.
Towards a Better Workplace
Every responsible and competent employer should know how to get with the times if you do not want to suffer the alternative scenario. You and your business are getting behind.
Fact is, the pandemic has shifted life as we know it. What we are collectively experiencing is far from ordinary. Indeed, the period has resulted in some sort of a cultural shift.
This cultural shift unavoidably influenced how we conduct business and consider labor nowadays. Your employees have become more discerning of their value not just as sources of work but as human beings. Their priorities have realigned. And the most astute business people will recognize and respect those changes.
You will want to find ways on how to make employees happy. By adopting the recommendations included in this list, you can demonstrate to your employees that you appreciate them and acknowledge their worth.
Mary Crogan is currently the Vice President of Marketing at Salary.com, the leading SaaS provider of compensation market data, software, and analytics. She is an accomplished marketing executive with 20+ years of experience crafting successful market strategies within the B2B and technology sectors. When not working, she loves reading biographies and historical fiction, traveling, and adventures with her dog and two kids.