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Navigating the Great Resignation

Graphic of employees leaving their business Graphic of employees leaving their business
S-NET Communications, Inc. January 20, 2022

Whether we call it The Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffling, one thing is certain – much of the U.S. workforce continues to be on the move. It is hard to find a business that has not been affected by it to some degree. You may have lost some of your staff, found it challenging to fill open positions or have been forced to make significant changes to retain your existing team. If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November alone. This is a significant increase from 4.2 million in October and breaks September’s record of 4.4 million. Causes are still under debate, but after two challenging years of pandemic stress, burnout seems to play a significant role. This is particularly the case in fields that experienced increased demand, such as healthcare, hospitality, and tech. The pandemic also gave workers a pause to rethink what they really want out of their lives and careers. Some made more dramatic career shifts, while most simply looked for positions with more stability, better work-life balance or the continued availability of remote work. Regardless of the causes, the phenomenon forces organizations across the nation to rethink their entire employee retention and talent acquisition strategies.

But despite the challenges of a labor market that heavily favors candidates, the Great Resignation also provides employers with amazing opportunities to innovate and grow. Taking this time rethink your workforce and workplace models, culture or company values will not only enable you to weather the storm successfully. But it will allow you to build a more efficient, progressive, agile organization that can attract and keep top talent in the long run. Here are just a few strategies to do so.

Remote and Hybrid Work

The biggest shift of the last few years in employee expectations is the rise of remote and hybrid work. The Covid-19 pandemic has show us that when the need arises, significantly more jobs can be performed remotely than we previously thought. With the high number of technology tools at our disposal, from videoconferencing to VoIP desktop applications and file sharing, employees can stay productive, regardless where they are located.

Workers have also found that performing their job duties from home enabled them to better balance their work and family responsibilities. It empowered them to spend what would have been their commute time on more meaningful activities. And with the right practices in place, they could continue to be part of highly engaged teams.

So, it must come as no surprise that most employees want to keep this up, and many employers are also jumping on the bandwagon. From March 2020 to August 2021, LinkedIn has tracked an 8.5x increase in the number of remote jobs posted on its platform. Remote jobs also get 2.5 times the interest from job seekers. In the meantime, employers that demand their teams to be back at the office full time are seeing their staff dwindling. Many workers chose to find another position than be in the office every day. Strict in-office work policies also cause challenges in recruiting and make it difficult to attract new talent.

This preference for flexible working conditions is not expected to subside any time soon. So, investing in the right remote collaboration technologies and enabling your staff to work from home at least part time shouldn’t just be part of your pandemic survival plan. Giving your employees the flexibility they ask for is a good long-term investment in your employee retention and talent acquisition efforts. It enables you to hire from a much wider pool of candidates that have been previously excluded due to location. And it can even ensure business continuity when inclement weather, illness or personal emergencies prevent your team from traveling to an office.

Asynchronous Work

Scheduling flexibility and the option for asynchronous work is another factor that plays an increasingly important role in an employee’s decision to stay or leave. And for some people, it has even become a non-negotiable. As the pandemic rages on, many workers are dealing with a larger load of caretaking responsibilities outside of work. For example, parents often find it hard to find childcare, or need to support their young ones through yet another class over videoconference. Under these circumstances, being able to manage their work schedules around their families’ needs becomes important. Thus, many employees feel compelled to make career changes to keep up with the requirements of their personal lives.

We all know that in many workplaces, embracing the asynchronous work schedule is easier said than done. This is particularly true for employees dependent on client or partner schedules, as well as for teams that collaborate regularly throughout the day. But giving your staff even some level of flexibility in when their projects get completed can go a long way in retaining your workforce. Switching the focus from day-by-day work to project results, or allowing your team to plan a certain number of hours around their personal lives can go a long way in retaining talent. With modern communication and collaboration software, your team can communicate easily through chat, project boards or shared files, and they can stay abreast of their peer’s progress, even if they are not completing their tasks at the same time.

Introducing more flexibility in your scheduling can also open the door for positive innovations within your organization. Just because your team has been operating on a set schedule for years, it doesn’t mean that that is the best solution for your business. You may find that allowing some team members to complete some of their work outside of the 9-5 timeframe can give you better coverage for resolving arising technology or infrastructure issues. Or you may be able to extend customer support hours for your clients. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when exploring the best solutions for your team and business.

Opportunities for Learning and Growth

A strong training program, whether for new employee onboarding or continued opportunities for learning and growth, is an important measure of job satisfaction. In this day and age, it has a significant impact on your organization’s ability to attract and retain talent. According to Lorman’s continuing education experts, employee retention can rise up to 50% with a strong onboarding process for new hires and rises by 30-50% for companies with strong learning cultures.

Training can also enable you to fill vacant positions internally by reskilling and upskilling your existing team. Allow your staff to take on or work toward higher-level responsibilities and hire for their formal roles instead. This will not only enable you to more easily fill positions that are difficult to recruit for, but provides your existing staff with stretch-goals and opportunities for advancement that they may have not otherwise had.

In the short run, investing time, energy and money in a strong training and career advancement program can help you weather the storm of the Great Resignation. But in the long term, it can go a long way in positioning your organization as an employer of choice for top talent. Employees who are given the ability to grow and take full advantage of their talents are happier, more productive, and more loyal to the employer who was willing to invest in their potential.

Reexamine the Management Style

If your organization has seen a number of resignations in the past few months, it may be time to reexamine management style. According to TinyPulse, poor management skills make employees 4x more likely to quit. While employers shouldn’t wait for wave of resignations before examining the effectiveness of their management strategies, it is never too late to change. And by showing the leadership team’s willingness to improve, even small changes to management style could help retain some of the workers who were ready to jump ship.

But what does good management look like? For most employees, simple things like transparency in leadership, rewarding staff for work well done, and open communication about the company’s goals and values all play a role. Involving your team in the important decisions that affect them fosters a sense of ownership over projects and outcomes and demonstrates that you value their input. Making employees feel appreciated and empowered are critical aspects of a strong staff retention strategy.

Setting company-wide management standards and ensuring that each supervisor gets the training they need to be successful leaders can go a long way in creating the positive work environment that retains employees long-term. As more and more workers read employee reviews before applying for a position, good management can also directly impact your organization’s employer brand and support your recruiting efforts.

Improve Communication

Improving management may also involve upgrades to communication, and especially during the Great Reshuffling, open communication channels can prove to be invaluable. Strong communication enables your staff to better coordinate their efforts and increase their efficiently while they learn how to work around vacancies. And communication also ensures that leadership can keep their hands on the pulse of the company, learning about employee challenges and issues before they result in a wave of mass resignations.

Opening communication channels can result in a number of long-term benefits as well. It can improve trust between leadership and employees – core to of a company’s success, and it can also open the door to innovation by bringing fresh ideas to the table. Don’t be afraid to explore new ways to open communication channels on your team, whether you invest in collaboration technology for improved efficiency, introduce an intranet for employees, or launch a series of employee surveys to better understand your team’s needs.

Prioritize Wellbeing

When teams are overwhelmed and find it challenging to cover the workload of recently lost members, it is easy to keep the focus on productivity and forget about employee wellbeing or mental health. But ignoring stress and putting even more pressure on an already struggling staff may just be the last straw that compels some of your employees to quit – especially after the two challenging years they have just endured.

Focusing on employee wellbeing on the other hand can do a lot to heal burnout and keep morale high. Prioritizing your team’s mental health also builds loyalty, as workers who feel appreciated and cared for like to reciprocate their employer’s good will. An emotionally balanced staff can continue to weather challenging conditions for significantly longer and are more likely to remain dedicated to the company. So, weather you learn how to manage workloads more effectively, enforce time off, or even decrease videoconference fatigue by reducing the number of meetings your staff attends, these steps can all make a great impact in your team’s health and morale.

Employee wellbeing programs can also improve your employer brand and support your recruiting efforts. Forbes reports that 89% of workers at companies with well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company to others – a positive word-of-mouth support for your new talent acquisition that might as well prove invaluable during the Great Resignation.

Automate Menial Tasks

When you are short staffed and your team finds it challenging to handle the increased load, you can engage technology to help. Automating menial tasks not only allows you to keep your head above the water while you hire, but will enable you to build efficient workflows for the future. In addition, your team will also appreciate the opportunity to hand their menial work to machines and grow into more meaningful, creative roles that capitalize on their true potential and talents.

Workflow automation can take many forms, from inventory software that takes manual labor out of tracking your stock to enabling your clients to reserve appointments online, or even a well written IVR (Interactive Voice Response) that liberates your front-desk team. In this day and age, with the multitude of options available, there are very few reasons not to automate.

The Great Resignation is not expected to end any time soon, and both employee retention and talent acquisition efforts may continue to be affected. But a few small changes to your practices cannot only support your employees and business through  this challenging time, but can also open the doors for innovation that transforms your business and helps position you as an employer of choice for top talent.

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