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How Companies Can Respond To The Rising Tide Of The Great Resignation
From:
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Thursday, January 20, 2022

 

Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Author of the Award- Winning Book Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey)

The Great Resignation appears to be getting greater as employers continue to seek ways to reverse—or at least neutralize—the number of their departing workers.

According to the latest Jobs Openings And Labor Turnover report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the trend picked up momentum again in November—a record 4.53 million Americans quit their jobs.

Statista, a market and consumer data website, reported that, "The number of Americans quitting has now exceeded pre-pandemic highs for eight straight months, as employers, especially in low-wage sectors, are struggling to fill open positions.

"The reasons for this trend are of course manifold, but one major driver appears to be that many workers are no longer willing to put up with the pay and/or working conditions they (perhaps grudgingly) accepted prior to the pandemic."

"I certainly think that the pandemic has led many people to reevaluate their work and their priorities and what they want to do," Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute said in a statement to Business Insider.

Many employers appear to be trying almost anything they can think of to encourage workers to stay—including providing free food and gym memberships, gift cards and letting them bring their dogs to work. But the fact that employees are leaving for new and different reasons means that companies should consider new and different incentives.

There is a powerful financial incentive to keep current employees in place. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that on average it costs six to nine months of an employee's salary to replace him or her. For an employee making $60,000 per year, that comes out to $30,000 - $45,000 in recruiting and training costs.

Different Perks Needed

Stephanie Gray is the founder and president of SGA Communications, a Chicago-based communications agency. She observed that, "Many of the perks that helped attract talent before the pandemic no longer carry the same weight with workers, or even apply to a hybrid or remote workplace.

"Employers looking to combat The Great Resignation must adjust their workplace to reflect a new social contract at work and a significant shift away from the 'culture of family' that ruled the early aughts to a more traditional culture of business, which relies on the transactional employer-employee relationship," Gray advised.

Rewarding Productivity

She advised that, "One way to do so is to reward productivity instead of hours. Workers enjoy greater work-life balance when they have autonomy over their work schedule. Employers can (and should) offer more flexibility without sacrificing productivity by setting clear expectations about what work an employee is responsible for completing–not when they are responsible for reporting to work."

High Value Incentives

Kira La Forgia is an organizational leadership and HR consultant. She said that throwing money at the problem has no place in the current marketplace. "When recruiting new talent or retaining current team members, the most high value incentives address time and schedule freedom.

"Having a flex schedule offered but still adding countless meetings at the drop of a hat is not going to work and breeds a culture of 'bait and switch.'  In conjunction with the opportunity for flex scheduling, your company must be willing and able to create a framework of availability.

"We have seen this work well in multi-time zone remote positions when meetings are recurring and planned ahead, and when a company has a policy that meetings only can occur amongst team members and cross functional projects between certain blocks of the day. Not only does this create an environment of equity across the board, but also a sense of time management that encourages cohesion for team members," she noted. 

Flexibility Has Taken Center Stage

Abakar Saidov is the cofounder and CEO of Beamery, a talent management platform. He said that, "Returning to work in 2022 looks very different than it did last year. Gone are the days of a rigid, 9-5 schedule and in-office environment. Flexibility and addressing employee concerns have now taken center stage to become, arguably, the most effective ways to both retain employees and attract new talent.

He said their recent Talent Index survey "revealed exactly what employees hope to see from employers this year. Top of the wish lists for 2022 were flextime and a four-day work week. It's increasingly important for employers to consider the asynchronous work week, empowering employees to balance priorities like childcare and appointments, with work commitments."

'A Must-Have Resource For Employees'

The mental stress and strain created by the pandemic has made mental health benefits an important incentive for many workers.

In Mercer's 2021 Health on Demand report, 42% of employees with access to mental health benefits reported that they're more likely to stay at their current organization than if they didn't have those resources. They also found that 44% of those without access to mental health benefits did not feel supported by their employers.

Sherry Benton, a psychologist and founder/CSO of digital behavioral health platform TAO Connect, said that "mental health support at work is no longer a company perk, it's a 'must-have resource' for employees."

"Mental health benefits show employees that you value them and have understanding and sympathy for things they might be experiencing outside of work. Mental health benefits should be treated with the same importance and availability as physical health benefits," Benton noted.

"Many organizations don't realize that if you equip employees with what they need to resolve certain issues they are going through, you get a more effective and productive employee, which can benefit your company simultaneously," she advised.

Empathy

Leni Rivera is a workplace experience specialist. She said that, "The single best thing that organizations of all industries can offer workers in this time of the War for Talent to attract and keep them is empathy.

"Taking the time to understand—and empathize —with a worker's conditions within your organization, with their individual struggles, desires and values will be the key to your success.

"Don't underestimate the value of a clean, quiet, comfortable break room; improve the focus on physical, mental and psychological health while in the workplace; invest in workers' childcare and/or parent care needs; and invest in their education and personal growth. Work with workers to achieve their personal priorities, and you will find their loyalty in return," she concluded.

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Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). He is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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