Business and benefits leaders sure have had a rude awakening. The pandemic changed the minds and hearts of employees all over the country. And it’s been bad, y’all. According to The State of Work 2021, 55% of employees considered changing jobs. It’s a trend now called The Great Resignation. (And it’s so much more than a trend.)
But employees haven't just quit because of the pandemic. What’s that mean? It means that while the pandemic definitely piled more stress on, millions of employees were already experiencing pent-up frustrations and negative feelings. And what do you get when you combine a trauma like a pandemic with those pent-up frustrations? An employee retention crisis.
And even though it hasn't let up, there is still hope for businesses wanting to hold on to their employees. It’s a good thing too—because losing 55% of your employees will gut your business.
Who’s to Blame for the Great Resignation?
You’ll see it said out there that employees are the ones responsible for the Great Resignation. Some people believe that the employee retention crisis keeps going because of workers’ willingness to leave their jobs for just $1 an hour more somewhere else.
You’ll also see it out there that it’s those employees’ managers who are to blame. Some say that the Great Resignation happened as a result of their poor leadership and how out of touch they are with their employees.
And of course, the pandemic. Yeah, we've lived through a nightmare that’s permanently changed the landscape. But you can’t exclusively point to it as the only reason employees left their work by the millions.
So, who’s to blame? All of them. It makes sense that employees would try their luck after enduring those crazy pandemic months, right? Many of them were stuck just collecting a paycheck because that’s what their families needed to get through the pandemic. Now, there are millions of open jobs waiting to be filled. In many ways, they’re looking at a seller’s market where their skills are more in demand than they’ve ever been before.
Unfortunately for leaders and managers, the pandemic magnified issues that already existed just beneath the surface. And it doesn’t help that with shutdowns and stress and stuff hitting the fan, being a leader got much harder than normal. And employees quitting by the millions certainly hasn't helped.
So, Is the Great Resignation Here to Stay?
Yes and no. What we can take from the current employee retention crisis is that, while the reasons for employees quitting are sure to stick around, mass employee turnover won’t last forever. It never does. In fact, it may altogether lead to lower turnover and happier employees in the long run. How? Because the unhappy employees who are leaving their current jobs will find work that’s better for them, be happier, and stay for longer than they would if they were in a job they hate.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adjust your employee retention strategies. After all, millions of employees wouldn’t quit if they had everything they needed to stay at a company, right? It really all comes down to how hard you’re willing to fight for your employees.
How to Fight for Your Employees
Ultimately, if you don’t think your employees are worth fighting for, then your business is doomed to fail. You can’t just throw up your hands or call it good while your best employees peace out and your company culture goes with them. You can’t just let them walk away. You’ve got to do something, get in the trenches, get a little dirt under your fingernails, and figure out what it is that your employees really need. Listen to them—buy them coffees and lunches, host town-hall-style meetings, and have a truly open dialog with your workforce. The key here is to be receptive and not assume you know what they want or need.
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And let’s take a moment to give a huge shoutout to HR professionals, y’all. Behind every successful company is an HR hero busting their butt working to keep employees around for the long haul. Without them, recruitment and retention, especially in the past 18 months, would be infinitely harder.
5 Employee Retention Strategies You Should Focus on Right Now
1. Go the Extra Mile With Compensation
Paying people less than they deserve is dumb. And it’s a pipe dream to expect the same output from a team of eight that was a team of 12 a year ago. In fact, that’s a great way to push more people out. Instead, try to surprise and delight them with handshake bonuses and other incentives to compensate for the extra work on their plates. Simply put, when you pay employees what they deserve, you tell them they’re valued and essential to your business. When you don’t, they start looking for greener grass somewhere else.
2. Show Some Gosh Darn Appreciation
Employees aren’t just job-doers. They’re people who need to feel like their work is appreciated. They need to know you care. And most of the time? They just need you to say it. In private and in front of their peers. Plus, it’s important to remember that in today’s understaffed work environment employees going above and beyond may look a lot like what was the normal day-to-day just a couple years ago. The bottom line is this: When people feel valued, they’re more likely to want to stay at your company.
3. Clear the Path for Career Growth at Your Company
Talented and experienced prospects don’t just come from outside your company. Look at who you already have working for you when you’re trying to fill a position. When you do that, it shows them and all their peers that there’s a career path for them at your company. If all you do is hire people from the outside for leadership positions, especially, you tell your employees that their current role is all they’ll ever have while they work for you. That's won't motivate them to stick around at all.
4. Fight Like Heck to Build Trust
Here at Ramsey SmartDollar, we often say that business moves at the speed of trust. When there’s not enough trust between leaders and employees, it cuts productivity off at the knees. It also makes it much more difficult to retain employees. How? Because a dog-eat-dog, nobody-trusting-anyone culture just sucks, and nobody wants to work in that.
5. Offer Benefits That Are Actually Worth It
If you’re still just offering status quo benefits, you’re falling behind. Employees today need the companies they work for to invest in them as people. Conventional benefits are a good foundation, sure. But you need to take it a step further with benefits like assistance paying for childcare, an HSA company match, or company-paid-for long-term disability insurance. Some companies are offering more “cutting-edge benefits” like paying for laundry services, streaming services and car washes. It’s on you to decide what will add the most value to the lives of your employees.
Want to know an extremely timely benefit to offer? Financial wellness. All kinds of employees need help with their money thanks to the pandemic. And the right financial wellness benefit will teach them how to budget, get out of debt, save for the future, and retire with confidence.
According to SmartDollar’s 2021 Financial Wellness Benefits Study, 91% of companies that offer a financial wellness benefit say it helps them in recruiting and hiring. Seems like it’s a pretty great idea in an employee retention crisis, doesn’t it?
When Will the Great Resignation End?
There’s good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news, which is actually kind of good news. Employees don’t want to work for companies that don’t respect their values and don’t treat them like people with real lives. That's the bad part. And the good part? The Great Resignation is your opportunity to take a hard look at what your company needs to change about your workplace.
Now, the really good news: There’s still time for employers to get employee retention right and build a culture that reflects the values employees are looking for. Plus, with employees looking to make a shift, now is a great time to hire the right people for your culture. And when you look at it like that, you can turn a crisis into an opportunity.