We’ve all heard it — The Great Resignation is affecting medium to small businesses across the U.S. this summer. How can you protect your organization against losing your best employees?
Earlier this year, associate professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University predicted a ‘Great Resignation’ would be the next challenge for American business. As post-pandemic employees are called back to in-person work or increased hours, many, he predicted, would be reconsidering their options. Some may completely exit the 9 to 5 grind, others will want to continue to work remotely, still others will be enticed to move on in the tight labor market.
The Great Resignation has been trending, but it didn’t begin in May. In April of 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4 million Americans quit their job: they posit that it is because employees were confident they could find better work. The tight talent market has proved them right. With over 9 million available jobs that month, it’s a buyer’s market for a new position. For business, avoiding the Great Resignation will require understanding what motivates employees to leave, and what actions can be taken to make them stay.
Here are 10 ways to keep your staff on staff:
- Stay competitive
As you compete to stay staffed in your local market, other employers are upping their game. Keep an eye on job postings in your area to make sure your wages, hours, and benefits are not being bested by the business next door. You may have to increase payroll costs to retain talent, but that should easily be offset by the high cost of recruitment, training and lost productivity.
- Be flexible
Microsoft analysis found 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year. A majority, 73%, want flexible work options to stay on the job. Working remotely was an eye-opening experience for a majority of businesses and staff. While many companies resisted working from anywhere pre-pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak not only demonstrated it could be done, but could be done productively. For workers, the prospect of going back to a 9 to 5 commuting grind is untenable. If you can continue some form of remote or hybrid system to retain staff members, consider doing so. Talk to staff about what they’d like and see if it can work for you.
If you can continue some form of remote or hybrid system to retain staff members, consider doing so.
- Don’t overburden
Microsoft found high productivity is masking an exhausted workforce. The Catch-22 of having to do the same or more with fewer staff puts more pressure on current employees. But 20% of workers say their employer doesn’t care about work-life balance: 54% feel over worked and 39% are just exhausted. It may be challenging, but understand how hard your employees are working and try to find ways to ease the burden. Taking on more staff may be difficult: can you reduce hours of operation or work with staffers to make sure they’re getting enough down time? Listen to their concerns and do whatever you can to help. Sometimes even the smallest change can make a huge impact.
- Watch for burnout
An eye-opener for many workers during the shutdown was how burned out they really were on the job. Watch for signs of burnout in your staff: exhaustion, absenteeism, irritability, errors and depression. If you notice previously well-performing staff members are making frequent mistakes, not contributing to discussions, or seem unsatisfied, they may be on the path to (or already at) burnout stage. Talk to them about the challenges they’re facing and try to find a road back to job satisfaction.
- Plan for the future
With so much uncertainty it might seem like an inopportune time to discuss the future, but getting employees over the hump of the great resignation may require exactly that. We are in a challenging time right now for American business and workers, but it won’t last forever. If you can, start planning a career trajectory for staff members, or, if it was derailed during the pandemic, get it back on the rails. Invest in training and development for their future so they can see a future within your organization.
- Conduct stay interviews
By the time you’re conducting exit interviews it’s too late to salvage the employee. Stay interviews are time spent with workers to hear what’s going well and what they’d like to see change or improve. Stay interviews give employees a chance to discuss what motivates them on a daily basis and what will motivate them to ignore offers they get from outside. You may find they want only the smallest of adjustments to remain happily on your payroll.
- Boost morale
You’re all working hard, and it can be difficult to take time for morale boosters, but they’re worth the time and resources. Consider small boosts – like free lunches or dinners, or treats in the break room (or virtual deliveries) just to say thank you. You may want to create mandatory wellness time – an afternoon or a day off with pay once a month (or more if you can afford it). If your remote team spends all their time online, make Fridays a meeting free day. Summer hours have always been a morale booster, with late starts on Mondays or early release on Fridays. Look for ways to provide rewards, small and large, to say thank you for being part of the team.
- Offer new benefits
For many businesses the competition isn’t with neighboring companies, it is perhaps federal and local enhanced unemployment benefits that are making it impossible to hire and retain talent. Consider offering benefits that federal unemployment doesn’t provide, like healthcare coverage. If you’re ready to offer $20 an hour for a dishwasher, why not offer slightly less but with healthcare coverage? If you do the math, you may find the upfront cost comparable: when you factor in the business deductions for contributing to healthcare benefits you may come out ahead. Here is a place you can compare healthcare plans.
- Offer more autonomy/authority
Staff members have been going the extra mile – is it time to reward their efforts with a boost in authority? Yes, the competition is paying more per hour, but you can offer your workers a boost in title that will last throughout their career. Retail Sales Clerk is great, but Shift Lead is better. Even a boost in autonomy is a great way to motivate staff. Can you delegate some of responsibility off your plate and onto theirs to demonstrate you trust their judgment and capabilities? It may mean a small bump in pay, but a huge bump in pride, prestige and engagement.
- Create ownership opportunities
If your company has a profit-sharing or stock option program is there a way to fast-track employees who may be at risk for flight? The more ownership they have in the company, the less likely they may be to leave. If you don’t have those options, you can still provide ‘ownership’ rewards. Sales incentives shouldn’t be delegated to the outside team. Be transparent about sales or performance goals for the day/week and offer your staff members a little something extra when you meet or exceed as an informal profit-share. You may take home a bit less profit, but you’ll reap the rewards with motivated employees who understand their efforts are not unnoticed.
Be transparent about sales or performance goals for the day/week and offer your staff members a little something extra when you meet or exceed as an informal profit-share.
The key to surviving the great resignation may be as easy as communication. Talk to your staff members – individually, in teams and as a whole. If you feel they’re not willing to be candid face-to-face, offer anonymous surveys to gauge contentment on the job. They know what they want, they know what will keep them on the job. Your job is to listen and accommodate, if possible.
Your team has gotten your business through the worst of times, make sure you keep them engaged, happy and on staff for the better days ahead.