The Great Resignation has prompted many Americans to quit. It’s not all bad, though. Here are 3 opportunities it creates for employers.
Here's what you need to know:
- Improve work processes and review outdated people management practices to reposition your business as a top employer
- Make workers feel like they matter and their emotional needs are important at work
- Demonstrate that you care about your employees through things like open conversation and meaningful surveys
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted swaths of Americans to quit their jobs — 25% left in 2021 compared to 22% in 2019. Economists have dubbed it the “Great Resignation.” The United States labor shortage stems from many complicated worker issues — including demand for more flexibility, childcare issues, healthcare concerns, and many workers taking early retirement.
Though this has left employers scrambling to fill openings, it’s also an opportunity for companies to adapt. For instance, many employers have seen the Great Resignation as a signpost to invest in upskilling and reskilling their workforces. The shift in the balance of power from employer to employee in the working relationship has made education a competitive hiring and retention tool.
Vantage Custom Solutions managing principal Marcus Bryant said, in an interview with CNBC, employers shouldn’t hesitate to invest in education for employees because not doing so will lead to an underperforming workforce. He said the competitive advantage in hiring and retention is well worth the investment, and employers shouldn’t worry about training employees who may (or may not) leave and take that experience to other employers.
The return employers gain from attracting and retaining employees through training and education is just one example of the opportunities employers can find in a competitive employment marketplace. Whether it’s the time of the Great Resignation or not, these lessons are valuable for any employer looking to attract top talent.
Why a competitive employment market creates an opportunity
It’s no secret that employees left their jobs in droves during the pandemic. However, as Mineral CEO and Forbes Business Council member Nathan Christensen explained in an interview with Forbes, they haven’t all left the workforce entirely. They are looking for new roles, new employers, and career opportunities in new industries.
While the pandemic impacted the economy and deepened the labor shortage in the United States, business hiring has also increased. As workers leave jobs to find more purpose and intention in their work, employers who are willing to adapt have the opportunity to strengthen their companies and workforces by building a more engaging, productive, and caring work environment.
Employers who are willing to adapt have the opportunity to strengthen their companies and workforces by building a more engaging, productive, and caring work environment.
Here are 3 things a labor shortage does for employers.
It shows employers the importance of the employee experience
Employers have an opportunity right now to improve their employer brand and employee experience. These have become crucial to employees living with pandemic struggles. By improving work processes and reviewing outdated people management practices, businesses can reposition themselves as top employers to attract and retain employees.
Computerworld’s Lucas Mearian reports that top reasons workers quit in 2021 include low pay or lack of benefits, lack of work-life balance, and being unhappy about how they were treated during the pandemic. Mearian explains that these issues are opportunities for employers to improve their employee experience and strengthen their companies with more inviting and comfortable workplace practices and policies.
Where should you start? Focus on encouraging employees by demonstrating that their work is important and the management trusts them.
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Employers learn that people are more important than positions
According to an NPR interview with Laszlo Bock, former Google human resources executive, managers and management should use the Great Resignation to make workers feel trusted and included. He says that — especially for hourly workers — these are important ways to be a supportive employer:
- Offering health benefits and a living wage
- Avoiding difficult schedules like closing then opening the next day
- Prioritizing emotional support
Making workers feel like they matter and their emotional needs are important at work is more important than ever.
Taking care of people in the workforce is an effective retention strategy, as nonprofit director Karrie Duke knows well. In an interview with The Washington Post, she said her company used its Paycheck Protection Program funds to support employees, and management makes great efforts at personalized employee appreciation. She feels this has saved the company from losing employees during the down labor market of the pandemic.
Other employers have found that supporting their employees through pandemic stresses is just good business sense. Some may have put clients first in a pre-pandemic customer service policy. However, now many of them demand that clients respect their staff and even “fire” difficult customers who mistreat their employees. Cindy Yepez told The Washington Post that the Houston vet where she works does this, and management has found that it paid off in low turnover and high applicant interest.
It draws attention to employee burnout and mental health issues
Companies like Limeade know that employee burnout and work-related mental health issues can make employees leave their jobs. Limeade’s platform is all about helping employees and employers cultivate a healthy employee experience. Its “Great Resignation Update” study showed that 40% of employees left because of burnout. Other top reasons for leaving included:
- Lack of flexibility
- Not feeling valued
- The feeling that their employer didn’t support their overall well-being
Limeade chief science advisor Dr. Laura Hamill told Forbes that company leaders should demonstrate that they care about their employees through things like open conversation and meaningful surveys about things that are important to them. Leaders can show they care about employees through words and actions because it supports employee well-being.
How to become an employer of choice
The ‘Great Resignation’ didn’t end with 2021, and it’s not the only time we’ll see a highly competitive labor market. In times like these, companies need to focus on becoming must-work destinations. That way, they can attract employees who are dissatisfied with their jobs and their employers. Stephanie Vozza, writing for Fast Company, says that means offering flexible work arrangements, developing your management team to truly care about employee well-being, and connecting the workforce to your company’s mission, vision, and values.
Vozza also reminds employers that they’ll likely need a blended workforce that includes freelancers, many of whom have left permanent positions out of disappointment and dissatisfaction. Ultimately, supporting work-life integration may be the best way to retain top employees and a productive workforce.