It comes as no surprise that companies are experiencing record quit rates as the U.S. continues to be challenged by what was once called The Great Resignation and is now being referred to as The Great Reshuffle. Regardless of what you call it, it has become clear that employees are updating their priorities, and organizations that are pivoting to meet existing and new priorities, are the ones who are succeeding at retaining their talent.
It is widely known that it costs an employer about one third, if not more, of an employee’s annual salary to replace them when they leave. However, getting employees to simply stay, is not always the answer. It also costs employers when their employees are disengaged. Disengaged employees are less productive and more disruptive to business operations. With Gallup reporting a drop during the second half of 2021 to 34% of the U.S. workforce being engaged, from 36%, it is becoming increasingly important for employers to focus on ways to not only retain, but to engage top talent.
One of the largest ways organizations are failing to react to the environment’s call for change, is by “failing to recognize and reward their existing talent,” says Marq Burnett, a writer for The Business Journals. At the beginning of the pandemic, many employers stepped up their efforts to reward and recognize employees and add flexibility into the workplace. However, employees recognize that this effort has declined, notably. In fact, according to Burnett, “Quantum Workplace’s annual Employee Engagement Trends Report, which surveyed 32,000 individuals on their workplace experiences in connection with its Best Places to Work surveys, found the percentage of workers who felt they would be recognized for their contributions to their company’s success fell nine percentage points between 2020 and 2021.”
Rewarding and recognizing employees is not always as straightforward as giving everyone more money or extra paid time off, although many employees who took the Quantum Workplace study did indicate they would like these outcomes (respondents answered as follows: 75% would like gift cards, 72% bonuses, 72% prepaid cards and 65% additional vacation days).
The answer to this complex problem would be the same if you surveyed HR professionals, analytics/advisory organizations such as Gallup, or business researchers and writers such as Forbes, and that is that there is no one answer. Employees are looking for reward and recognition from their employers in a variety and combination of ways. Workplace and role Flexibility, changes to total compensation (salary, bonuses, PTO, etc.), opportunities for development and career progression, a focus on wellbeing, and being included in the conversation and decision-making process, are a good place to start for most organizations.
Flexibility has become even more important to employees as many organizations transition back to the office from remote work, and really, the past two years have changed the future of work. It is becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to say “we can’t” when for the past two years “we have”. In addition, money was the top incentive employees were looking for in order to justify going back to work in person ($5,100 was the average desired amount according to Burnett’s article). But employees aren’t just asking for more without giving more; they want to know what their career path could look like and they want their employer to provide opportunities for growth. Also, with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on wellbeing and mental health, the desire and need for a concerted focus on wellbeing and destigmatizing mental health issues is likely to continue long into the future. Additionally, employees want to be heard by their employer and they want to feel like they can help impact change by being involved in decision making. As the adage goes, communication is key; getting employees involved in the conversation benefits an entire organization.
It is safe to say that employees are looking for their employers to not only talk the talk but walk the walk; there are too many opportunities out there in the current workplace reshuffle for employers to become apathetic to the problems at hand. The more employers can focus on finding ways to reward and recognize their employees in a thoughtful and consistent way, the more engaged their employees will be and the less attrition their organization will experience.
And did I mention that it is much more cost effective and beneficial to business to retain engaged talent rather than to lose and rehire? There is virtually no risk in attempting some of the aforementioned tactics rather than being reactive to what the workplace is handing us with The Great Reshuffle.