People are quitting their jobs at a very high rate. Which begs the question: what can businesses do to keep their workforce intact?

Texas A & M’s Anthony Klotz coined the term ‘The Great Resignation’, in 2019 as a way to predict the mass exodus we were all about to experience. Not only were his predictions correct, he might have understated how mass the voluntary exodus would be – putting employee wellbeing at the forefront of future conversations.

The Department of Labor statistics show us that during the months of April, May and June of 2021, 11.5 million people left their jobs. Several months later, a new study conducted by Microsoft found that over 40% of workers are still considering quitting. Here are a few more mind boggling numbers to think about:

  • 48% of employees  are actively searching for new opportunities.
  • 38% of those employees plan to make a change within 6-months.
  • 74% of workers who spent time at home during the pandemic, used that time to rethink their current employment.

These numbers represent a massive portion of the remaining workforce, who have decided, in the midst of a pandemic, that staying put might not have been as important as they once thought. The security we all thought we had – wasn’t as secure as we thought. Which opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Traditionally, management in corporate America has been able to get away with almost anything, especially in a downturn, because employees needed work and were often grateful just to have a job. This is not the case now.

The Cold Reality
Turnover cost is estimated to be 90-200% of an employee’s base salary. Onboarding and hiring processes require time, resources and manpower – and with many corporations already shorthanded, finding new workers is looking to be a daunting task.

So let’s talk about holding onto the good people you’ve already got. Workplace wellness is a trending topic and here to stay. What can a small enterprise do – especially when they’re competing with larger, better funded corporate competitors – within the same talent pool?

Don’t Jump On the Wacky Train
Fast Company put out a piece last year titled, “The Era of Wacky Office Perks is Dead”. They caught onto the fact that mini fridges full of drinks and sleep pods were not what people were asking for when they asked for safety, trust, empowerment and freedom. These trendy workplaces are nothing without the foundational elements mentioned above. Bean bags and pool tables just aren’t enough. No wacky trend will take the place of a workplace and a leader who truly cares about their people and wants them to experience personal success within an organization.

Trust Is A Key Element
When a lot of corporate America left their glass buildings and went remote, leadership became increasingly worried about productivity. Would employees take advantage of their newfound freedom? This led to a huge uptick in software and tools being utilized to track hours, time spent on specific tasks and when employees were logging in and out for the day. If an employee was already on the fence, this might have been the final straw. A lack of trust on either side makes work feel icky and that icky feeling forces employees to shut down.

There is an upside to tools like this, where managers can find coaching and training opportunities and reward productive employees, when used appropriately, and leaders need to make sure this is communicated (very well) to their teams. An app that takes screenshots every 10-minutes might even interrupt productivity because an employee is anxious and focused on that versus their work. Remote work is not necessarily an open invitation for micromanagement. 

Empowerment Through Recognition
A recent survey said that 63% of employees who are regularly recognized also said they are very unlikely to look for a new job. This kind of encouragement and confidence building lends to individual empowerment and more buy-in to a company’s mission and even their bottom line. Simply put: if you empower your employees, they will stay put. 

Don’t Know? Just Ask
If you really want to be in-tune with what it will take to get your employees to stick around: ask them. Transparency  builds trust, that key element we talked about earlier. Employees are navigating this new landscape just as much as leaders are, so it’s a great idea to build in strategies (both formal and informal) aimed at asking what is working and what isn’t – and more than that – how they are doing.

Don’t Just Ask, Do
Of course, with the asking there has to be action. Solutions geared towards employee responses show commitment on your end, which buys more commitment on their end. Employees aren’t looking for you to save the world, just to be heard and feel safe speaking to their own pain points. This approach opens the door for collaborative solutions, where you work together to reach a place where those pain points are hurting less and less as you grow together. Removing the barriers increases buy-in.

Becoming Change Proof
For all of this disruption, as is always true with change, there is tremendous opportunity. Change Proof principles tell us if we use the uncertainty and change in front of us, we can accelerate our growth, no matter how much or how often the change is happening.