A year ago this month, Anthony Klotz, a psychologist and professor of business administration at Texas A&M University, coined a now-famous phrase: He said “the great resignation is coming,” and that was that—or so we thought.
A lot has happened in a year. According to CNN, 47.4 million jobs were left voluntarily last year—an admittedly staggering amount—for greener pastures. But what started it all? And how can business owners keep up?
Resignations will continue at a higher rate for at least a few years, according to the original prognosticator. But what started it all is as simple as changing priorities during the pandemic. Americans are continuing to evaluate what it means to have a healthy work-life balance, and people are deciding to follow their dreams instead of staying put.
In February, nearly 4.4 million quit their jobs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and that’s about 100,000 more people than quit in January—and just shy of the 4.5 million record set in November. But despite all of this, the unemployment rate is at 3.6%. That means there are about 6 million unemployed people in the U.S.
The workforce is focusing on their personal priorities. They aren’t settling for just any job—so how do you make sure your company attracts talent and is staffed for the future? Despite these sobering statistics, there are ways to win the war for talent if you follow these five steps.
Step One: Lock in Your Existing Resources
Promoting a healthy work culture is more than politeness and “thank yous”. It means recognizing your employees holistically as people—not just workers. To do this, you must prioritize the well-being of your employees, from healthy habits to mental health. This can look like encouraging employees to relax on their days off, to take actual lunch breaks instead of working as they munch, and to share fun facts about their lives outside of work. Offering team-building exercises, meet-ups, get-to-know-you events, and the like, can help create a sense of camaraderie and fun in the workplace. But there’s more to it than that when it comes to a healthy culture; offer competitive pay, feedback and goal setting meetings, recognition for successes, and employees will feel valued, secure, and seen for their hard work.
For the remote workforce, it can be as easy as having chat channels for different interests or having themed days of the week where employees are encouraged to share pictures of their pets, DIY projects, kids, or travel adventures. When employees feel respected and seen as full people—not just worker-bees—they become more engaged in their work-life, improving their attitudes and productivity. This translates to inclusivity and a feeling of belonging.
Step Two: Cut the Fluff
An easy way to kill a job candidate’s interest in your company is by dragging out a long hiring process. No one likes spending six months—or even 6 weeks—interviewing for one position. Aim to cut down on the decision-makers and number of interviews, video interviewing to increase availability (which should be your primary interviewing method), and speed up the hiring process. If your company isn’t equipped to keep the hiring process on track, consider outsourcing to a third party. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that the average time to fill (the time it takes to make a hire after a position opens) at 42 days across all industries, yet the best candidate is off the market in 10 days. So if your process takes longer than that, you’re missing the mark.
An analysis of data on LinkedIn showed that for positions filled between June 2020 and March 2021, it took an average of 49 days to hire engineers and an average of 44 days to hire IT professionals—but when it comes to contractors, that wait time gets nearly eliminated. Contract employees are a great move if you’re looking to hire quickly, as they also cut down the timeframe for the hiring process. Not only can they typically start sooner than full-time employees, they’re ready to dive right in having the expert knowledge in the role they are hired for. Contractors are a fixed cost—with no overhead costs to consider, no maintenance around training—and they are task-oriented. Remember employee turnover is expensive, but contractors are cost-effective and require less onboarding paperwork.
Step Three: Be Flexible
About 88% of knowledge workers say that when searching for a new position, they will look for one that offers complete flexibility in their hours and location.
Gone are the days of the strict 9-5. Today, flexible work schedules are king. Translation: As long as the employee gets their work done prior to their deadline, does it really matter if they start work at 7 a.m. rather than 9 a.m.? Or if they opt to contract with you Monday through Thursday so they can always take a three-day weekend?
But flexibility doesn’t only lie with the times they clock in and clock out. If a kid is sick, or an employee has to go to the doctor, they shouldn’t feel like they can’t ask for time off. The key here is simple: Clearly outline whether roles are in-office, remote, or hybrid, and what’s expected of employees. Employers that offer some level of flexibility will come out ahead.
Step Four: Evaluate Your Goals
Obviously, you want your future hires to be happy during their time with you, but this isn’t just about them. The Great Resignation has also triggered plenty of employers to reevaluate what their goals are for their employees and what a success “position” looks like during their time with the company. Are you looking for long-term hires? Contractors? Project Teams? When it comes to evaluating goals, employers need to shift their interest towards how the work gets done and not the status of the employee.
One great option is to consider contract-to-hire employees, that way you can have a trial run to make sure that it’s a good fit before making a long-term commitment. While hiring contractors provides the benefit of having employees that are not full-time it also allows the employer to assess the contractor’s skills and cultural fit before making that investment toward a full-time employee.
Step Five: Encourage Development
Encouraging development goes beyond the standard onboarding. It’s more than just compliance training, too. Schedule more frequent one-on-one reviews and performance assessments with your employees to understand what their future looks like. This also allows them to voice any concerns they may have. After all, an employee who feels more in the know is more confident with their employer.
But how else can you encourage development? Check in with employees and see if they have goals for their future with the company. Do they want to upskill and reach a certain career trajectory? Offering discounted or free education incentives could not only encourage them to grow with your business but also increase their worth. By 2030, 30-40% of all workers in developed countries will need to move into new occupations or upgrade their skill set significantly. Keep this in mind, and don’t fall short of your digital aspirations.
Another way to encourage development is by dropping the annual raise and switch to more frequent pay reviews. This helps you be more competitive when searching for talent while keeping pace with rising wages.
The Great Resignation may very well be a misnomer. Maybe it should be called the Great Aspiration—forced to make abrupt and significant changes under pressure, Americans are aiming to live the lives they want. They are reaching for what they once thought was unattainable, and they are going for what they thought was simply aspirational. For organization growing their digital/tech efforts, you may also want consider this; IT and digital skills are so in demand (more so than others), which means that these steps are even greater to address if you are aiming to grow your IT and/or digital efforts. A failure to address any of these steps and you can expect your job openings to drag on forever.
With a workforce aiming for the jobs they always dreamed of having—it’s time to ask yourself: is the job I’m offering dream-worthy? Cut the fluff, and create a great culture that includes flexibility, a strong mission, and employee development—and the answer will be a resounding yes.
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