Understanding the ‘Great Resignation’ and Why Employees Leave Their Jobs

Kate Conroy
June 8, 2022

You’ve given raises, you’ve completed exit interviews and yet it seems every day your resignation rates are increasing. Despite your best efforts, your employees are still leaving.  Why is this happening?  And more importantly, what action steps can you take to stop it?

What is the Great Resignation?

The job market has shifted; employers are competing for top talent and opportunities have never been better for an employee looking for a new job.  It truly is a candidate’s market, where job seekers are in the driver’s seat and in the negotiating position. As a result, we have entered the era of the Great Resignation where we’ve seen unprecedented job openings and labor turnover. If your employees have been leaving en masse, you’re probably wondering why this is happening and more importantly, what you can do about it.

Why are Employees Leaving Their Jobs?

Most employers wish that the answer to employee dissatisfaction is “they want more money.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Money is a motivator that brings people to work, but salary quickly loses its impact, and workers’ minds turn to the factors that can fulfill their higher-level needs. Luckily managers and leadership have influence over the factors that cause employees to start considering their next opportunity.

Minimal Levels of Innovation

The ability to contribute innovative ideas is what makes work engaging, challenging, and fun. When employees do not have opportunities to contribute to innovation at their company, they begin to feel like they aren’t contributing or accomplishing anything in their workplace. They start to look for employment where they feel they can make a difference.

Lack of Work-Life Balance

In the Spring of 2020, many workplaces shifted to remote work environments. This sudden transition was a challenge. However, the start of the COVID 19 pandemic forced a shift into a flexible work environment. After the wrinkles were ironed out, most employees realized that it works for them! 

They found benefits to this style of work, such as – 

  • Decreased need for paid childcare
  • No commute (and the cost savings, with gas prices skyrocketing!)
  • Ability to relocate to an area with a lower cost of living
  • Flexibility to complete personal chores, like running the laundry during the work day.  
  • The ability to address personal business with businesses only open from 9 am to 5 pm

Although the pandemic and shift to remote work may have highlighted the need for flexibility in workers’ schedules, lack of flexibility this has always been a reason why employees leave their jobs.  It’s challenging to tell people who have been productive at home for the past two and a half years that the only way they can be productive NOW is if they’re in the office all 5 days of a 40-hour work week. Whether it is an increase in family needs or an increase in work demands, the desire for work-life balance draws workers to employers who can provide them with the flexibility they desire.

Employee Performance Unrecognized

Everyone wants to feel as though their work makes a difference, whether it is big or small. If performance goes unrecognized, it’s easy for employees to feel like their work does not matter. Some managers may believe a paycheck is recognition enough but if you want your employees to stay, you need to recognize their efforts, help them understand how they demonstrate value to the business and connect their contributions to overall business goals. Recognition goes hand in hand with communication. Everyone has different communication styles and in order for recognition to be effective, you should communicate it to the employee in the way it will be best received. Unsure of how you communicate effectively with your team? Red Clover offers assessment-based solutions and individual and team debriefs to help your team understand and leverage your communication styles to bridge this gap.

5 Tips for Employers on How to Combat the Great Resignation

If you are experiencing higher rates of attrition and employees have echoed the sentiments above in their exit interviews, you are probably wondering what you need to do to increase your employee retention.

1.  Be Flexible

Flexibility should always be managed within the context of your business needs. Although remote work is desired by employees, it isn’t always feasible. Can a chef work remotely? No, it just wouldn’t make sense. An accountant, on the other hand, can probably get the job done at home, or at least in a hybrid work environment.  Is your team highly collaborative? Maybe consider a hybrid model to get the best of both worlds. 

When creating a plan for workplace flexibility, consider what you are able to reasonably offer. Then communicate this to your team, making it clear why you decided to make the decision you did. Even if you can’t offer hybrid flexibility, your team will be more understanding if the thought you put behind the decision is communicated to them. Additionally, this is where business leaders need to put their money where their mouth is. Any workplace flexibility options should be applied fairly and equitably at all levels of the organization. Yes, even senior leadership and executives.

2. Provide Open Communication With Employees

The way we communicate a message is often more important than the actual information being communicated. This is because the way we communicate change provides employees with different types of information. It tells them how highly we think of them, how we respect them, and that thought and consideration are put into decisions that impact them.

Be open with employees about the reason for the decision, especially if there is a chance the reception will be less than positive. Although the rationale may be clear when you have all the facts and are making the call, it can be a mystery to employees unless you loop them in.

3. Emphasize the Importance of Health and Well-Being of All Employees

Emphasizing employee health and well-being is a win-win. Healthy employees equal more productive work. Creating this space helps ensure that your employees aren’t becoming overwhelmed and burned out. Often employees won’t raise the red flag themselves when they are becoming overwhelmed; no one wants to admit they can’t handle a heavy workload. Train your managers to pay attention and provide support when your employees need it.

Put some time into making sure your employees understand their benefits package. In most cases, both the employee and employer are paying the bill, but if employees don’t understand what is available to them you won’t get your maximum ROI. By taking time to make sure your employees have a thorough understanding of their benefits, they’ll truly see the value of their total rewards.

4. Implement an Employee Rewards and Recognition Program

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be a big production, but it does need to be genuine. Consider committing to a habit of employee recognition and building it into your daily or weekly working rhythms. Culture is built from the top down; if your leadership starts recognizing employees, employees will start recognizing each other’s work.

When rewarding employees with variable compensation, make it easy to understand! There should be a clear connection between the behaviors you want to reward and the additional pay (whether it be bonuses or other forms of incentive compensation.) Not only does this better reward your employees because it connects the reward to their work, but it will contribute to increased productivity.

5. Find New Ways to Enhance the Employee Experience

Employee development is much more than just addressing problem behaviors and encouraging employees to take a professional development course. Employee development should be an ongoing conversation where employees have the opportunity to identify their areas of interest and have opportunities to explore new areas of work. With a strategic employee development and performance management process in place, your employees will perform at their best, while continuing to be engaged with new experiences.

Need Additional Guidance on Navigating the Great Resignation?

Managing change in the workplace isn’t easy. However, if you are seeing higher rates of attrition, it’s time to make some changes to increase employee retention. Red Clover provides change management support and can help guide strategic decisions that will increase your employee retention and work for your business. If you are interested in learning more contact us to get started!

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