The Great Resignation is upon us. Are you prepared?

If you haven’t already heard about “the great resignation”, it’s a good time to catch up now. Why? This is something that leading HR experts predict will transform the way work environments and hiring in 2022. What exactly is going to change, and how is this going to affect your organization?

The Great Resignation was first proposed by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University, and the idea predicts a record number of resignations after the COVID pandemic ends. The wave has already begun, and organizations are starting to feel the ripple effects as employees re-evaluate their careers.

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: FRED


The beginning of the pandemic was characterized by mass layoffs across the globe. Now, as the economy inches back to normalcy, the scenario is quite the opposite. There are a record number of open positions—10.9 million in the US alone. Research shows the following trends in particular:

  • Resignation rates are the highest among mid-career employees
  • The rates are highest in the technology and healthcare industries

With the hiring scene so turbulent, we called upon a panel of industry experts to understand how organizations can prepare for the changes to come, and what they can do to improve employer-employee relationships.

Why is ‘The Great Resignation’ happening?


What can it be attributed to? This phenomenon is already transforming processes like hiring and retention—people accept job offers and stay longer in companies for reasons that no longer adhere to conventional HR methods—and there are drastic changes in how people are hired in the modern economy. 

Because jobs are now virtual, they are no longer a means to an end. 

What’s changed?

Employees are starting to look beyond salaries. We’re talking about wellness packages, ergonomic alliances, and most importantly, the flexibility and autonomy to have that work-life balance—something that was really a distant dream in the pre-pandemic era. 

Now that offices are opening up, and most organizations are looking to get their workforce back to work, the majority of employees will be faced with a very, very important dilemma, whether to relinquish the flexibility and autonomy that they are currently experiencing, going back to work

The pandemic, and how it set off ‘The Great Resignation’ across the globe


Trends show that The Great Resignation phenomenon is happening due to multiple factors that can be broadly classified into logistical and psychological reasons. 

Logistical factors:


Today’s employee enjoys more power and has access to many more possibilities than ever before. With a laptop and a stable internet connection, they’re able to juggle more job opportunities and have stronger bargaining power from the comfort of their homes. 

Obviously, this is going to affect the way they work and their expectations from their employers have risen to much higher standards. As Senthil Kanthaswamy, the head of Freshteam, one of the world’s leading HR software for SMBs, puts it: 

Earlier, a company based out of Los Angeles had a hiring pool that was limited to that particular city. Candidates from other parts of the country or the world had to shift their base to be able to work for the organization. But due to the pandemic, hiring has become more borderless. This is especially so in the tech industry.

This is both good and bad. Companies now have access to a wider and much more diverse talent pool. But it also means that more companies are competing for the people that you are looking to hire. Your candidates have a lot more options and there are very few limitations. Though the start of the pandemic was characterized by slowdowns and a lot of lay-offs signaling an employer’s market, the market demand is picking up, and it has truly become an employee-centric market. 

Psychological factors:


The pandemic has certainly changed the way people look at work-life balance. It’s no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ factor, it has become their highest priority. 

With entire economies shutting down, and people being isolated from human interaction for longer stretches of time, there has been a shift in the way people think about work. Compensation, of course, remains a big part of the decision—but what are today’s employees actually looking for? More employee benefits? Faster career growth? More flexibility? To feel more valued?

The list could go on forever, but one thing is clear—employees no longer have logistical barriers like having to move to different cities or countries for work, and they no longer need days off to attend job interviews. Everything is accessible from the comfort of their homes. So, with logistical barriers out of the way, their needs have shifted. And that’s why companies need to start prioritizing more personal interactions with their employees and make an effort to truly understand and fulfill their needs.

There’s one unexpected winner in this scenario—Startups

Studies show that almost 40% of the current unicorns were created in the first eight months of 2021. Investors have put in millions of dollars in firms and this led to a flourishing startup scenario even as multinational companies were struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. 

This has given an unprecedented advantage for employees—startups are more open to flexible work culture, and now, they’re able to offer a higher salary than most companies. Employees are spoiled for choice. 

But these numbers also prove one more thing—more employees are quitting well-known organizations to start their own venture. So, are higher compensation and flexible work benefits the only deciding factors? Or is there more to it than meets the eye? 

Our experts pose the right questions—can you match the VC-fuelled compensation race? Is that what the employees are after? 

Or is there anything of more value you can offer?

 

A lot of people have been shifting from well-known MNCs to smaller, lesser-known start-ups—it’s because they’re offered faster growth and more opportunities to be heard. Compensation alone is no longer an incentive for retaining great employees. I think companies need to do whatever they can in their sphere of influence to provide an experience that cannot be matched elsewhere.

— Piyush Peshwani, Co-founder, OnGrid

While the solutions might be different for each case, understanding why an employee leaves your company is key to riding out this great wave of resignations. 

“While my parents’ generation was looking at work as their means of survival, my generation works for a better standard of living, and today’s generation is looking for a better quality of life—not just the standard of life because that’s already given to them,” says Rakesh Gupta, Senior Consultant at Cognologix. 

So how can an organization offer a  “better quality of life” to its employees? Money is not what they’re after. They’re looking for a way to spend more time with their families. More time for self-exploration, and most importantly, a way to feel valued at their workplace. This can be achieved through:

  • Better health and medical benefits 
  • More ESOPs
  • Faster career growth within the organization
  • More access to the top management

There are endless ways to show your employees that you value them. But finding out what exactly they want can only happen through more conversations, and by creating a space where employees can voice their needs and concerns easily. 

Take compensation out of the equation and analyze what else you have to offer—because your employees want the complete package. 

So what can HR managers do to make the best of ‘The Great Resignation?

 

The number of employees quitting their jobs is not going to reduce any time soon. In fact, I predict an even higher wave of resignations headed our way as companies are now considering asking employees to move back from their hometowns, closer to work

— Neville Postwala, AVP of Talent Acquisition at Harbinger Group. 

Why is that? While most employees are yearning for more human interactions, they save a lot more money and time by working from home. So when companies ask them to leave their hometowns, employees are going to look for work opportunities that are closer to home. HR professionals need to adapt to this shift in priorities faster and try to make the situation a win-win for all. 

How? Here are the top 5 ways to do so, according to our panel of experts:

  • Hybrid working is here to stay

Whether we like it or not, the hybrid working model is the future. With around 70% of companies in the EU and the US planning to make hybrid working permanent, it’s time to adapt your systems to the problems that come with this model of working—inclusivity, and trust. 

Serendipity cannot be engineered. It has to happen over conversations – how do you ensure this continues even when the teams are remote?

— Senthil Kanthaswamy, Director, Freshteam by Freshworks

Essentially, half your employees are going to be at the office, and the other half is going to work remotely. So how do you ensure that both sets of employees get the equal amount of attention and appreciation? How do you hold impromptu team meetings where everyone is involved no matter where they are? How do you avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” problem?

These are issues that companies need to prepare themselves for. But the issues aren’t new, nor are they unique. Companies like Spotify have completely remote teams that do amazing work. In Spotify’s case, the company gave employees the option to permanently work from home, or choose to visit the office at a frequency that the employees and managers get to choose. One of the main reasons they’re able to embrace hybrid working, apart from their work culture, is through smaller, satellite offices set up across the globe—and in cases of no Spotify offices being present where its employees live, rather than forcing them to relocate to its HQ, Spotify offers to pay for co-working spaces that are convenient for its employees. This, and investing in the right collaboration tools can help companies of all sizes thrive even when half the teams are remote.

  • More conversations, fewer transactions

     

People work for people, not companies

 — Vineet Jawa, Co-founder, IDfy

Right from the onboarding process, or perhaps even from the interview process, how you communicate with employees is of paramount importance. Do they get proper, positive, or constructive feedback at frequent intervals? Do employees feel appreciated for their accomplishments? 

The reason why a lot of people are moving to smaller startups is that conversations are more frequent fostering a better sense of belonging and significance. 

Half-yearly and annual appraisals don’t work as effectively as monthly or weekly check-ins between employees and their managers—this is the better way to track goals, career discussions, provide mutual feedback—this is the better way to connect on a human level.

And this has to start with the managers. The HR team cannot connect with employees about their career growth—it only has value if it comes from the managers themselves. So this is one of the most important steps that has to be taken to prepare for the upcoming cultural shift.  

  • Focus on employee wellness

This 2021 study found that more than 60% of companies are concerned about the mental wellbeing of their employees after the pandemic. 

And though there are plenty of tools that help the HR team drive more awareness about mental health and try to engage employees better, once again, training managers and leaders to become more aware and empathetic gives more effective results, and of course, more reasons for employees to feel fulfilled and stay on with the company.

With frequent interactions, managers also have the power to connect with their employees and understand their state of mind, and create a better daily work environment rather than pushing it off as an HR function. 

Studies show that employees are more likely to feel higher levels of well-being when they feel higher levels of organizational support. Data also showed that supportive managers play the most important role in determining employee well-being. The better the relationship between managers and employees, the more productive and loyal employees are. Employees with highly supportive managers are 59% more likely to be positively engaged. 

Rather than seeing this as an added task piling on to the managerial team, look at the bigger picture—organizations gain more in the long run by keeping employees happy and maintaining better retention rates. 

  • Prioritize internal recruitment

HR trends for 2022 indicate a significant shift from role-based hiring to skill-based one. And internal recruitment is quickly becoming the preferred way to fill job openings. Recent studies have proven that internal recruitment drastically increases new-hire productivity, and improves retention rate. With multinational companies such as AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, and many others giving more preference to internal recruitment, this is one of the best ways to stay unaffected by the effects of ‘The Great Resignation’. 

Internal recruitment helps employees feel more valued, motivates them to perform better, and gives them faster career growth. 

As hiring trends shift from role-based to skill-based hiring, one thing has become clearer than ever before—internal recruitment is quickly becoming the preferred way to fill job openings—studies have proven that internal recruitment improves retention rate, accelerates new-hire productivity, and makes hiring a lot faster. Internal talent networks have been adopted by companies such as AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, and many other organizations. 

Though one might argue that this limits the talent pool and leads to creative stagnation, the best way to make the internal recruitment process more robust is to train employees, upskill them across levels and provide ways for them to move across teams if need be. 

  • Upskilling and career development

One of the biggest lures of startups is that almost every employee has an equal opportunity to be heard, and they all have access to faster career growth. Things get a bit more complicated in large organizations where it’s tough to stand out among so many other employees. They feel like their work makes no difference, and this makes them more likely to quit. A study by PwC shows that over 45% of companies agreed that upskilling is one of the top strategies to close organizational skill gaps, compared to any other method—and this, of course, improves employee growth as well as retention within the organization in the long run. 


Conclusion

It’s tough to predict what’s going to happen in the future, especially in the post-COVID world where unpredictability has become the norm. In less than a year after some of the biggest lay-offs and losses, businesses have picked up unexpectedly, and it’s an employee’s market today—The Great Resignation is just one such phenomenon signaling the change in the labor market. 

Perspectives have changed and priorities have shifted, and it’s important for organizations to keep up with what today’s employees are looking for—experts and studies agree on the essential factors to retain employees and make hiring a lot faster. But in the end, it comes down to individual factors—how your organization communicates with your employees, how it acts on the feedback it receives, and how willing it is to make the necessary changes to stay ahead. Our tip is to be more flexible and agile, be more accommodating of employee needs, and embrace the challenges that come with it.

 

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