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The Great Resignation: How can HR Leaders keep their people?

By Jo Deal, Chief HR Officer, LogMeIn

November 16 2021 - ‘The Great Resignation’ is a term which has gained much momentum as lockdown came to an end and things opened up again. HR experts have explored why it is happening, how to respond and when it might come to an end. Understanding the why is an important part of solving this and with recent research showing that nearly half of workers (41%) are thinking about quitting to seek a change or even a rest, there is no imminent sign of an ending. It is an employee’s market right now and adopting a flexible work strategy can be a key component in retaining people who are tired and seeking a better way of working and living.

As normality is slowly returning to the UK opportunities have opened up and many people with post-pandemic blues are opting for change. Often that change has meant a new job. In parallel, the job market has opened up as the economy returns to health and these two factors are colliding in one of the most competitive job markets we have seen in decades. Companies are paying more to keep talent and then even more to attract new talent to replace the people who jumped to a new job or to a new life outside of traditional work. As labour shortages continue and the cost of hiring mounts, the pressure on recruitment teams and hiring managers continues to grow as they look to keep up without breaking the bank.

Not everyone can compete on cost and at some point, there has to be a reckoning when the final bill comes, but there are other ways to provide employees with a rich work experience that doesn’t translate into 50% salary adjustments all round. Companies have the chance to respond and to win the war for talent by harnessing smarter tactics and specifically, by listening and responding to employee demands.

Employee-first thinking

Some companies may be hybrid, others remote-first, but the smart ones gathered data from their employees, declared what they are going to be and are stuck to that decision. The wise companies agree that it is important to incorporate flexibility wherever they can. If the challenge lies within the company, perhaps with senior leadership who have not embraced hybrid and cannot wait to call everyone back in, there are many more data points to help build the case. Our recent research found that 66% of employees are happier working remotely and 83% are more likely to stay at a company if given the opportunity of work flexibility. Listen to the data, and solve for that majority, figuring out how you can offer flexibility to as many as possible. Redesigning a workplace strategy and how and where work gets done is not an easy task. Whilst we may have all spent the past 18+ months working in a remote world, it doesn’t mean we became experts on how to do it right. Building it out piece by piece is the easiest way to start, turning your attention to the foundational pieces to ensure hybrid work is an enriching experience, no matter if you go to an office two days a week, once a month or never. This means HR leaders should review every talent programme, policy and practice and reimagine it for a hybrid world.

There are advantages to any organisation that can play in a wider talent pool, starting with improved diversity and more choice of candidates. Maybe the role cannot be truly "anywhere" but posting a job with a range of locations or specifying a radius of distance from an office, instead of attaching it to a specific city, can open the aperture to many more potential hires, leading to faster hiring and quality talent. A recent EY survey found that more than half of employees globally would quit their jobs if not provided post-pandemic flexibility. Figuring out what exactly that flexibility looks like may be the key to success.

Invest for success

Mastery of most new skills requires learning and practice, and then adapting and evolving a best practice for personal fit. The companies that do this well are investing in development for their managers to enable them not to survive, but to thrive at leading in a hybrid environment. Learning offerings could include hiring for hybrid (looking for self-sufficiency, as well as core job skills), learning how to build team spirit for a dispersed group, or programmes on how to communicate effectively with each individual team member when many of their interactions are online. Video meetings are great for building connections but the risk of burnout is high. Spending time on how to collaborate effectively is important - deciding a company framework for when meetings are needed, providing tips for how to do asynchronous communication (including writing tips as not all of us are skilled at writing concise memos) and then publishing that guidance - all of this can be instrumental to changing from a meeting rich culture to a more synchronous operating system. That frees people up from endless meetings, allows for productive and creative time and should also create a better work life harmony.

Increased employee engagement pays off

The interplay of remote work and compensation has been an interesting one to watch with some big-name companies signalling that a reduction in pay will go hand in hand with a move. The pandemic forced many companies to adopt cost savings measures and now many are re-thinking their compensation strategy as well as their real estate costs. In fact, 56% of remote work decision-makers identified their number one priority for flexible work to be reducing costs.

However, if saving money is the main driver for pushing remote work, including salary cuts, be wary of the hidden costs in the short term as employees leave, attrition rises, and workflow is impacted. It is certainly possible to bank some of the savings, but it is wise to put some of those monies back into new investments, whether those be home office benefits, wellness offerings or budget for local team get togethers. Those investments will produce a strong return and ensure stronger employee engagement while simultaneously helping the bottom line.

Don’t ignore a work-from-anywhere world

The shift in how we work is going on all around us, impacting many industries but especially those with knowledge workers. Money is not the only factor in our career decisions. Companies offering internal mobility, flexible work schedules, "proper" holidays and empathetic leaders will attract candidates and retain their employees who weigh up all those benefits into the choice they make. Not every company can offer flexibility, but those who can and do not, are likely to see a disproprtionately higher number of resignations and find it harder to hire new people in. Those who are mindful and strategic in stating their support for flexible work and who back it up with talent programmes to create an equitable and rich experience for all, will be one step ahead in attracting new talent and keeping their best people.



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