The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in September 2021 alone, 4.4 million workers quit their jobs. While 2020 found employees fighting for job security, this past year has proven that the job market is playing in applicants’ favor.
With this in mind, it has become more important than ever for executive leaders to keep their employees satisfied and happy at work. I connected with three executives to discover how they are thinking out of the box to retain talent amidst one of the biggest job shifts in history.
1. Value the whole person, especially outside of the office
“Millions of employees have made career changes, sending the clear message that things in the Work from Anywhere Era — even as soon as 2022 — are going to need to be very different,” said Christy Wyatt, CEO of Absolute Software.
“On the surface, ‘The Great Resignation’ may look like a battle for escalating compensation and remote work perks, but if you probe a little deeper, what you learn is that this is about employees feeling disconnected, having lost their personal connection to your company and to the meaning in their work,” says Wyatt.
She believes that employees are making deeper choices about how their work fits into their broader lives, leading them to leave one in pursuit of the other. If you value the entire employee — not just what they can provide for your company — you’ll get a more loyal, driven contributor.
2. Re-establish culture & transparent feedback
This idea of life outside of the office is increasingly important. Andrew Filev, Citrix SVP and founder of Wrike, believes that was the catalyst for attrition. “The pandemic temporarily took away some of the familiar pressure valves from us. It’s not surprising that many people started to look for a career change. And once that motion started, it became an industry-wide game of musical chairs,” he said.
Filev believes this has had a significant impact on company culture. “Because of the immense amount of change caused by the pandemic, I’ve noticed that we have started to drift a bit from our cultural values. There’s a lot of innovation, creativity, and talent in the company, and when people are tired and stressed, it’s easy to overlook that. Today and moving into 2022, we are finding new ways to recognize and celebrate our successes, which I feel is very important.”
On a more granular level, Filev sought to learn how the loss of company culture affected job satisfaction. “I’m a big fan of feedback loops, transparency, and taking action. When we saw unusual levels of attrition, we immediately ran a detailed employee satisfaction survey, not waiting for the next cycle. Now, more than ever, it’s important for your employees to understand why your company is meaningful, why their work is meaningful, and what the path to success looks like for the company and themselves.”
3. Focus on employee’s holistic needs
Seemingly, the most important way to keep employees from quitting is by promoting company and work-life flexibility to meet your employees’ needs. “This creates trust between employees and employers, especially during times of uncertainty,” said Amber Howe, Chief People Officer for Amwell. “It’s not enough to just say you are flexible; company executives must lead by example and show employees that it’s more than OK to take a sick day, vacation or mental health break.”
Howe believes that it’s no longer good enough to promote the out-of-the-box benefits; leaders must actually prove that it is in everyone’s best interest to take advantage of them. “By focusing on employees’ holistic needs, you’re showing them that their happiness is of the utmost importance,” she said.
A happy, dynamic workplace starts from the top, with leaders constantly thinking about how to make the organization productive, supportive, and secure. “In 2022, companies that embrace this shift and truly think through the hybrid workforce will be positioned to win,” said Wyatt.
Howe echoed this sentiment: “While the past year has been challenging, difficult times remind you of what’s most important as a leader. For me, that’s the people who make up the culture and fabric of our company.”