The numbers don’t lie: the Great Resignation is upon us. Millions of people have left their jobs over the last few months. Job openings are going unfilled as people remain reluctant to reenter the workforce. It’s a challenge employers haven’t had to deal with in a long time. Rather than an obstacle, savvy employers see the Great Resignation as an opportunity to build a better workplace. We’ll show you what’s behind the exodus and what you can do to retain the talent you have.   

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that a whopping 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021, the latest data available. That’s a national quit rate of 3.5 percent. Hospitality was the hardest-hit industry, with health care, transportation, and warehousing also experiencing losses. Some businesses have experienced up to 30 percent attrition. A closer look at BLS data found that the quit rate for small establishments (1 to 9 employees) and large firms (1,000 to 4,999 employees) both rose. The Great Resignation is a challenge facing employers of all stripes.

Meanwhile, job openings continue to rise. Labor shortages have plagued the labor market since the pandemic began. And while employers are looking for help, many potential employees are reluctant to enter the labor market again. People are taking their time finding their next career, despite remarkably high wage growth opportunities.

What’s Causing the Great Resignation?

So, what’s causing the Great Resignation? A number of factors contribute to an employee’s decision to resign their position with a company. Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz believes some people are quitting to take advantage of higher wages elsewhere. But he also believes that the way people work and live has changed over the last few years, and companies that are not able to keep up with the times will likely be left behind.

Contributing to this attitude is some employers’ slow response to the rapidly changing work landscape. After the cataclysmic changes the pandemic caused to the workplace, employees have proved they can do their jobs remotely and outside the conventional 9 to 5 workday. Others did a cost-benefit analysis on low-wage, high-turnover jobs that put their health and safety at risk.

At the same time, people are generally better off than they were in 2008 during the Great Recession. When they lost their jobs in spring 2020, or more recently, quit their jobs, they had larger safety nets to fall back on. They feel they can hold out waiting for an offer that satisfies their desire to work flexible hours, remotely, and for better wages.

To Retain Employees, Get Back to Basics

This may all seem like a daunting problem for employers. But savvy employers will see the Great Resignation as an opportunity, not an obstacle. The Great Resignation offers employers the chance to listen to their employees and provide the workplace changes they are demanding. Not only will this help retain top talent, it could help firms attract new hires, too.

The first step is to narrow the gap between what your employees expect from your workplace and what your workplace currently offers. This requires leadership to listen to employee needs, wants, and expectations without dismissing them out of hand. Conducting retention interviews with your most valued employees could uncover changes to improve retention. What you will likely find is employees seek value, purpose, certainty, and belonging. A Harvard Business Review study concluded these four categories are what employees value most at work. 

So, what can you do with that knowledge to retain employees? First, you can review your compensation and benefits packages to reduce the chance that employees will seek greener pastures. There’s a lot of ways to get creative in this category, from offering to help pay student loans to providing stipends for work-from-home expenses. You could subsidize childcare and provide flexible time off to help employees balance their personal and work lives. You could also ensure your employees have access to mental health resources, especially after the last two years we’ve endured.

Savvy employers understand that employees who buy into the company mission and vision are more likely to stay put. These employers weave their mission, values, and purpose into the fabric of their workplace culture, and their purpose drives how they do business. Becoming clearer on your company’s greater mission and incorporating it into the daily work life of your employees can increase retention. So can tapping into your employees’ desire for connection. Create opportunities at the workplace to allow workers to develop positive relationships with their coworkers and your company.

At CorTalent, we help employers weather the Great Resignation by getting the people part right. For more tips on how to retain top talent or for help finding your next great hire, get in touch with the CorTalent team today.