Are You Giving Employees a Good Reason to Stick with You?

Thanks to the pandemic, we are in what many are calling “The Great Resignation” as employees are evaluating whether to stay with their current organizations or explore other options.

Employees stick with employers for many reasons, and money is only one of them. I have observed managers struggling with employee retention over the course of my career. In the process, I have learned what will drive employees away at any time, and especially at a time like this in which they have multiple options.

Thanks to the pandemic, we are in what many are calling “The Great Resignation.” Employees, who have enjoyed more flexible schedules working from home, are evaluating whether they want to stay with employers who soon may require them to be back in the office. Some have taken the downtime at home to evaluate what they really want from their jobs, and are thinking about how well they have been treated. Many are eager to look for other options.

According to a survey conducted by Human Resources/people management platform Hibob, mid-sized companies are getting especially hard hit by the threat of employee resignation.

  • 28 percent percent employees from mid-sized companies quit their jobs over the last 12 months, and 38 percent are “very likely” to quit over the next year.
  • 56 percent would quit if their employer didn’t offer flexible hours and location options.
  • 71 percent of employees are more open to the idea of freelancing now than they were before the pandemic.

I once knew a manager who couldn’t keep employees for more than a few years. She was a notoriously bad boss, who made it difficult for employees to take vacation time. She was demanding in an inflexible way that even before the pandemic employees found her hard to take. In the first years I knew her, she had a department of at least five employees. Over the following decade, that department dwindled until she was left with just one full-time employee. Company funding was part of it, but another part was probably her inability to hold onto her workforce. Do you have a manager(s) like this in your organization?

What makes the difference between managers who keep employees for years and those who can’t keep them for more than a few years, at best? When considering whether to stick with a job, I consider the money and benefits first as a matter of survival. How do my salary and benefits compare to what I would be offered by other companies? Regardless of how miserable I am, I have never been able to leave if leaving meant taking a pay cut or losing health insurance. Once the salary and health insurance concerns have been checked off, I consider my comfort and quality of life. Is there a person(s) I work with who is making me chronically unhappy? Is the manager flexible enough so I can lead a fulfilled life, taking vacation time when I want? My considerations work like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in which the base is the pay and the higher echelons are quality of life factors. If you have evaluated the marketplace for each of your organization’s positons and have determined that the pay and benefits are competitive, the next question is: How does each position impact the employee’s quality of life? How do you assess this?

With widespread employee resignation a growing concern, a fast online survey, or even brief face-to-face meetings with Human Resources or Learning professionals, could be helpful. You could ask whether employees find their managers’ work style and expectations conducive to living a fulfilled life—both inside and outside the office. Questions could include:

  • “Does your manager almost always allow you to take time off from work for personal days and vacation whenever you ask?”
  • “Is your manager open to flexible work arrangements in which you can alter the hours or location of where you complete work, so long as everything gets done in a high-quality fashion on time?”
  • “Does your manager consult with employees before rolling out changes to work schedules or work processes?”
  • “How would you describe your manager in one sentence?”

To make honest answers more likely, you can commit to employees that their input will not be shared with their managers as coming from specifically from them. The challenge for Human Resources and Learning professionals will be to take what is learned from the survey to provide additional training for managers without betraying the confidence of employees.

Qualtrics XM in a blog recommends giving employees “the opportunity to have their voices heard.” What that means to me is that, in addition to surveys, each department should have an open line of communication between employees and managers in which the managers acknowledge communications from employees, giving serious consideration to their ideas and criticism. Over the years, my new ideas and insights often have been ignored. When an employee you value doesn’t feel heard, there’s a good chance they will take their voice to new ears—in a new organization.