How to Retain Employees During the Great Resignation

Updated: 31 Aug, 2021 | Bill Peatman

In March, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) warned employers of an approaching "turnover tsunami" as the economy recovers from the pandemic. Prudential's Pulse of the American Workforce survey found that 26 percent of adults plan to change jobs in 2021, while researchers at the Achievers Workforce Institute said 52 percent of employees are ready to jump ship this year.

Turnover Tsunami

The tsunami started the next month. A record four million people quit their jobs in April. It's official. The "Great Resignation" has begun.

Why the wave of job searches? 80 percent cited lack of growth opportunities in the Prudential study, and it was the top reason in the Achievers report. Both studies (and more keep coming) say employees have taken stock of their lives during the pandemic and reassessed what they want in work and life.

Understandably, employees are doing some soul searching after the life-and-death challenges of the pandemic. Why am I working? Why am I working for this company? If I can work remotely for any company, what are my options?

Can You Afford to Lose Half Your Workforce?

Companies need to do some soul searching as well. Few businesses can afford to lose 25-50 percent of their employees. If you haven't asked similar questions, you probably should. Why do people work here? Why would they want to work here? These questions don't get asked in a hirer's market. But they should be.

The answer isn't apparent. What do employees value most in a job? Salary? Nope. Treadmill desks? Not even close.

Employees Want Growth and Meaning

94 percent of employees will stay with a company that invests in their growth, a LinkedIn survey found.

Research by happiness at work guru Shawn Achor found that 90 percent of employees would choose to earn less—an average of 23 percent less--for more meaningful work.

"Gen Z and Millennials say learning is the number one thing that makes them happy at work," LinkedIn said. “The number one reason they'd leave their job is because they did not have the opportunity to learn and grow."

Retraining Offers a Win-Win

Employers looking to retain top performers should take note. We've all seen businesses boast about their rankings in local "great places to work" lists. But what about ranking companies based on whether they are great places to grow? That might be a more relevant scorecard for today's rising workforce.

There's an opportunity for a win-win here that may not be visible to the naked eye. While the Great Resignation is underway, so is the looming skills gap—the difference between the skills workers have, and the skills businesses need. The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that automation will replace 85 million, and 97 new jobs requiring skills that don't yet exist will be created---by 2025!

So, let's get this straight:

  • Employees want to learn and grow

  • Employers need workers with new skills

It's not too hard to connect the dots and suggest that employers invest in building new skills for their existing workers to a) improve employee satisfaction and retention and b) stay ahead of the skills change curve.

Become a Great Company to Be From

There's an old saying in the training business.

The CFO asks, "What if we invest in training our employees and they leave?"

The CEO says, "What if we don't, and they stay?"

Yes, some employees might learn new skills and take them elsewhere. But you'll develop a steady pipeline of new employees that want the growth that you offer. Harvard management professor Susan J. Sucher wrote an article titled, "Worried About the Great Resignation? Be a Good Company to Come From." When employees are ready to leave, she said, "there's no point in standing in the way of their dreams." Instead, "companies should focus on becoming great places to learn—and eventually leave."

If your company is a great place to grow, others will want to join. "When your company is a badge of honor on someone's resume when employees eventually want to leave, plenty of others will want to fill their place," Sucher said. Being a great company to be from will give you the high ground in a turnover tsunami.

Create an Amazing Place to Grow

Prialto survey employees every day with this question: Was Prialto an amazing place to grow today? That’s because the company believes that employee happiness is as important as customer satisfaction. You can’t have one without the others. Happy employees work hard, take the initiative, and invest in making the company better. Prialto’s retention rate is around 90 percent, compared to 40-50 in the BPO industry. To learn more about the Prialto employee experience, check out the Careers Stories page.

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About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.

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