Proactive recruiting and retention strategies for the Great Resignation

For some employees who’ve joined the Great Resignation, they’re finding that the grass isn’t always greener.

A recent survey from HR tech company UKG found that more than 40% of employees who exited their job during the pandemic now feel as though they were better off with their old employer, and 41% admitted to quitting in haste. That’s creating valuable lessons — and opportunities — for employers as they rethink their talent retention and recruitment strategies.

“Companies have to get the buy-in from managers and leaders to implement strategic retention strategies,” says Chris Mullen, executive director of the Workforce Institute at UKG. “We can course correct to make sure employees feel valued, but it has to be an imperative for the company, written into a strategic plan.”

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From conducting transparent stay interviews with current employees to actively wooing former employees, Mullen shared actionable pieces of advice with EBN, spotlighting common disconnects between employers and their workforces.

It’s easy to assume that employees participating in the Great Resignation would feel more fulfilled in their new roles, but this report shows the opposite. What does that say about companies’ existing retention efforts?
We talk a lot about “stay interviews” as a valuable retention tool, but this report showed something surprising. Managers thought they were having stay interviews and trying to keep employees at a really high percent — 94% of managers said they’d conducted a stay interview at least annually. But only 62% of employees said the same. That’s a huge discrepancy.

What’s causing that disconnect?
Managers need to be overly communicative. If you’re having a stay interview, tell the employee it’s a stay interview. Don’t call it a check-in. Also, be direct with your questions: What drives you in your job? What do you want to learn? What are the top reasons you stay here? What would be the top reason you leave? And one of my favorite questions: When was the last time you thought about leaving the company, and why?

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That’s a scary question!
It’s a very scary one. It’s been taboo for a long time, and for employees to tell their manager they’re thinking about leaving is scary, too. But if they’re willing to tell you, that’s an indication of trust, and then you can really find the real issue. I’d rather know what made someone stay than find out why they left after they were already gone. Plus, once managers have these talks, the company can create a top 10 or top five list — here’s why people choose to stay at our company. That’s a recruitment tool. And that’s a cheap recruitment tool.

The survey found that, worldwide, more than two out of five employees that took a new job during the Great Resignation were happier at their old gig, and 20% have already boomeranged back. What should we learn from this?
Boomerang employees are a really cool talent pipeline that I don’t think many companies are looking at, because it does sort of fall on managers. If an employee left on good terms, you have an opportunity to entice them back, especially if the grass that they thought would be greener really isn’t. But it’s a great recruitment strategy to reach out and say: the door is open, and maybe we can do a better job of meeting your needs.

But presumably, those workers left for a bigger salary or better benefits. Is hiring folks back just a very expensive and roundabout way for employers to give them what they wanted in the first place?
We’re still gathering that data, but it’s clear that employees do have more leeway overall. And this is an opportunity for employers to understand if people who are thinking of leaving are doing so because of salary and benefits, or is it about the culture, or their coworkers? Either way, in this talent market, understanding what potential boomerang employees want can help bring valuable talent back.

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When it comes to retaining existing employees, employers are facing extra challenges, especially with factors like inflation impacting possible pay increases. How can employers best communicate company decisions to their teams?
Transparency is key. When it comes to things like raises, there’s a formula, and helping employees understand that formula can be valuable, even when the result wasn’t what they maybe wanted. They’ll understand it more, and understand that decisions aren’t about favoritism. I see companies that choose to say nothing to their employees, and just make decisions that will impact them without explanation. And that’s the worst thing you can do — because those people will start looking elsewhere.

There are plenty of ways, other than salary, to help employees want to stay, especially when it comes to career development. Find ways to advance employees’ skills and make sure they understand the various growth paths at the company. If they don’t see a way up, they’ll see a way out.

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