Retaining talent begins with understanding what employees want

If managed well, organisations can transform the 'Great Resignation' to the 'Great Attraction', attracting and retaining the best talent.
By: | December 23, 2021

As unemployment surged during the pandemic, many employees who were looking to leave their jobs put those plans on hold, mindful of the challenge of finding new employment in a world besieged by uncertainty.

With the global economy continuing to embark on a gradual, if sometimes stuttering road to recovery, these same employees are now reconsidering leaving their current employers, and they are joined by a group of their peers who might not have previously contemplated leaving their current job roles.

In the Asia-Pacific region, for example, an upcoming survey by Ceridian showed that 67% of employees aged 18-34, and 54% of all workers, are considering or actively looking for new roles. Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, meanwhile, indicated that 49% of Singapore’s workforce considered leaving their employers this year.

What then, are the motivating factors behind this potentially disruptive wave of the ‘Great Resignation?’

With many organisations implementing remote work during the pandemic, this working arrangement has not come without its pitfalls, including burnout. For some employees, working from home has equated to longer working hours, a seemingly endless number of virtual meetings, and the need to take up more duties because of layoffs within the organisation.

Contrarily, there is a group of employees who have thrived in a remote work setting, and are highly resistant to return to the office, even as more organisations are planning for their employees’ return to the traditional workplace, with or without their consensus. If compelled to give up remote work completely, these employees, it would appear, will rather choose to leave the organisation.

Traditionally, one of the most effective ways to retain employees is through compensation and benefits, or paying a salary package that is fair and commensurate with each employee’s contribution to the organisation.

The pandemic, however, has realigned people’s priorities and made them reconsider what really matters in their lives. While compensation and benefits are still important in both attracting and retaining talent (pandemic or not, people still need to put food on the table, and to be compensated fairly for their work), it is no longer the overriding factor that will determine if employees stay with their employers.

With 2022 likely to usher in the rise of the hybrid workforce, organisations need to exercise flexibility in letting employees have a say in whether they return to the office or continue to work remotely, and to ensure employees are treated fairly, regardless of their choice.

As the expectations, needs, and preferences of an increasingly diverse workforce continue to change constantly, the onus is on organisations to create new employee experiences that will allow HR and business leaders to really understand what employees want or are feeling.

Instead of ineffectual annual surveys, continuous learning and listening should be implemented, and action taken on feedback from employees. HR and business leaders should constantly recognise employees’ contributions through regular and constructive feedback, and play a role in developing employees, both on a professional and personal level.

As employees continue to be impacted by the pandemic in one way or another, mental and emotional wellbeing will also be a priority in 2022. Organisations can consider implementing a culture of rest that draws a clear line of distinction between work and leisure time.

Are your employees feeling exhausted and fatigued because they have too much to do, have few resources to do so, and have little control over their environment? Have layoffs that were made during the pandemic been adequately replaced, or are employees continuing to take on multiple roles, without receiving the recognition and support they deserve?

Having said that, it would be too simplistic to suggest that the problem of a rising number of employees who are resigning from their positions, can be solved by hiring a replacement. After all, does the ‘Great Resignation’ not suggest many available candidates to choose from?

Finding a new candidate to replace a departing employee, without addressing the fundamental reasons causing the resignation to happen in the first place, is counterproductive to long-term organisational success, and will only serve to create a vicious cycle.

Instead, organisations need to focus on their existing people and talent, and in the process, potentially transform the ‘Great Resignation’ to the ‘Great Attraction’. By rethinking and improving employee experience, company culture, employee engagement, and employee value, organisations can not only retain their best employees, but also attract external talent looking for new challenges and motivations in their careers.