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Quitting
Employees quit their jobs for many reasons, all of them preventable

SHRM and others have predicted a “turnover tsunami” that is expected to unfold over the next several months as employers begin to call workers back into their physical settings. Visier’s research also supports the likelihood of this exodus which has already begun to be felt at many organizations. Over the past several months employees have gotten a taste of the freedom and flexibility that working from home can provide. During this time they’ve also had ample time for reflection. Many have decided that what they’ve been doing just isn’t what they want to continue doing in the future—or they’ve decided they’d prefer to do it for a different company.

Gallup says that the “great resignation” is really the “great discontent.” Their research indicates that 48% of the working population in the United States is actively job searching. A staggering 3.6 million resigned in May.

Why are they leaving and what, if anything, can employers do to stem the Big Quit as we’re calling it? Here we take a look at the top six reasons people are quitting their jobs—plus, advice on how to be proactive in minimizing the potential damage to your organization.

Reason #1: They’ve gotten a taste for work hour flexibility

Quitting

Prior to the pandemic most employees were tethered to physical workplaces. Many had been told that their jobs simply couldn’t be performed off site or remotely. In March 2020 they discovered that this wasn’t the case at all. They’ve been working on their own for months now and, by and large, they’re enjoying the experience. Many are reluctant to go back for a variety of reasons.

A recent study by Legion, a workforce management platform, reveals that 59% of employees cited scheduling issues for the primary reason they would quit their jobs.

How employers can keep these employees: 

Pay attention to these employees’ desires for flexibility by considering ways to build flexibility into their scheduling. Whether that means working from home, or flexing hours in a way that wouldn’t adversely affect the business. 

Reason #2: They’re burned out

Quitting
Read Visier’s new survey on burnout

Employees have labored under a lot of stress, anxiety and uncertainty over the past several months related to both their jobs and their families. Many have had to spend more time caregiving as schools closed and they became part-time teachers. Some also took on caregiving activities for older family members or relatives who contracted the virus. Some were sick themselves. It’s taken a toll. According to McKinsey research “almost half of all employees report being at least somewhat burned out.” And, they say, “that’s likely an underrepresentation of the real number.”

Liz Hall, Chief People Officer at Splash, says that the global pandemic, political unrest and racial and social injustices have also contributed to overall burnout. “Many simply want to enjoy summer and live life without the worry of work. They want to focus on family, fun, or chasing a passion or career shift.”

How employers can keep these employees: 

Take care of your employees! Acknowledge the prevalence of burnout and offer options to employees to help address the stress and anxiety they may be feeling. Review policies, benefits and perks to determine if there is more you could do to address employee needs. At Splash, says Hall, a number of new benefits and perks have been instituted including: a new compensation philosophy, a new monthly office/wi-fi stipend, “mental escape” days (two full days of a month specific to mental health), care packages sent to employees at home, no internal meetings on Fridays, a new company holiday (Juneteenth), a monthly “Together Apart” series for employees to speak about tough topics in a safe space, team offsites and a new education budget.

There’s much that organizations can do that doesn’t have to cost a lot of money but that can go a long way toward helping employees deal with burnout.

Reason #3: They’re not feeling connected to the company culture

Quitting

Culture matters. Culture is, in fact, according to Josh Bersin, the “top driver for creating excellent employee experience.” Of course, that can go the other way. Companies that don’t focus on creating a strong culture risk damaging the employee relationship and driving employees away. Bersin is global industry analyst and CEO of The Josh Bersin Company. In a new, six-part report The Definitive Guide: Employee Experience, Bersin covers the factors that most impact the employee experience. The principles identified are related to “creating a culture of trust and transparency, equitable rewards, ongoing people-related investments, and the development of HR capabilities.”

When employees don’t feel connected, they’re at risk of disconnecting.

How employers can keep these employees: 

Don’t leave culture to chance. Similar to corporate brand, every organization has a corporate culture whether they’re actively monitoring and managing it or not. Being proactive in determining the right culture for your organization, assessing the strength of that culture from an employee standpoint, and taking steps to make improvements to strengthen the culture can go a long way toward stemming a potential outflux of employees.

Reason #4: They want to continue working remotely

Quitting

One key issue that many employers are facing right now and are likely to continue to face into the future is the desire to keep working from home, even after the pandemic has passed. Research from PwC, the second largest professional services organization in the world, indicates that “over half of employees (55%) would prefer to be remote at least three days a week once pandemic concerns recede.”

How employers can keep these employees: 

Carefully consider to what extent remote work, or a hybrid approach, could work for your organization. While this will likely not be an across-the-board measure, most organizations will have at least some segment of their workforce that could successfully work outside of the physical office setting.

Reason #5: They don’t see a clear path forward

Quitting

Research from McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, reveals that employees are experiencing a communication breakdown at most organizations—40% say they have not yet heard what the vision is for moving forward post-pandemic. They report: “Organizations may have announced a general intent to embrace hybrid virtual work going forwards, but too few of them, employees say, have shared detailed guidelines, policies, expectations, and approaches.” That, says McKinsey, is making employee anxious.

How employers can keep these employees: 

Develop and share the specific approach your organization will be taking post-pandemic and why. Be transparent and proactive in conveying this information to employees—not just once, but in an ongoing manner. Create two-way conversations designed to gather information from employees about their concerns and preferences and act on that input.

Reason #6: They want to spend their time focused on doing meaningful work

Quiting

Employees today crave meaning in the work they do. That’s particularly true for millennials and members of Gen Z. Yet many find themselves spending much of their day performing administrative tasks that are neither challenging nor rewarding. In a news release, Legion CEO, Sanish Mondkar, said: “To attract and retain these employees, enterprises must make investments in digital transformation and workforce technologies.” Doing so can also free up managers’ time so they have more opportunities to engage with staff. Legion’s research indicates that almost half of the managers surveyed indicated that if their administrative tasks were fewer they could spend more time coaching and developing their team members.

How employers can keep these employees: 

Take a critical look at organizational workflow and how employees, especially managers, are spending their time. How could some of these tasks be automated to reduce these demands? How could access to better analytics give managers better and more reliable information to make decisions that could boost engagement and productivity? 

Experts agree: the threat of a “turnover tsunami” is real. There are a variety of factors contributing to employees’ lagging engagement and lack of commitment to their current jobs and the organizations they work for. Fortunately, there are also a variety of things employers can consider to help minimize the impact by focusing on what matters most to employees today. 

Continue learning about employee resignation:

About the Author

Linda Pophal, MA, PCM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the founder and owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. With a background as a business journalist, her writing has appeared in the HR Daily Advisor, Human Resource Executive, and SHRM. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

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