The big lesson from the Great Resignation: engage your employees

The big lesson from the Great Resignation: engage your employees

The pandemic brought extraordinary levels of change to our lives at home and at work, throwing our work-life balance – or lack of it – into sharp relief. With stress and exhaustion all too common we re-evaluated our jobs and career trajectories like never before: did we feel valued at work, did our role offer the sort of future we wanted, was it really worth it? As a result, 2021 saw people resign in record numbers.

The Great Resignation shouldn’t have been a surprise though, according to figures from the Harvard Business Review. It was the continuation of a steadily growing trend of quitting that was temporarily halted and then reinvigorated by the pandemic. And the trend is not yet over. A recent survey of 1,000 UK workers by Slack revealed that almost one third (29%) of UK workers are considering moving to a new job this year. As if that wasn’t worrying enough, McKinsey’s 2021 Women in the Workplace report found that one in three women were not just considering switching jobs, but cutting their work hours or leaving the workforce entirely.

‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’

Not surprisingly, many people are hoping to move for a better salary or bonus (23% according to Slack). But the clear lesson to learn from the great resignation is that, just like U2’s soul-searching classic, employees are still on the lookout for something more. They are weighing up their travel time against time spent with family, their health against the potential stress, job security against working flexibility, and a sense of purpose against bias and profit.

Every organisation and every employee are different, but the list of ‘want-to-haves’ is likely to be similar whether you’re an SME or a global corporation. Here are a few of the workplace characteristics most likely to engage your employees and encourage them to stay put, post-pandemic.

A good work-life balance – there’s overwhelming evidence that overworking is counterproductive in its most literal sense. It can be hard to draw a line between work and home life – especially with home and hybrid working on the rise. You can help by prioritising productivity over hours, encouraging regular breaks, and setting achievable workloads (and keeping them under review). Lead by example – if you give priority to life outside of work, your employees will feel more comfortable doing the same.

Support for working families – family life can be complicated and unpredictable. Supporting working mothers and fathers in your team by allowing some flexibility in working hours will go a long way to developing their loyalty and helping them do their best. Carry out an assessment of your current policies and processes: do they support or penalise working parents?

Flexible and remote working – according to the Slack research, almost 1 in 3 workers said that flexible working policies are encouraging them to stay in their current job. Giving your employees a choice about where and when to work, and giving them the right tools to do it well, can only help keep them on your side. But do make sure that those not physically present have the right support and regular access to leaders.

Accessibility – people care about how you treat them, their colleagues and the environment. What are you doing to make your workplace diverse and inclusive? What actions are you taking to combat climate change? Be up front about your D&I and ESG policies, make it a safe space for everyone and be genuine in your approach.

Invest in your people – it will pay dividends in terms of engagement and retention. Prioritising training and development, supporting wellbeing and mental health, providing a healthcare package, offering extra paid leave – these are all likely to make you a more attractive employer.

Appreciation – obvious as it may sound make sure you recognise and celebrate your team’s achievements. Rewarding good work and service with a promotion or salary increase is great when you can. But when you can’t, a sincere thank you is worth its weight in employee loyalty.

Engagement is everything

So how can you discover exactly what your employees are looking for and what will keep them from looking to pastures new? Communication is the answer: create a dialogue with your employees that’s open, honest and builds a culture of trust that includes everyone:

Ask and listen – from employee surveys to regular one-to-one conversations, you need to actively seek out your team’s opinions on what makes them happy.

Take action – once you’ve gained some understanding of how to keep your employees engaged and motivated, make a plan and implement it.

Share – be open about your goals, your values and your vision and how your employees can be part of that.

Repeat – people’s needs and wants change over time, so keep asking, listening, sharing and acting on what you find.

At Lucent, we’re experts at helping businesses communicate and engage with their employees to create a work culture that’s both appealing and resilient – one that attracts, nurtures and retains talent. Talk to us today and find out more about how we can help you build stronger, longer-lasting relationships with your employees.