Writing for Harvard Business Review, the Boston Consulting Group's (BCG) Frank Breitling, Julia Dhar, Ruth Ebeling, and Deborah Lovich outline six steps employers can take to combat "unrelenting" attrition rates amid the "Great Resignation."
The current labor situation
Citing data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the authors note that companies across a range of industries—including health care—have recorded steady and significant increases in voluntary "quits" since the start of the pandemic. And BCG's latest survey, conducted in partnership with Future Forum, suggests the current labor market conditions will likely persist into 2022—with 57% of the over 10,000 surveyed workers from around the world saying they would consider taking a new job next year.
To assess how employers can best retain and recruit employees, BCG evaluated what people value at work by analyzing 800,000 data points collected over 20 years. According to the authors, workers' responses fell into four broad categories: value, purpose, certainty, and belonging.
And while all four categories apply to both employee retention and recruitment, the authors argue that "recruitment and training costs and the time it typically takes for new hires to reach the same level of expertise as the people they replaced make it imperative that employers focus immediately on retention."
So, how can employers retain their workers?
1. Incentivize loyalty
Employers must offer competitive compensation packages, the authors write. According to the authors, "You have to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table." They also suggest offering one-time bonuses, student loan repayment assistance, and work-from-home options. The authors note that re-leveling compensation this way gives employers an opportunity to identify and correct inequities for people of color and women.
2. Provide growth opportunities
The authors urge employers to develop strategies to retain top talent by pretending their best employees just handed in their resignations and asking themselves how they could change the employees' minds. "Forward-thinking organizations have been doing retention interviews for the past months—asking each employee what it would take for them to stay," the authors write.
In addition, BCG research based on employee-engagement data discovered that a significant indicator of employee engagement is how enthusiastically they answer the question, "Does my job make good use of my skills?" The key takeaway? "[S]how current employees that you value them even more than potential new hires by providing them with new opportunities to grow and advance," the authors write.
3. Act through your company purpose
According to the authors, "Purpose is the timeless reason that your organization exists. It's the reason people join and choose to stay." Their analysis suggests that belief in an organization's goals is even more important during "turbulent times" than it is during "quieter periods." As a result, employers should portray the importance of their organization's goals instead of just focusing on the bottom line. "And don't just talk purpose; use it to shape what you do and how you do it," the authors write.
4. Invest in company culture
Employers should try to "[p]ut [their] work aside and make time to connect and build relationships with—and among—[their] people," the authors write. Ultimately, this will solidify employees' relationships with the organization. Additionally, according to BCG research conducted during the pandemic, social connection can have a significant positive influence on productivity—largely because workers around the world value having a "good relationship with coworkers" over many other job attributes.
5. Take care of your employees and their families
To retain more workers, employers can also provide mental health resources, recognize sacrifices workers made during the pandemic, help parents with small children with childcare assistance programs, and increase paid time off. "Sure, some employees will need more than others. So? Do whatever is required to take care of them," the authors write.
6. Embrace flexibility
According to the authors, providing employees with flexible work environments—in terms of place, time, job description, and career path—is the "future of work," and employers should embrace it.
In addition, the authors recommend employers "loosen up on 'qualifications'" when considering new hire candidates. "With the right mindset and support, people who come up a bit short on paper can learn what’s missing," they write. (Breitling et al., Harvard Business Review, 11/15)