Most organizations have struggled with poor employee retention for over a year. The prolonged isolation brought about a whole new set of challenges to those who care for people in organizations, making their role more important and more challenging than ever before.

Before the pandemic, about 3.5 million people were leaving their jobs every month (1). That number dropped to 1.9 million in April 2020, but by December, it had reached 3.3 million and was rising. 

Employers acknowledged the trend. Before the pandemic, only 1% of CEOs listed “talent risk” as the biggest priority on their agenda. Now, the value of this index has reached 21% (2), and companies are implementing new tools and solutions to retain employees within their ranks. 

The reasons for poor employee retention

Why is it so difficult to retain employees in the Covid era? Two main reasons are shaping the employment landscape. Both are the side effects of the pandemics: the shift from regional to global markets and the security of the work environment.

The shift from the local to the global market had already begun before Covid-19, but the pandemic accelerated the process. In the good old days, recruiters and headhunters competed with one or two companies when wooing workers. Now they race with five or six. That’s significant growth. With the “work from anywhere” policy and standardized procedures, employees who speak fluent English can seek out vacancies from all over the world. 

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The other reason has to do with employees’ expectations of the job and the work environment. People have different priorities – with Covid-related fears, they value job security, flexibility, and health benefits. Before deciding on a job, they want to know if they should work in the office. If so, is the office sanitized and safe? Can they work remotely if the government decides to close schools? Will they get paid leave if someone in their family gets sick? 

Considering these reasons, HR managers will play a vital role in the new, post-Covid reality, and employee retention will be their biggest challenge. But even in a remote or hybrid work environment, it is possible to create an engaged workforce and reduce turnover.

Here’s how.

1. Understand why people leave 

Although it sounds trivial, understanding why people leave is the first step to successful employee retention. If you’re a recruiter, you’re probably struggling with the problem most recruiters have: filling the positions of people who’ve just left your company. And it might be frustrating that you’re not able to achieve the growth goals you and your company have because all you’re doing is replacing people who leave. 

Data from the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 95% of hiring is done to fill existing positions, and most job openings are caused by voluntary turnover. 

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The popular belief is that people change jobs due to the salary or in the pursuit of career advancement. “Either way, salary is probably the main reason for poor employee retention. If you dig deeper into the data, you will find out more,” says Daniel Aduszkiewicz, CEO & Co-Founder of Human Panel. 

“You may think exit interviews will tell you the truth about the reasons for turnover, but don’t overestimate them. No employee is going to look their boss in the eye and confide. I’m not saying what leaving employees say isn’t true, but it’s not the whole truth. People don’t like to burn bridges. It’s too small a world for that,” he adds.

So what can you do to increase employee retention and keep employees at your company? “Look at data – what you need is already in your HR system. And data has one big advantage: it’s not whispers shared among managers. Data will show you real reasons and help you understand why people leave. And thereby reduce turnover,” Daniel points out.

To use data properly, you might need a dedicated people analytics solution, such as one offered by Human Panel – an all-in-one platform for HR management that organizes all your workforce data in one place. Simple graphs and visualized statistics replace obscure spreadsheets and help you make informed HR decisions. To see how it works, sign up for a free demo – just fill in the short form below.

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2. Give your employees the right benefits

The Covid pandemic brutally exposed that prosecco Fridays or office gyms are nothing but gimmicks. Even at the best of times, it was difficult for families to balance work with caring for children or elderly relatives. And the pandemic has shown that this balance is crucial to both people’s personal and mental wellbeing.

AWork+Life Report study conducted by Care.com (3) showed that family-friendly benefits are most attractive to all workers. Paid family leave, flexibility, health care, and substitute child care were all ranked higher than commuter benefits or student loan assistance. Half of the respondents said that family-friendly benefits were essential when choosing an employer – regardless of whether they needed the help or not.

“All my friends who are parents keep saying how hard it is to have a team meeting when your 9-year-old has a geography exam in the other room. Before the pandemic, we used to talk business. Now we’re talking about homeschooling. So if your company has savings because of a partial office closure, it really should invest that money in people,” says Daniel Aduszkiewicz of Human Panel.

3. Emphasize mental wellbeing

Investing in people doesn’t just mean financial benefits. The toll the pandemic has taken on our mental health has been astounding, and it can take years to reverse. Months of isolation have led to burnout, stress, and anxiety. And it’s not just employees who suffer from mental health issues. Their families do, too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of mental health-related emergency department visits in 2020 increased by 24% for young children and 31% among adolescents.

The good news is that 35 % of employers say they have improved employee health and wellness support in the last six months, and 41% plan to expand these benefits.

Before the pandemic, we treated wellbeing benefits like vitamins – leaders wanted their team members to feel a little happier, or they expected positive reviews in the marketplace. But right now, these benefits seem to be more of a painkiller. 

Daniel Aduszkiewicz

And it seems we’re going to need that painkiller for some time to come. We will need it more than “employee of the month” contests or on-site office launderette.

4. Be flexible 

Juggling work responsibilities while helping kids has taught us one more thing: we need to be flexible. Different companies have different attitudes towards remote work. On the one hand, big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Revolut plan to allow permanent remote work, while others ask people to return to the offices. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon called remote work “an aberration,” and Google HR Head of People Operations, Fiona Cicconii, announced that Google employees were expected to be in the office at least three days a week starting from 1 September 2021.

Surveys show varying data, ranging from 80% of employees who would prefer to work from home in the future to 85% who look forward to returning to the office. Whatever the numbers, what is certain is that employers need to offer flexible working hours and a hybrid working model to retain employees.

“You want to work in the office? That’s fine. You want to work two days in the office and three days from home? That’s fine, too. And if you want to go fully remote, that’s okay. I see most companies adopting a hybrid model with a few weekly meetings and the rest of the work done from home,” says Daniel Aduszkiewicz. “No employee wants to be forced to go back to the office, but there is also room for negotiation. Some people work better in the morning, others in blocks of time or sit for eight hours to crush the task. Your organization should also consider this kind of flexibility,” Daniel adds. 

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5. Be aware of your company culture

Solid and healthy company culture can keep employees engaged during long months of remote work. It has been shown that organizations that have put employee wellbeing at the heart of their culture have higher levels of employee retention. The key is to see people as actual human beings, not just “talents.” 

One idea could be face-to-face online meetings with employees to find out how they feel and manage their projects. Empathy and interest in your employees’ wellbeing will bear fruit, as will recognition of their successes and good results. When people feel cared for, they perform better and are less likely to leave. 

Asking people how they feel and talking about what they’re going through can change perspectives because people who feel cared for in their organizationwould recommend their company to a friend (91%) and plan to stay with the company for at least three years (60%) (4). 

“Remember that people leave people, not brands. If you work for the coolest company in the world and have a toxic boss, you won’t stay long,” acknowledges Daniel Aduszkiewicz. “When hiring, also pay attention to the candidate’s attitude toward your company culture. A lamb will not be comfortable in a hunter’s culture,” he adds. 

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6. Personalize communication

The reality of the past year has made us more vulnerable. The stress, fear of the future, and extreme emotions have become omnipresent. As an HR leader, you are responsible for addressing these emotions. The best way to do that is with honest communication and personalized talent management.

The truth is, you can’t pull off a one-size-fits-all approach to employee development and wellbeing. Employees count on you and expect you to care about them, even in a crisis. You need to find the right words. 

“Every company is different. You may have the same structures and roles, but it’s the nuances that matter. We all have different types of people in the organization, which makes it unique. So with the right mindset and good data analysis, you can figure out your way of communicating,” says Daniel Aduszkiewicz. 

The good news is that you don’t have to do the analysis yourself. At Human Panel, we’ll be happy to help you organize your data in a simple dashboard. If you want to see how it works, sign up for a free demo by filling the form below.

Reduce guesswork. Prove HR impact on revenue.

7. Dig into data

One-on-one conversations with people and empathy can help you engage people, but as we mentioned earlier, they won’t tell you the whole truth. You need structured data, predominantly if you belong to a large organization with thousands of employees. 

What is the profile of a person who leaves the company? What is the profile of the top performer? Why do people leave? What do they say at the exit interview, and do you have data to confirm what they say? 

“Answering these questions will give you certain insights. And can potentially save you a lot of money because you don’t have to put millions of dollars into testing whether something works. You can use the data to measure whether you’re not just wasting money on solutions you’ve read about or on a solution that worked for another company,” admits Daniel Aduszkiewicz.

Data can also help you manage promotions better, impacting employee retention. Often, employees leave a company because they are looking for career advancement and development, and more often than not, they seek it outside the company. Analyzing data helps you monitor the behavior and patterns of the professionals you want to retain and – to some extent – prevent them from leaving. 

Wrap-up

If you want to reduce turnover and retain your employees, don’t just lure them with high salaries and quick perks. Try to understand why people leave your company and be proactive instead of reactive. Support your employees with the right benefits for the difficult times we are experiencing. Focus on family and health care and your workforce’s mental wellbeing.

Try to put people at the heart of your business, show empathy, and appreciate efforts. Be as flexible as possible and engage people through powerful company culture. Communicate with your employees and be aware of who works for you. 

Don’t spend your money on experiments. Use data to support your decisions and measure what works for you. Track your top performers to prevent them from leaving, and with a bit of help from tools like those offered by the Human Panel, you’ll be able to manage your workforce better.

(1). https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/turnover-tsunami-expected-once-pandemic-ends.aspx

(2) https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/media/press-releases/2020/08/ceo-outlook-press-release.html

(3) https://benefits.care.com/workingparentssurvey

(4) https://www.limeade.com/en/releases/limeade-research-suggests-the-secret-in-the-war-for-talent-is-care/