The Door Is Opening and People are Leaving

There is an exodus of workers from businesses across the U.S. and Europe. It seems that organizations have undone at the backend all the work recruiters do at the front end. As a result, frustrated employees are seeking new opportunities in record numbers. Prudential Financial’s Pulse of the American Worker survey estimates that 1 in 4 workers plan to look for a new job now that the pandemic seems to be under control.

Is this simply the grass is greener syndrome, or is there something else going on? Even though there are plenty of jobs for certain people - Amazon and UPS are looking for more than 100,000 people, McDonald’s and Albertson’s are seeking 50,000, and CVS Health is looking for more than 34,000 - many of these jobs are for hourly workers. And these are the ones leaving in droves.

With so many available jobs, why aren’t people flocking to fill them? Conversely, why are people leaving what many would consider good jobs when they have no other job lined up?

While money and benefits are not the primary reason people leave their employers in normal times, these times are very different.  This pandemic has lasted for more than a year and has raised frustration and dissatisfaction to high levels.

There are four primary drivers of these rather frightening statistics.

The first driver is pay. It has been a long time for many employees since they have gotten significant pay increases. Wages have not kept up with inflation or with expectations. Workloads and productivity expectations have increased significantly during the pandemic, with employees asked to work mandatory overtime. Their productivity has been scrutinized more than ever with software that tracks what they do and how fast they do it. Employees see their organizations making good profits and, in some cases, record profits but are not willing to share it with them.

This unfairness in pay compared to the profits of these firms and the salaries and bonuses paid to management are primary drivers of frustration and resentment.

Secondly, and not completely separated from pay, is the amount of work being asked of employees. So many people I speak with are really doing what two or more would have done before this pandemic. These are often leaving if for no other reason than to lessen their workload or find a more flexible employer.

A third issue is the lack of flexible working hours and rigid shift work. While not an issue with many white-collar workers, this is a major factor for hourly workers who want to have more control over their lives.

A fourth element is lack of development. Many surveys have pointed out that workers want to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, organizations limited development opportunities. Where development was available, workers could not take advantage of it because of high-demand work requirements that left no time available.  

So, in reality, it’s not hard to see why surveys show a potentially devastating amount of turnover happening.

I realize that there may not be much you can do about these, but there are tactics that can help. 

First of all, make internal mobility the most important thing you focus on. Helping employees find new positions may be the best and most direct way to influence them to stay.  Yet, most organizations either erect numerous bureaucratic hurdles that make moving around tough or do not offer any simple way for an employee to learn about possibilities.

Organizations with low turnover generally follow several rules that guide the internal application and transfer process. 

1.     Employees should be able to interview for new positions without permission from anyone.

2.     They should not have to complete an application form, and no resumes should be required.

3.     They should be able to leave their current position within a maximum of two weeks after accepting another offer – even if their old position has not been filled.

4.     Salaries offered should be similar to those an external hire would receive. 

Secondly, help hiring managers reposition jobs to match the available skills rather than seek out only those who are perfect fits.

Don’t go for the exact match. Encourage hiring managers to be more open to giving internal candidates an opportunity.  Exact matching is expensive and pays little in return.  No one is good enough at predicting what the exact set of skills will be for every project and job. Hiring internal people with basic qualifications is often the better decision as these people bring enthusiasm and freshness and fit the culture.  Recruiters need to encourage managers to experiment and realize that most of us are not doing the exact job we were trained to do or even the work our degrees prepared us for. 

Focus on Development

Work with your learning and development team to begin building a sustainable workforce. Internal development, combined with apprenticeships or job rotations, can significantly improve employee attitudes and slow turnover.

And, finally, be open about what is going on in the company with potential candidates.

When you set realistic expectations up front, you lessen the disillusionment of the new hire.  Strive for authenticity; encourage them to talk to employees who are happy and engaged.  Ensure candidates are good culture fits and that they are fully informed about the work they are going to be expected to do.

Working with the hiring managers is key to success, as a lack of imagination partly causes talent shortages. Jobs can be tailored to fit candidates, job descriptions can be changed, and managers can be flexible.  It takes negotiating with them and providing them information about what’s going on. Turnover may happen, but you may be able to lessen its impact or bring new people better fitted to your culture.

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