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HR, Managers Struggling with Great Resignation Fallout  

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an unprecedented exodus of employees, but the so-called Great Resignation also revealed managers’ failures in fostering a more resilient workforce.

hiring 1977803 640smallMore than two-fifths of U.S. workers are actively looking for a new job or plan to begin their search soon, Society for Human Resource Management finds in a recent survey.

SHRM’s chief knowledge officer Alex Alonso says that this is two times the rate of 2019. Furthermore, 49% of U.S. executives note that in about the past six months their businesses have experienced 'higher' or 'much higher' turnover than what was considered normal. While some employees ditched their jobs because they struggled through the pandemic, 56% of workers blame their managers for their decision to leave.

The research offers an especially harsh assessment of managers failures when it comes to Millennials and Generation Z workers. These cohorts are more likely than their older Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts to report that they are actively seeking new jobs now. Black and Latino workers are also more likely to say they are actively searching for new employment opportunities compared with their white counterparts.

“This means our inclusion efforts are not as effective as we thought,” Alonso says.

Those most likely to leave their employers work in professional and business services, technology, and administrative positions. HR professionals who were surveyed note that voluntary turnover reached the highest levels in operations, customer services and logistics.

The SHRM survey also finds that 53% of employees cite better compensation as their primary motive to leave, while 42% say they want better work/life balance. One-third and 36% of survey respondents cite better career advancement opportunities and better benefits, respectively, as their reasons for ditching their employers. Alonso says those seeking a better career had their “COVID clarity” moment as the pandemic made these workers realize they wanted more than they could get from their current employer.

In July, four million Americans left their jobs, and there were a record 10.9 million open jobs by the end of that month, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. That agency announced last month that 4.3 million Americans, which amounts to 2.9% of the whole U.S. workforce, quit their jobs in August, NPR reports, marking another record breaking month.

To uncover the reasons, Ian Cook writes in Harvard Business Review that his team analyzed more than nine million employee records from more than 4,000 companies. Cook is vice president, people analytics for Visier Inc.

Before doing anything else to address why workers are leaving, employers need to properly quantify the problem to understand how much of their turnover is from employees voluntarily quitting as opposed to those being laid off or fired, Cook writes.

“For example, a trucking company I worked with identified that what appeared to be a small increase in turnover due to a nationwide driver shortage was in fact costing them millions of dollars in hiring and training resources,” Cook notes. “Quantifying the problem both helped leaders get the internal buy-in necessary to address it, and informed decisions around what kind of retention interventions would be most effective.”

Once employers have found the root causes as to why employees are quitting, they need to devise customized retention programs. So, “if you realize that people of color are leaving your organization at a higher rate than their white peers, a DEI-focused approach may be called for,” Cook notes. “If you find that time between promotions correlates strongly with high resignation rates, it may be time to rethink your advancement policies.” 

For employers worried that they can’t afford to increase wages to keep workers from leaving, there are other approaches they can take, Inc reports. Employers can start by clearly spelling out their values and being honest at the start, says SHRM president and CEO Johnny C. Taylor. "Imagine you're dating someone and they present themselves in a certain way, but when you marry them, a different person shows up," he says.

Employers also need to be ready to change quickly and should consider quarterly check-ins with employees to make sure they are staying true to their culture and listening and responding to their concerns. Analyzing data can help identify and spot trends that can better inform employers on how to better address potential issues. "I'm not an advocate of knowing [employee behaviors] on an individualized level--that can feel creepy," Taylor says. "But I do like aggregate data that shows us if employee turnover may increase.”

For employers hoping the pandemic-driven shift in employees’ attitudes won’t last long, they may not like what UC Berkeley economist Ulrike Malmendier shared with NPR. In a new working paper, she makes the case of how profound experiences can reshape people’s attitudes toward the economy and way of living, much like how those who lived during The Great Depression were less willing to invest in the stock market.

“As for the effects of the pandemic, Malmendier predicts that the legacy of forced teleworking, home schooling and other dramatic social and economic changes will continue to shape our choices long after the viral danger recedes,” NPR notes. “At the very least, there will certainly be many of us working new jobs.”

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