With seven months of near-record highs, 2021 was officially the year of quitting. The number of Americans quitting their jobs hit an all-time high of 4.5 million in November of last year. Folks in hospitality quit their job the most, with a quit rate of 6.1%. Over 38 million workers quit their jobs in 2021. Some of those may be job switchers, leaving low-wage industries like food services for higher pay, and some may be the millions of workers who are still remaining on the sidelines.
The “great resignation,” or “great reshuffling,” as many have called it, shows how the post-vaccine economy is still being reshaped by workers, and suggests that the old way of working — from wages to flexibility to benefits — has to change for people to stay in their roles. The high quit rate is a symptom of a tight labor market in which workers can easily leave one job to find another that is a better fit or has better pay and benefits. The puzzle that talent acquisition and HR leaders are trying to solve is how to retain employees before they reach their quitting point.
Replacing employees that leave with new ones is costly, and the cost of vacancy while employers scramble to find replacements can be even higher. While it varies by industry, cost of vacancy (COV) can be estimated using the company’s revenue per employee (which is the company’s total revenue divided by the number of employees) and divide that by the number of working days in a year (260). This gives you the average revenue produced by an employee on a daily basis.
Organizational leaders can make inroads in building engagement and driving retention among their teams by employing different retention strategies. Like any retention strategy, the goal first is to stop the bleeding or avoid it altogether, and the easiest way to do that is to talk to employees. Here are some easy ways to do that.
Focus groups can help facilitate employee conversations, whether they are held by HR or team leaders. They can be carried out with groups of employees chosen randomly or in specific areas where you might be experiencing turnover. Put together a statement and/or focus group facilitator talking points that explains in detail what outcome you expect to achieve through the focus group. Keep notes during the sessions to look for trends, challenges, and follow up items. It’s easy to organize a feedback session with employees and have a discussion. However, you want to ensure that the discussion leads to reliable data that you can use as a basis for decision making. Defining some key parameters ahead of your focus group that you can rate and expand on during the session can help keep you on track for collecting these data points. If you’re the facilitator, it’s a good idea to include another team member from HR to take notes.
Pulse surveys are a way to quickly gain insights and information. Called “pulse surveys” because they “take the pulse” of an organization, these surveys are helpful tools in measuring progress, understanding the employee experience, and promoting action. Pulse surveys allow your employees to identify and weigh in on issues they’re having right now, instead of issues they had six months or a year ago. This allows you to follow up with immediate action or investigate them further. Unlike annual employee engagement surveys, which tend to be complex and have dozens of questions on various subjects, pulse surveys seek input on specific topics by asking a few to 10 rapid fire questions that can be completed in less than five minutes. Because they are so brief, many employers find that they have a much higher participation and response rate than annual surveys.
Skip level interviews can drive retention and help communicate the importance of employees and the roles in their company. These are one-on-one meetings between a senior leader and employee. The leader meeting with the employee is the boss of the employee’s boss. Managers often go through the motions failing to capitalize on the opportunity the skip level meeting brings. The goal of a skip level meeting is to develop trust and rapport so that the employee feels comfortable outlining his or her concerns to a member of your top level leadership team before giving notice or resigning from your company. These meetings don’t have to be formal in nature, but more of a discovery conversation between employee and leader.
All of these strategies have one thing in common: Listening. Employees want to know they are being heard. All turnover is not a bad thing, but it’s important to take a proactive approach now before it’s too late.
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