This past summer, the term “The Great Resignation” started to make headlines around the world. According to the US Department of Labor, a record high 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September 2021. That’s three percent of workers.
Even though companies continue to post vacant positions, they are having trouble filling them: there were 11 million employment openings and 6.5 million people looking for jobs in October. In 2021 so far, just under 40 million people have quit their jobs, with more than 28 million doing so between April and October. To put this figure in context: 36.3 million people quit their jobs in all of 2020 (down from 42.1 million in 2019).
So what is behind The Great Resignation? The issue is complex, but one of the main reasons is lack of flexibility in return-to-office plans. The pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way employees function. They are enjoying a more balanced, commute-free life.
With The Great Resignation comes The Great Reshuffle, in which employees are leaving positions that ultimately do not meet their life needs, which can include quality of work experience, caregiving, mental and physical health, and the ability to prioritize personal needs. Industries that require frontline employees, including food service, hospitality, and retail, are seeing the highest rates of resignations ever recorded.
As offices are reopening, how can corporate America avoid the pitfalls of The Great Resignation and The Great Reshuffle and retain their top talent, especially those from underrepresented groups who have been disparately impacted? Two key words: flexibility and intentionality.
Flexibility is proving to be the new must-have in the workplace, with 76 percent of the American workforce seeking new jobs to improve their workplace flexibility or to work from home permanently. After 18 months of working from home, having freedom—albeit restricted under quarantine mandates most of the time—and being able to be present for family, pets, and self, very few want to go back to pre-pandemic norms.
Organizations must be intentional when it comes to implementing their return-to-office plans by not expecting their employees to come to the office on random days for the sake of coming in (and sitting behind a closed office door). Have employees come in for a purpose, such as a team meeting or team building activities.
The current employment market has higher expectations when it comes to positive workplace culture and is forcing organizations to differentiate themselves beyond compensation. This challenge presents a unique opportunity for leadership across organizations to be intentional and assertive in institutionalizing DEI strategies in the new normal as they seek to attract, develop, and retain the best talent. Employers need to adapt quickly and regularly assess internal culture while focusing on career pathing and flexibility. Creating strategies that are employee-centric and intentionally based on listening directly to the employee voice will be key in winning the war for talent.
Seramount’s Return to Office: Part One insights paper explores different return-to-the-workplace models through a lens of inclusivity. Seramount’s follow-up paper, Return to Office: Part Two, dives deep into how organizations can lead effectively (and with empathy) into this new era of flexibility as leaders develop their return-to-office plans. This paper focuses on solutions and recommendations to mitigate the impact on underrepresented talent in the workplace, while tackling operating issues employers need to consider when creating their return-to-office plans.
According to Deborah Munster, VP of People, Culture and Operations at Seramount, here are four key takeaways employers should consider when creating their return-to-office plans:
Download the insights paper here.
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