Companies witnessed employees leaving in droves during last year’s “Great Resignation.” In 2022, we’re now entering a “Great Reshuffle,” where employee retention is improving and workers are no longer leaving the workforce. Instead, they’re reassessing their current roles in search of more fulfilling pursuits, like starting their own businesses, finding better pay or more flexibility in a similar job, or making a career change altogether.
At the heart of it all is a job shift where work is starting to collide with personal values and life choices.
Many employers have started addressing this issue by offering more financial perks: higher pay, bigger signing bonuses, upskilling opportunities, and other solutions.
But it hasn’t worked as well as they’ve hoped.
A February 2022 update from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in that month alone. Even with more pay and better benefits, companies haven’t been able to fill the more than one million jobs that are still open.
To attract and retain employees in the time of the Great Reshuffle, employers have to be more creative and better understand their employees’ concerns.
A helpful place to start is by taking a look at comprehensive research data recently gathered about employees and the workplace.
Understanding the Great Reshuffle in Four Studies
In an April 2022 Forbes article titled “The Great Resignation Becomes The Great Reshuffle: What Employers Can Do To Retain Workers,” leadership strategy expert Jeanne Meister highlights data gathered from four independent studies on employee attrition.
Each of the studies revealed just how much employee attitudes and boundaries are shifting, starting with their tolerance of toxic work environments.
Hyper Awareness of Toxic Culture and Management
MIT Sloan Management Review conducted an analysis of 34 million U.S. workers who left their companies in the past year. The goal of the study was to find out why those employees left—what was the impetus?
It turns out, company culture, management decision-making or priorities, and haphazard worker schedules were the top three reasons. This was more pronounced in industries where workers have high levels of customer interaction, such as apparel retail, fast food, and specialty retail.
Employees aren’t settling for unjust working conditions, and if a company’s culture or management is toxic, nothing will stop them from searching for better opportunities.
Family and Personal Life Are Top of Mind
Another study found that work responsibilities no longer trump life as a rule. The 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index, which looked at why a record number of front-line workers are leaving their jobs, revealed that employees are becoming less willing to make quality-of-life sacrifices.
Employees still work hard, but they’re unwilling to give up quality time with family for work. Microsoft calls this phenomenon “The Employee Worth It Equation.”
A couple other findings from the study were particularly interesting to note:
- 47% of workers are more likely to prioritize family and personal life over work, and that shift is a direct result of the pandemic.
- 55% of parents and 56% of women are more likely to prioritize their health and well-being over work now than before the pandemic.
The Rise of “New Collar Work”
A research study performed by management consulting firm Oliver Wyman highlighted that more than 10% of hourly workers who quit their jobs in the last year completed the necessary training to change professions. In many cases, they moved into software and tech-related jobs within logistics, finance, and health care industries.
For these employees, the pandemic presented a life-changing opportunity to shift from blue collar work to what is being called “new collar work.” As a result, those employees now find themselves in better, more flexible, and higher-paying jobs.
Predictable Scheduling and Its Impact on Employee Well-Being
The fourth study cited in Meister’s article brought to light the connection between unpredictable work schedules and employee wellness.
Paychex and Executive Networks conducted a joint study in 2022 that uncovered truths about how unpredictable work schedules can be a detriment to today’s workforce:
- 30% of employees are dealing with an unpredictable work schedule.
- 85% of employees say their schedules affect their overall well-being.
- The financial impact of unpredictable schedules is significantly worse for part-time workers than it is for full-time workers.
- Almost 40% of respondents experienced burnout as a result of unpredictable work schedules, with Gen Z and millennials reporting the highest levels of burnout.
Employee Retention Tactics Amid the Great Reshuffle
The new reality of the Great Reshuffle presents a conundrum for employers that want to retain employees.
Employee retention rests on many things, with engagement being at the top of the list. It only follows that the more engaged employees are, the more likely they will stay at their current companies. And in the same way that employee attitudes have changed, the way employers inspire engagement must change as well.
Here are four ways your company can adapt to the Great Reshuffle and promote long-lasting engagement for your employees.
Focus on Less Fixing and More Listening
Employees are individuals with unique needs, and although the research referenced above likely applies to many employees, it may not apply to all. That’s why companies need to do their own data gathering to determine what will make employees want to stick around for the long haul.
Listening sessions are a great way to do that. However, in many organizations, listening sessions sometimes manifest into management dominating the room, which can make employees less likely to share what they truly need to be engaged.
Instead, employers should create psychologically safe environments to gather feedback from employees about their work life, including everything from workspaces and communication to compensation and management effectiveness.
Whether these sessions are conducted through in-person groups, Zoom calls, or even anonymous surveys, employees need to know their candor won’t be used against them. And, most importantly, employers should identify at least three actions that can be taken right away to ensure that employees are being heard.
Provide More Predictability and Flexibility in Work Schedules
Based on the Paychex and Executive Networks research about work schedule predictability, especially given how it impacts employee mental and financial wellness, employers need to make predictability a priority.
It has already been proven to be an effective strategy. In a study of 28 Gap stores where employees received their work schedules two weeks in advance with the guarantee that their shifts wouldn’t be canceled at the last minute, turnover in those stores dropped, particularly among their most experienced associates.
Keep in mind, however, that while employees want a predictable schedule, they also want flexibility around where and how they work. When employees are satisfied with their company’s time and location flexibility, they are more than twice as happy in their jobs and recommend their companies to others.
Offer Training and Development to All Employees
Another issue with unpredictable work schedules is their impact on training. More than 25% of Gen Z and 24% of millennial workers in the Paychex and Executive Networks study cited unpredictability as an impediment to training and development.
Plus, based on what we’ve discovered about the trend toward “new collar work,” if employees don’t get the training they want from their current company, they’ll certainly get it from another one.
Employers need to recognize training and development as a retention strategy and make it easily available for employees, particularly front-line and hourly workers.
Hold Managers Accountable for Their Empathy
At WellRight, we talk about empathy quite a bit—not just because we believe strongly in the value of empathy in the workplace, but because we know it’s one of the biggest factors in employee wellness and retention.
The Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) specifically recommends that company leaders are committed to fostering employee well-being and satisfaction, and this doesn’t happen without training, reinforcement, and accountability. Employers need to provide empathy training to managers and include empathy evaluations as part of their performance reviews.
At WellRight, we understand the challenges employers face as they work to attract and retain employees. As your company considers how your wellness program can contribute to that cause, we can help. Our experienced wellness consultants offer creative and strategic solutions that can help reach your employee engagement targets.