Why the Great Resignation Should Radically Reconfigure HR Strategies

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Over the past two years, there has been a dramatic transformation in how people work. With the transition to remote work, shifting employee demands, and greater job mobility, HR teams must radically reconsider hiring and retaining their people. While these changes pose a significant challenge to your company’s HR strategy, they also present an opportunity to build a healthier, more engaged, and more sustainable workforce. 

There are many ways HR teams can build people-focused companies, such as employee support and wellness programs, professional development opportunities, the solicitation of feedback, an emphasis on open communication, and the creation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. As it becomes increasingly difficult for companies to hire and retain top talent, it’s essential to approach HR issues proactively. Company leaders should always be attuned to the needs of their employees, and they should consistently assess whether they’re successfully meeting those needs. 

While it’s clear that we’ve already entered a new era of HR management, the pace of change won’t slow down any time soon. Companies that don’t address employee burnout, turnover, and disengagement won’t just see considerable losses in productivity – they’ll also find themselves rapidly falling behind. The companies that take their employees’ concerns and well-being seriously, on the other hand, will put themselves in a solid position to attract and retain the right people for many years to come. 

Confronting the Great Resignation

Today’s hiring managers and HR professionals face challenges in building and maintaining their workforces. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the resignation rate had reached its highest point since December 2000 (when the agency started collecting data). This is a clear sign that employees are no longer content with the status quo at their companies, and they’re more willing to search for better opportunities than they have been in decades. There were almost 11 million open jobs in the U.S. at the end of December 2021. 

This phenomenon is known as The Great Resignation. It has put significant pressure on HR teams to improve employee morale, streamline hiring and onboarding, and reduce turnover. One of the most important contributors to the Great Resignation is the feeling of burnout that became more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Limeade survey found that the proportion of respondents who reported feelings of burnout spiked from 42% to 72% in the early days of the pandemic.  

Companies have to prioritize employee well-being to address these issues like never before. This means providing employees with ways to make their voices heard, offering positive reinforcement, frequently checking in to ensure workloads aren’t too heavy and employees have the resources they need, establishing wellness programs that will help employees deal with stress, and creating a culture of mutual support and respect. 

Making Open Communication a Top Priority

It’s impossible to build a successful company without effective communication, which facilitates productive collaboration between teams, builds trust between employees and company leaders, and allows HR professionals to identify and address personnel problems quickly. Communication is also the foundational element of any healthy company culture, as it brings employees together around shared values and goals while preventing silos from forming between departments and teams. 

Open communication is particularly crucial in an era of remote work. According to Gartner, almost half of employees will continue to work at least part of the time remotely, even in the post-COVID economy. Remote work is here to stay. HR professionals will have to ensure employees have the proper digital communication and collaboration tools while putting systems to track employee sentiment, respond to complaints and concerns quickly, and amplify diverse voices across the company.

HR teams need access to many different data points, such as the reasons for employee burnout and turnover (which can be collected through anonymous satisfaction surveys and honest conversations with employees). It’s also necessary to encourage employees to communicate with one another across the entire company, spur innovation, expose operational problems and sources of employee dissatisfaction, and bring everyone together around a shared mission. These are all reasons why norms of transparency and accountability are critical to developing a healthy corporate culture. 

Addressing the Employee Engagement Crisis

When employees are demanding more robust commitments from companies around workplace flexibility and support, HR professionals have to be capable of meeting these demands more effectively than their competitors. They also have to keep employees engaged – a task that has proven to be exceptionally difficult for companies worldwide. According to Gallup, 80% of employees report not being engaged at work.  

There are many ways to increase engagement, and we’ve taken a look at several of them in this piece:

  • Recognizing employees for their work
  • Demonstrating that their voices are being heard
  • Giving them a sense of purpose

Companies should also invest in their workforce, providing learning and development opportunities and clear paths for professional advancement. This is especially important as the global economy is becoming more dynamic and skills-based – it’s no surprise that 46% of learning and development professionals say they ranked upskilling and reskilling as top priorities in 2022. Along with workplace education initiatives, companies should provide wellness programs that focus on physical and emotional health. 

How the Great Resignation Can Spur Overdue Change

All the strategies outlined above are ways to empower your workforce. No employee wants to feel like a mere cog in a machine – they want to feel like members of a supportive team who can do their best work every day. While today’s hiring managers and HR professionals face plenty of challenges, now is the time to confront those challenges by creating a more open and supportive workplace for all employees.

 

Alex Gianetti is the Head of People at Enable.

 

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Alex Genetti is the Head of People at Enable, where she spearheads all things people-related including development, engagement, benefits, and HR administration matters. She was previously in the mental health space, where she was People Operations at Two Chairs and prior to that, she held the same role at Scout RFP (acquired by Workday) and Livongo. Alex has extensive experience in managing every facet of the employee lifecycle, including designing and implementing employee onboarding programs, benefits and total compensation management, policy development, payroll management, HRIS configuration, and employee relations.