6 Tips from a Chief People Officer: Retention During The Great Resignation

Move over Great Resignation: it’s time for the Great Retention.

In April of this year, more than 740,000 Americans quit their jobs. Harvard Business Review reported that the number was 4 million by July. By the end of July, the US had roughly 10.9 million job openings. So, what’s going on? People need to work and need to make money, right? While the answer is technically yes, the standards by which people are evaluating their decision to stay at or leave a job is changing significantly and more rapidly than ever. 

What countless experts have deemed “The Great Resignation” is less about disgruntled employees sequestered in their studio apartments during a pandemic and more about the knee-jerk urging from employers for everything to return to normal. You remember normal, right? Maybe that looked like a 45-minute one-way commute; picking up your kids from school across the city in traffic; staying late at an office out of guilt or the pursuit of promotion or plain old newbie martyrdom; or simply wearing pants on a regular basis. Whatever that answer is, the past year-and-a-half has taught many people that in the great pursuit of work-life balance, work in America has always had its thumb on the scale.

Many employers might consider retention the job of an employee. But the whole, “If you don’t like it, you can leave,” mentality isn’t holding much sway with us anymore. It’s in fact the job of employers to give their team a reason to stay. And while that might seem daunting in this day and age, there is still plenty that can be done to prevent turnover and keep your current employees happy—which, if we’re being honest, may even help attract some new ones. Let’s take a look at a few easy tips for retention during the Great Resignation.

#1 Curb burnout.

Employee burnout is real, and becoming increasingly prevalent in this return to normalcy. What working from home has clearly shown millions of Americans who hadn’t previously been used to it is that flexibility is key to many schedules. Not everyone is a Dolly Parton 9-to-5er, and the best employers get that that’s okay. Office life can be valuable to some, but for others it proves to be a constant distraction. At Verana, we try to identify the cause of burnout early—most often for us, it’s lack of resources due to a rapidly scaling organization. Whatever the situation, it’s imperative to remember that burnout is individual and is best supported with an individualized effort. By partnering with your employee, you can create a “burnout mitigation plan.” Come up with concrete steps and milestones to celebrate (i.e., taking a real vacation!). If you’re noticing burnout as a product of returning to post-pandemic worklife, give your employees the opportunity to define their own schedules or offer hybrid or remote-first work options. While this might make some project managers’ heads explode, a helpful way to mitigate the instability of some remote teams is to invest in tools that help reduce time spent on manual administrative tasks. According to Fortune, “Companies that have adopted a digital-first mindset have a recruiting advantage—they’re able to provide the tools that offer simplicity and help to make employees’ jobs less stressful.” Just take it from anotherSearchlight customer Zapier. They’ve always been 100% remote and have some great tips on their blog on how to make this adjustment successful for everyone.

#2 Create clear career development plans and opportunities.

Those 10.9 million open jobs out there currently? The majority of them were created by the resignations of employees ages 30 to 45 (Harvard Business Review). That increased more than 20% in 2020 to 2021. While we already touched on the myriad reasons an employee might want to resign, a big focal point may be the career development opportunities at a different company. What does your company offer in terms of growth and setting employees up for success in different roles or across different teams? The companies who are keen on incorporating developmental plans into their recruiting and onboarding are more likely to retain their talent. This doesn’t have to be some super fancy or expensive solution: it might be as simple as creating a “learning journey” of industry videos and best practice advice off YouTube; consider using an internal “coach” whom the employee has identified as being further advanced than themselves for mentorship and advice. Again, this doesn’t have to be complicated or sprawling. By working on just one thing after each review cycle, you can usually address exactly what the individual needs. As Harvard Business Review found, “workers who stay longer in the same job without a title change are significantly more likely to leave for another company for the next step in their career.” Meanwhile, companies who aren’t thinking about developmental growth are probably employing some of the 95% of people who are already contemplating a job change.

#3 Invest in your employees (but maybe not in the way you think).

If you’re looking around your currently empty office space at the crazy snack fridge, kegerator and pinball machine, chances are there are other ways to be investing in your employees. Back in July, Inc. reported that the “era of wacky perks was dead.” Employees don’t care about superficial office add-ons like Taco Tuesday or elaborate espresso machines—they value a culture of caring. While you might be saying, “We care about our employees so much that we invest money into giving them snacks,” we’re talking about a separate, deeper, more personal level of care. With so much of the workforce transitioning to and staying remote, employees need to know you have their backs in a different way than before. I get shot down all the time, but I promise you: getting rid of your lunch budget and replacing it with a 401(k) match, financial planner or anything with a long-term impact on someone’s life will do wonders. They can bring their lunch from home; they can’t buy a home with a free lunch. Additionally, you can provide training to your managers on how to communicate with their employees in a virtual environment. Learn about the various communities your employees are a part of and care about—and be proud of and involved in those communities. More than ever, people want to align with a company who respects them and respects the world we live in.

#4 Hire based on soft skills, work style preferences and values alignment.

89% of mishires are the result of a soft skills mismatch. These aren’t skills like creating a pixel-perfect PowerPoint, writing an error-free blog post, or even writing a bug-free piece of code. Soft skills tend to be a bit more intangible—think: responsiveness, communication style, proactiveness in leaving things better than found, resilience under pressure. While it’s easy to think the Great Resignation is the result of millions of people all the sudden having one grand pandemic epiphany, a different perspective is: many of those people may not have been right for their role or company to begin with. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re hiring the right people from the jump. Focus on soft skills instead of the more cut-and-dry hard skills. This will help hiring teams “sell” candidates who are the right fit earlier in the hiring process. It will also allow them to tailor onboarding based on these highlighted attributes to make sure new hires ramp up faster in their roles, and feel heard and understood by their new managers.

#5 Don’t wait until performance review cycles to identify misalignment.

You did it. You found someone to hire on your team and you think they’re an ace. Then, 3 months go by and things start to slip. Does that mean they’re not all they’re cracked up to be? Possibly. Or, were they not given a proper orientation to align on? The first 3 to 6 months are crucial to an employee’s tenure with a company. And what comes right at the start? Onboarding. Onboarding isn’t about giving your employee a laptop and an email signature. It’s about giving them everything they need to succeed in their new job. Studies show that clear, structured onboarding increases time-to-productivity by 62% and employee engagement by 54%. Every person is different and every job is unique. As a tenured employee yourself, things that are clear and obvious to you about the company and its processes might not be for a brand new team member. You can’t have success without the proper setup. We use Searchlight’s onboarding guide to give each manager a leg up on getting their new hire up to speed. At Verana, Searchlight’s onboarding guide helps anchor a new hire in a performance improvement culture and doesn't cost anything to implement! If you’re feeling lost about how to create your new hire onboarding program, don’t worry, there's a step-by-step guide on creating successful onboarding check-ins right here. Pretty nifty, right?

#6 Use data on tenured, new and future employees to influence strategic hiring decisions.

Shauna the accounting queen, James the sales maverick, Leigh the backend development guru? They all have something about them that makes them truly special and invaluable to your company. Chances are, there might even be some overlap. Identify what makes your top performers successful and how it influences their teams. If you just focus on their work history, it’s not really painting the whole picture of what makes these all-stars tick. What is their work style? What are their core competencies? Couple these observations with data-backed insights from onboarding and recruiting to create hiring plans tailored to finding predictive signals. This ensures that you not only hire the best candidates, but more importantly, that they stick around. At Verana, we use our onboarding guide to give each manager a leg-up on getting their new hire up to speed. In addition to being extremely helpful, it anchors this person in a performance improvement culture—plus, it doesn’t cost anything to implement. Not sure where to start on hiring plans or what one even is? Here’s a post about how to use intake to get you hiring better and faster.

Ready to start hiring—and retaining—some incredible new employees? With Searchlight, you’ll get visibility into data-driven insights to help iteratively improve your hiring process. Move over Great Resignation: it’s time for the Great Retention.

Is your team ready to transform your recruiting process? Schedule a call with Searchlight today!

A snapshot of Searchlight's customer outcomes

Want to hire more high performers and increase retention?

Serchlight’s Talent Intelligence has got you covered