Employers across every industry in Australia are being warned the Great Resignation is about to hit hard. If estimates are to be believed, more than a third of workers could be walking out the door in coming months.
Workplace leaders are being urged to get ahead of the trend, which is currently sweeping through the US and UK thanks to workers re-evaluating their work-life balance in light of the pandemic.
“There’s been a significant change in working habits across the broader economy and I don’t believe will go back to the way it was,” explained Ben Foote, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Management.
“I think people are habitual about going to their local coffee shop rather than the coffee shop in the CBD and they’re used to their work day being within their home environment.”
“So we’re facing a much different future of work and that has been really set up by the large amount of time spent in the second lockdown period.”
Data backs up the theories behind the Great Resignation, a term coined by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor at Texas A&M University.
In a PwC survey of 1800 Australian workers between September and October this year, 38 per cent said they were planning to leave their jobs. And employee happiness fell by 3 per cent and burnout increased by 9 per cent, a LinkedIn quarterly survey taken in three months to July 2021 found.
It points to a reluctance to return to pre-pandemic work life and this is a big challenge for employers, said Foote.
“Most business leaders I talk to at the moment are all facing that same challenge because it’s all very well for people to work from home and work effectively from home,” he said.
“But ultimately as a business you do need people in some circumstances to get together at least sometimes in order for relationships to build, cultures to build, ideas to be grown more freely and, importantly, for new staff to learn about the business and to learn from others in a more natural setting than being on Zoom,” he said.
There are some practical ways employers can retain staff and avoid the costly and time-consuming process of recruiting new employees.
Keep your keepers
“Identify your key or high value employees and working out whether they’re a resignation risk,” advised Sarah McCann-Bartlett, chief executive of the Australian HR Institute.
“These are the employees you want to keep, who add additional value to the business and will be hard for you to replace.”
“Are you giving them the right development opportunities, do they have the flexibility they want or need and are you making sure that you’re doing everything you can to keep them?”.
Take a close look at your teams and work out which ones are critical to the business. This is where you need to pour a lot of your energy into keeping employees happy, said McCann-Bartlett.
“If there was a higher voluntary turnover rate in a particular team, how would that affect your business and therefore, for those teams and roles, what’s your risk mitigation strategy?” she said.
There are a number of different ways to gauge employee happiness. Employee sentiment surveys are an effective way to measure employee engagement and cover issues such as job satisfaction, stress levels, how much control an employee feels they have over their work and how engaged they are with the organisation.
One-on-one meetings allow employers to get a more personal read on their staff and where they anticipate their career heading.
Beyond the traditional benefits of a competitive salary and profit-sharing schemes, there is a lot employers can offer.
“Access to a company car, home office set-ups for hybrid workers, providing food, great collaboration spaces and technology that works because there’s nothing more frustrating than poor technology,” she said.
Employers should also focus on providing a workplace culture where diversity and inclusion are promoted, and teamwork is championed. Corporate responsibility is also important to employees, so McCann-Bartlett encourages employers to get behind causes staff want to support.
And of course, there’s well-being benefits such as gym subsidies, lunchtime running clubs or meditation classes.