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2021

The Great Opportunity

Michelle Elsley


“The Employee Exodus”, “The Tsunami of Turnover”, “The Great Resignation", "The Big Quit" - call it what you want, but it is undeniable that there has been a pronounced shift in people's relationship with work around the globe; one that is predicted to culminate in huge numbers opting to seek a fresh start with a new employer.

A new McKinsey study has found that 40 percent of the 5,000+ employees surveyed across the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia are likely to leave their current job in the next 3-6 months - 36 percent without having a new job in hand. Given the elevated levels of workplace burnout and ongoing lockdowns that have eroded the once close attachment between employees and their teams, it’s not difficult to find explanations for why people are more willing than ever to explore new career options.

Will this emerging trend hold true for New Zealand? While a recent Trade Me Jobs survey found only 17 percent of Kiwis intend to leave their jobs in the next year, right now record numbers of vacancies and significant shortages of talent across every industry in New Zealand have already created an unprecedented human capital challenge. As people rethink what they want from their work and life, ‘the great resignation’ would make this problem considerably more acute.

In the face of a talent short market and the prospect of substantially elevated turnover, insightful organisations are acting pre-emptively to shore up existing talent and position themselves to attract the best of what may emerge in the months to come. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for recruiting and retaining top talent, especially in these unprecedented times. However, some of the best organisations are finding ways to update their talent strategy in order compel new candidates to join and existing employees to stay.

While salary and benefit increases can be an effective tool for both attraction and retention, as the McKinsey study finds, for many this has become a moment to literally redefine what is work. Employees are revisiting their priorities and are on a quest for work that feels more purposeful - for a job that comes with some greater form of meaning.

There is an unprecedented opportunity to re-create workplace cultures and update talent strategies that might compel new candidates join your organisation and existing employees to stay:

Involve your employees in discussions and decisions around flexibility and hybrid working:

We repeatedly hear that flexibility, including remote and hybrid work options, is among the most important things to candidates right now. So being collaborative and giving people a say in how frequently they come into the physical office will help to foster loyalty and trust and will enhance your employer brand. Understandably, not every organisation can allow all employees to go fully remote or sustain a hybrid setup, but they can introduce flexibility into other aspects of the company culture. For example:

  • Offer more fluid working with flexible hours or days.
  • Let employees work from their location of choice once a week or upon request.
  • Provide working parents with additional child-care benefits to compensate for the lack of flexibility.
Provide career development and upskilling:

In the first-quarter of 2021, stats from PwC's Hopes and Fears Survey showed a majority of workers are concerned about losing their jobs to tech and 77 percent are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain. Upskilling should be seen as an investment! Encourage learning on company time, provide career paths for people if you haven't already and develop your future leaders. If internal career pivots are possible, make sure employees are aware of them. Upskilling is pivotal to retention and combatting skills gaps.

Employee wellbeing needs to become a foundational and vital piece of your company culture:

The opportunity to prioritise mental health and wellbeing has grown exponentially in the post-Covid landscape. As a result, organisations need to intensively transform their wellbeing strategy so that it views every team member as an individual with a life outside of work - addressing everyone’s physical, career, social and emotional needs.

Ask your employees why they stay:

You’re too late in the game when you’re asking why they are leaving. Incorporating ongoing stay interviews into your retention and employee engagement strategy can help you learn what matters to your team members and what they’d like to see improve.

Review the relevance of your recognition and reward system:

Recognition - from a simple ‘thank you’ to an experiential reward - is a powerful way to show your employees that they’re seen, heard, and valued. Make it impactful - choose experiences instead of cash rewards, or perhaps give your employees the opportunity to choose a reward that aligns with their interests, personalities, and lifestyles.

Prioritise an inclusive work environment:

For many people, this is a non-negotiable. People are in search of companies that offer a sense of safety and belonging, and a genuine commitment to social justice. Organisations need to ensure they create work environments where all identities feel welcome and encouraged to do their best work.

The workplace has changed forever, and so have the fundamentals of attrition, retention and attraction. While we are currently working through the lockdown levels again here in New Zealand, now is the time to focus on your talent strategy - redefine your company culture and put people first.

As recruiters, we're in a unique position to have a bird’s eye view of what’s happening out there on the current talent acquisition and retention landscape. If you need help, Convergence Partners can quickly mobilise, and help you determine what to do next.

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