Article originally published on LinkedIn Talent Blog on April 29, 2021. Written by Samantha McLaren.
In a recent column for The New York Times, Kevin Roose highlights a growing trend among millennial workers: quitting stable, well-paying jobs to pursue their true passions. This is happening, he argues, not in spite of the ongoing pandemic but because of it. The events of the past year have led many to reassess their priorities — and for some, that has included a realization that they simply don’t find their work fulfilling.
While many people don’t have the option to quit their job without something else lined up, this trend should be on all employers’ radars — because it could lead to rising attrition rates across the board in the months ahead. Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey, which polled 2,000 full-time U.S. workers in March 2021, found that one in four (26%) plan to look for a new job with a different employer after the pandemic. Among millennials, the largest generation in the workforce today, that number is one in three (34%).
With the cost of replacing a single employee amounting to anywhere from a half to two times their annual salary, taking proactive steps to improve retention can save companies time and money down the line. Here are three key strategies you can use, based on Prudential’s findings on why employees choose to leave.
1. Prioritize flexibility and work-life balance
After more than a year of working from home, many employees don’t want to return to the physical workplace — at least, not all of the time — and some are ready to quit if asked to. Prudential found that 87% of U.S. workers want to continue working remotely at least once a week, and one in three would not want to work for an employer that required them to be onsite every day.
The ability to work from anywhere is not the only way that employees want their companies to be flexible. Prudential’s research indicates that, aside from compensation, a more flexible work schedule is the top way to encourage employees to stay. And among those who changed their line of work entirely during the pandemic, the top reason given for the transition was the pursuit of a better work-life balance.
With circumstances varying from country to country, your company might not have finalized its return-to-workplace plan just yet. But this subject is on employees’ minds, so providing as much information as you can — even if it’s only broad strokes, rather than the nitty-gritty details — will help reassure them about what the future holds. At PwC, for example, flexibility has been a big part of the culture for years, but leaders still recognized a need to respond to the current moment. As a result, the company recently announced that employees will have more control over the schedules moving forward, including the ability to determine what time they start their workday and what time they finish it.
Beyond offering flexibility around where and when employees work, you can also promote a healthier work-life balance through actions and policies like discouraging after-hours messages (including those from managers) and mandating a certain amount of time off each year. With the pandemic taking a toll on many people’s mental health, steps like these can help stave off fatigue and burnout, which in turn supports higher retention and productivity and lower absenteeism.
2. Make it easy for employees to grow and to make lateral moves at the company
The days when people would stay in one career track until retirement are largely behind us. Amy Schultz, global head of talent acquisition at Canva, predicts that the future of work “is going to be more like a rock-climbing wall than a ladder” as people try new things and discover new passions. This makes internal mobility a critical strategy for keeping great talent within your company — because if people can’t find new opportunities internally, they will naturally look for them elsewhere.
Prudential’s findings back this up. Among workers who made a career transition during the pandemic, 26% said the change was spurred by a desire to try something new. Employees also rank mobility options as the second-most important factor that would encourage them to remain with their current employer, right behind flexible work schedules.
For internal mobility to work, managers have to be open to letting team members move around the organization, which may require breaking deeply ingrained habits such as hoarding the best talent. Uber uses hard data around retention to help managers understand that internal mobility is a business priority, while Schneider Electric removed a policy that required manager approval for a role change. Both companies also have an internal mobility platform that allows employees to easily explore opportunities with different teams and departments. This includes both full-time roles and shorter-term projects and assignments, allowing people to dip their toes in, acquire new skills, and make more informed decisions about what they want to do next.
Of course, some employees may like their current role and be uninterested in making a lateral move, but they still want to feel like their company is committed to supporting their growth. Prudential found that 49% of all employees surveyed are concerned about their career growth — and 80% of those planning to look for a new job feel this way. Among the latter group, six in 10 have also sought out skills training on their own since the start of the pandemic.
Providing learning and development resources and opportunities to all employees lets them know that your company is committed to supporting their growth. This can range from online learning courses to mentorship opportunities. Data from LinkedIn and Glint shows that employees who see good opportunities to learn and grow are 2.9 times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t — and an engaged employee is one who’s likely to stick around.
3. Increase salary transparency to create trust
While The New York Times article makes clear that money isn’t the only factor that motivates employees, the fact is that financial stability has become a bigger concern for many in light of the pandemic and its economic fallout. A quarter (26%) of the employees who had changed their line of work during the pandemic told Prudential that they did so for a higher salary.
Raising salaries might not be an option right now, especially if your company is still recovering from the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on countless businesses. But there’s one step that can go a long way toward ensuring employees’ feel fairly compensated and that’s increasing salary transparency. As Leslie Miley, director of engineering at Google, notes in the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2019 report, it’s only natural for people from historically underpaid groups to assume they’re still being underpaid if they have no way of checking. Removing the secrecy builds trust and demonstrates that your company is committed to pay equity.
There are a few different ways to embrace salary transparency, so don’t feel that you have to make everyone’s exact salaries public (although some companies, including Buffer, do take this approach). Many companies choose to share salary ranges, giving employees peace of mind that they’re being paid a fair wage in comparison to their coworkers.
Taking steps to improve retention will benefit everyone
Employees joined your company for a reason. But if they start to feel like their career is stagnating, they’re being treated unfairly, or that their work doesn’t fit comfortably around their personal life, they may start to question that reason. By proactively addressing these concerns, you can remind them what they loved about their work — encouraging them to stay, which will eliminate the time and expense of replacing them.
Every employee’s circumstances and goals are a little different, so it’s important to listen and create opportunities for them to share what they need to be successful. The steps above can combat many common factors in an employee’s decision to leave, but as the talent marketplace continues to shift, the companies that succeed will be the ones that adapt their strategies accordingly.