In this new world of work, finding and then keeping the right talent has never been as great a problem as it is right now.In fact, more than a quarter of firms surveyed last month said a lack of staff was affecting their ability to operate. The underlying reason? The power dynamic has shifted. And this isn’t just in the UK, but a global phenomenon (or as American economist Lawrence Katz said – a ‘once-in-a-generation ‘take this job and shove it’ moment.’)

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has been the catalyst for this great shift in employee mindset:
18 months at home has allowed for hours of soul-searching, sparking a mass epiphany that has led to this “Great Resignation”. Employers are struggling to keep their best people, and at the same time are lacking the competitive edge to hire top talent, because, newsflash, the half-hearted offering of remote-working does not maketh an innovative, people-first company.

So with employees leaving organisations at historically high rates and HR leaders coming up against mass attrition, the crucial question they have to ask themselves is:

Why are their employees walking away?

Categorised simply, the drivers of attrition fall into 4 categories:

  1. Related to work experience and triggered by organisation (e.g. lack of recognition)
  2. Related to work experience and triggered by external environment (non-competitive pay)
  3. Related to personal life and triggered by organisation. (burnout/flexibility/misaligned values)
  4. Related to personal life and triggered by external environment (new lifestyle aspirations)

Traditionally, employers have focused on numbers 1&2 as a way of solving the employee work experience, however against a backdrop of the pandemic, political and social injustices, employers are now being expected to focus on the drivers that are related to employees’ personal life:

For 2 years we have been working amidst pervasive uncertainty whilst managing extreme workloads with more stressors, and employees want (and need) more support from their employers to synchronise their professional and personal lives. Burnout is rife, work-life balance is practically non-existent, and in our most recent YouGov report with Solent Mind – 33% of people cited work as being the main reason behind their anxiety. Put simply, employees have new personal needs that just aren’t being met, and they’re willing to walk away because of it. This has flummoxed many employers who are shaking their old handbook at the problem yet are still seeing rising rates of attrition.

So how do you become an employer that employees want to stick around for?

It’s personal
Employees are now expecting their employers to mitigate the drivers of attrition that are related to their personal life. They’re assessing more than their organisation’s flexible working policy, but their stance on social justice and their commitment to wellbeing and mental health. Employers that do not evolve their employee value proposition to reflect these changes in expectations will watch their employees turn around and talk with their feet. So to be the company that people want to stick around for you have to introduce programmes that will create long term behavioural change throughout the organisation.

Employees don’t leave companies – they leave managers
At one point or another, we have all come across one of the many bad boss personas – any one of them can take a good team and destroy it, in which case many will quit. Because in spite of how good a job may be, people will quit if the reporting relationship is not healthy. This really boils down to emotional intelligence and humanising the relationship, with the onus on management to understand and utilise EI in order to maintain a positive and rewarding team climate. However many employees report that business structures are slow to adapt to such thinking, so programmes that work on enhancing leadership and developing EI are absolutely vital if you want to create an emotionally intelligent organisation that will retain your best people.

Re-thinking company culture
Claims of ‘buzzy’ office culture relied too heavily on its trivial trappings, because now, in a remote working setting and with all of this stripped away, it’s shown just how flimsy a lot of these claims were. Added to that – emotional connection becomes diluted when you’re not working next to your teammates, and with that lack of emotional connection; connection with the business, the people and their output, it’s far easier for people to leave. Culture is now all about re-building that emotional connection in meaningful ways – you don’t have to throw out Prosecco Thursdays all together, they have their role, but innovative tech, emotionally intelligent leaders, opportunities for upskilling and people-led programmes are what will keep your people commenting on, and sticking around for, their supportive and people-first culture.

Companies want 3-5 years out of their employees, but we know that under 25s are looking to move around and experiment with different roles and opportunities. Cultivating work environments that encourage internal mobility and advancement with the right report structure means they are far more likely to stay.

The right talent is critical as employers continue to recover and rebuild for the future.

The way our clients see it, having a brilliant employee value proposition will play a major role in getting the best people. The market has opened right up, and with these candidates turning up to the negotiating table with 2 / 3 job offers, employers now have to sell themselves to employees – which means either entering into a pricy bidding war with their competitors, or being able to offer an EVP that is more than just lip-service; one that is watertight and proven to make a positive, measurable impact on the candidate, their work, the training, the benefits, and the culture. More than ever candidates are enquiring about wellbeing and personal development programmes, because credible candidates want to see that not only will they be doing career-defining work, but that they will be supported all the way. This means that a clear, people-first narrative and demonstration of innovative, market-leading strategies are vital if you want to attract that top talent.

Cate Murden
Cate is the Founder and CEO of PUSH. She created PUSH with the fierce belief that with the right tools, mindsets and behaviours, we could build better workplaces full of happy, healthy and high-performing individuals.

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