To fight the talent drain, rethink your employee experience
At the beginning of this year, we wrote an article analysing why wellbeing challenges were pushing employees out of the education sector, one of the industries that have most severely felt the strain of the pandemic. But sectors whose employees have been working on the frontline are far from alone in seeing staff leave at alarming rates.
According to the ONS, there are almost 500,000 more job vacancies in the UK than there were in 2019. This reflects a 20-year high in the number of businesses looking for staff. A similar survey by PwC also found that almost one in five UK workers are planning to quit their job in the next 12 months.
Looking at ‘why’ talent retention has become such a pressing issue is key to creating strategies that can counteract it.
Why do employees leave?
As a nation, and indeed a planet, we switched to a completely different way of working within a matter of months, largely without impacting productivity.
Those organisations who could, continued to function almost as before. The speed of that move to remote working and the level of flexibility it offered once countries began to open up, saw a step change in the way that staff viewed their roles and their careers.
Barriers that had existed at work before were broken down. Connectivity became the key driver for productivity, quickly followed by a need for flexibility. As with any major change, there came both threats and opportunities.
Research shows that a number of motivators have been driving this movement. Better pay and conditions are a factor but an equally high number of workers - almost 70% - are looking for more fulfilment at work. Interestingly, 63% felt that their current work environment did not allow them to truly be themselves, and almost half felt that there was a lack of flexibility where the location of work was concerned.
Rethinking employee experience
The pivotal shift in the nature of work over the last two years has altered the perception of what a ‘workplace’ is. There began to be an acceptance of the importance of the human side of employment. Employers have had to address issues of isolation and lack of connection between colleagues in a way never seen previously.
And while workers' views of what constitutes positive employee experience have changed, employers have perhaps been slower in recognising this. The misalignment between what employers see as valuable, and what is most important to employees has been a key driver in the Great Resignation. According to a 2021 survey, employers tend to overlook some of the elements employees place the highest value on. For instance, a sense of belonging and feeling valued by their organisation and managers are more important to employees than employers appreciate.
A clear path of career progression and flexibility in their work schedules were also high on the list of employee needs. So offering options around location and flexibilities within work schedules and managing those practices carefully with adequate oversight and support is vital.
Employers in the past may have been guilty of seeing employees as a whole, rather than as a group of individuals with a range of wants and needs. Today's changing workplace highlights how there are different needs at play within a workforce. To have a positive impact on talent retention, organisations need a strategic approach to employee experience that's rooted in a deeper understanding of these differences.
So what can companies do to create a workplace where a great employee experience is front and centre?
1. Build a great culture
An employee’s experience of your culture starts from day one as a new hire. From the very beginning, your culture will influence their relationship with their peers and the organisation at large. A well-considered company culture that regards the development of the whole person while connecting them strongly to organisational goals and values has the power to foster a sense of belonging that will contribute to greater loyalty.
A culture shift can only be successful if embraced by leaders and teams alike. Leaders need to be equipped with the skills they need to communicate effectively, listen and support others within the new culture you're trying to establish. Through their ability to empathise with their peers and colleagues they'll enable you to see the employee experience through the lens of your employees.
2. Invest in flexibility
Listening to your employees is essential to understanding what type of workplace they want. People are after a more balanced approach to work and greater flexibility has become a ‘must-have’ in many roles. So when designing your work practices and policies, these specific needs should be explored. These findings can then be used to design an optimal experience. How will you support wellbeing? What are the best ways to implement cross-team collaboration in a hybrid environment? Your people will provide valuable insight to help you design a solution for the challenges they face.
3. Encourage continuous development
Developing internal talent strengthens teams, increases productivity, and creates natural succession plans. This can help organisations close skills gaps and reduce reliance on costly agency or freelance staff.
Supporting career progression and communicating the company’s willingness to invest in staff development will help employees feel more valued and committed. As well as being an attractive benefit to potential new hires.
Programmes of development need flexibility and the ability to fit the right employee with the right experience, so be prepared to be fluid in your CPD approach.
4. Don’t ignore dissatisfied employees
Unfulfilled or dissatisfied employees won’t necessarily leave, even if they are unhappy. Financial security, family responsibilities, or an unwillingness to start over can drive some of your employees to remain even if they’ve been feeling disengaged for a while. Your policies around employee engagement need to be mindful of the less willing team members, and be agile and responsive enough to turn around those who don’t feel valued before their lack of motivation becomes entrenched.
By looking at your employee experience, you can identify those areas that are driving disengagement, and make use of personalisation to design journeys where people feel valued, supported and enabled to be their best selves.
Whilst every organisation will need to a carefully planned approach to their talent strategy, businesses with high retention rates tend to:
- Foster positive cultures, where people can feel nurtured, valued and supported through their personal and professional growth.
- Listen to their employees to understand what works for them, and use these learnings to develop an optimal employee experience.
- Create continuous development opportunities to close skills gaps and ensure people can take charge of their career progression.
- Develop strategies to identify and re-engage unfulfilled employees where possible.