According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll, 1 in 3 US workers under 40 are thinking of making a career switch before the end of the pandemic. In that same poll, 1 in 5 workers overall have considered a professional shift, which signals the pandemic is a turning point for many.
It’s not uncommon for professionals to switch gears immediately after an economic crash. In fact, your employees are more likely to take risky moves in situations when they really shouldn’t.
The pandemic has taught many professionals a lesson: life is too short to spend time in a job we hate. Our entire lives were uprooted, only for employees to find the world still moved without them. That impression will stay with Millennials and Generation Z workers for a long time.
Why the Career Change Movement Isn’t a Passing Fad
While it’s true that HR has seen a rise in the number of employees seeking new employment opportunities, it isn’t like they’re getting their real estate licence and starting a new career out of nowhere. Employees have been chronically unhappy since well before the pandemic.
The pandemic didn’t make previously happy employees suddenly unhappy; it unmasked several problems in the workplace that have been left unaddressed for decades.
HR Can’t Take the All the Blame
It may go without saying, but the Great Resignation isn’t solely to blame on HR. After all, HR departments can’t change business policies without receiving the “go-ahead” from managers.
To make matters worse, HR staff are victims of the same system. How are they supposed to help their employees if there isn’t enough money to place in mental health services? How can HR offer paid vacation leave, remote work, or career advancement if they simply can’t?
Employers understand that happy employees are productive employees, but keeping your team members happy takes a lot of work and resources. Whether there isn’t enough money to go around or employers don’t want to invest in their employees, the problem is here to stay.
That is unless employers and HR departments work together to solve chronic unhappiness.
Workers are Tired and Hungry for More
Article after article blames employees for the Great Resignation, but burnout is the most likely reason why individuals are refusing to go back to work. Most employees are subjected to awful working conditions, low wages, long hours, unappreciative bosses, and few protections.
The bubble would have burst eventually; the pandemic was just the needle that popped it.
For decades, employees have felt powerless to ask for more or even ask for what they’re worth. Even now, there are still employers who won’t offer their employees remote work or flexible hours after the pandemic, even with the evidence that remote work increases productivity.
It’s essential that employers listen to their employees and cater to their needs. Otherwise, employers won’t be able to keep qualified and talented individuals in their workplace.
Why Employees are Quitting (and What to Do About It)
Large scale shifts are changing the way people work. Instead of fighting it, HR can tackle several issues that have led to the Great Resignation with help from their employers.
1. Employees Want to Good Company Culture
Company culture is more highly valued by employees. Meaning and a sense of belonging are powerful driving forces to job seekers nowadays. This phenomenon is why sites like JobSage are so popular; employees want to know what kind of employer they’re working for.
HR must focus on cultivating thriving cultures of internal mobility, delivering robust benefits, and prioritising continuous leadership. HR departments should project their company culture in the workplace and ensure there isn’t a contraction between what you say and what you do.
2. Employees Want to Work Remotely
For many employees, remote work isn’t negotiable. If you take remote work off the table after you’ve already offered it during the pandemic, you’re going to disappoint your employees. 87% of employees who had been working from home during the pandemic want to continue to do so.
If you can’t offer remote work options to all of your employees, suggest a hybrid model. In a hybrid workplace, your employees can separate their workweek into in-office and remote workdays. Adding that flexibility will promote a healthy work-life balance in your workplace.
3. Employees Want to Use Technology
The majority of the workplace comprises Millenials and Gen Z, two generations who either grew up with or used technology all their lives. If your workplace is still using manual punch-in clocks and fax machines, your employees will opt for more modern, tech inclusive companies.
Although buying into specific types of technology can be expensive at the offset, employers will quickly see a spike in productivity and their employee's general well-being. HR can develop phone and tech policies that tell employees they can’t use the work computer for personal use.
4. Employees Want to Connect With Their Workplace
While it’s true that employees prefer to work from home, they also need to feel personally connected to their coworkers. However, employees don’t have to be physically present to get enough social interaction; they just need a way to speak to their coworkers when they can.
Collaboration tools like Slack and Zoom can help connect remote and in-office workers together. At the same time, HR staff and their employers need to encourage light conversation in the workplace, office parties, out-of-office field trips, and team-building seminars.
5. Employees Want to Be Paid More Money
It’s hard not to discuss the Great Resignation without discussing wages. For most US workers, real wages have barely budged in decades, and your employees are feeling it. More than half of American consumers (56%) are living paycheck to paycheck, and it’s only going to get worse.
While HR has little control over how much an employee is paid, they can run seminars on budgeting. HR can help increase the value of certain positions by offering a better benefits package, paid days off, health and wellness programs, and opportunities for career growth.
6. Employees Want to Be Respected
Employees often rank respect as the most important leadership behaviour, but these same employees reported that they feel disrespected in the workplace. At best, employees feel that their hard work doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. At worst, employees are abused.
Again, there isn’t much HR can do if staff members are being abused by their employers (besides calling the labour board), but they can set up a recognition program. This will encourage staff members and employers to offer positive feedback for a job well done.
7. Employees Want Career Advancement and Promotions
Most employees don’t want to change their jobs as often as they do, but they do it because there aren’t any opportunities for growth in their workplace. When employees see there’s no room to grow, they leave. If someone less qualified is promoted instead of them, they’ll leave.
HR should consider everyone's strengths and weaknesses when looking for an outside hire. It’s possible someone more qualified is already present at their company; they just need a bit of on-the-job training. Alternatively, you could offer classes or cross-training opportunities.
8. Employees Want Flexible Hours
If there isn’t a good enough reason why your employee has to be at work from 9 to 5, then they’ll start to feel resentful. During the pandemic, some employees could work where they wanted, when they wanted, so it doesn’t make any sense to put them back in a box.
If specific employees don’t have to work set hours, offer them some flexibility. As long as the work gets done, there shouldn’t be much of an issue. However, if there’s a good reason to keep the 9 to 5, then create a system where these employees can take days off during the week.
9. Employees Want to Work More/Less
Great employees are often asked to take on many tasks because they show initiative. However, these employees are more likely to burn out. On the other hand, employees who are capable of taking on the work but may not be as “well-liked” have nothing to do and start to get bored.
To prevent uneven workloads, HR should speak to project managers about how they dole out work. If you see that certain employees have too much to do, suggest ways project managers can lessen the pressure. Train staff that aren’t getting enough work if necessary.
10. Employees Want Better Benefits
The vast majority of Americans receive healthcare benefits from their employers, but many European citizens also receive additional health benefits, like psychiatry, from their bosses. Regardless of where you live, employees want to receive benefits and bonuses for their work.
A great benefits package can increase the likelihood of attracting great hires and keeping existing ones. HR can speak to their workforce about benefits packages available to them from their employer or coordinate with their boss to issue more valuable benefits.
Employee Happiness Doesn’t Have to Be a Puzzle
The reason why employees quit their jobs has changed over the years. The recent pandemic shows that employees are more restless than they’ve ever been. For HR to solve this problem, they have to coordinate with their employers and management to increase employee happiness.
Finding the cause for employee unhappiness doesn’t have to be a puzzle. Employees have been vocal for years about why they're unsatisfied. All HR has to do is listen.
Still, even if HR knows what the problem is, the solution isn’t always easy to find. HR can sometimes feel powerless when it comes to increasing employee happiness. However, if you work for a company that sees its employees as valuable, HR can do a lot to fix these issues.