A global crisis at the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of work. As employees' needs have changed, many organizations have not followed suit with their policies, perks, and culture.
This misalignment may be why 52 percent of employees are planning to look for a new job this year -- a concerning 43 percent increase from 2020 and 2019.
That's according to Achievers' fourth annual Employee Engagement and Retention Report, which uncovers what it will take to retain and attract employees in 2021. The report surveyed 2,000 employed adults across the U.S. and Canada, to discover what employees are really looking for in an organization, and what is bringing them to this breaking point.
With a post-pandemic world on the horizon, and the job market predicted to make a major rebound by the end of the year, what areas should employers consider when revamping retention strategies?
Act on feedback
Feedback from employees is crucial for companies to understand when rebuilding policies and strategies, especially during a time as tumultuous as the pandemic. Three in five employees (60 percent) surveyed reported their organization has sought feedback on at least one of the following key issues:
- How to improve the employee experience (60 percent)
- How to improve company culture throughout the pandemic (54 percent)
- Remote/hybrid work preferences after the pandemic (52 percent)
- How to improve diversity and inclusion (48 percent)
- How to get involved with racial and social justice matters that are important to employees (44 percent)
However, many employees also report little to no action based on the feedback they provide. Nearly one in five (19 percent) say their company is horrible at acting on feedback and they never do anything with it. If employers do not make an effort to dissect the feedback they receive and make changes to cater to employee needs, they'll risk losing employees for good.
Foster a culture of recognition
Achievers' research found 71 percent more employees are disengaged in 2021 than they were at the beginning of 2020, and 66 percent of employees said they would be more engaged at work if their employer improved company culture. Nearly half (46 percent) of employees feel less connected to their company or colleagues since the start of the pandemic, and most employees blame a lack of communication (26 percent) or lack of effort to make remote employees feel connected (25 percent).
Creating a culture of recognition is also key for retention. Twenty percent of employees reported that feeling underappreciated for their contributions was hindering their engagement at work and 74 percent wish they received more recognition at work. More than three-quarters (80 percent) of employees also felt a strong recognition culture makes a company attractive to work for.
To drive company connection and culture moving forward, employers must consider creating more transparent and open communication, including increasing recognition, while also prioritizing connection for remote workers -- especially if they plan to keep a portion of workers remote post-pandemic.
Weigh the realities of work-life balance versus productivity
"While many employees have gained significant flexibility during the pandemic as a result of working from home, that flexibility doesn't mean they have a better work-life balance," said Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers.
The report found one in four employees (25 percent) reported work-life balance as the reason they would search for a new job. Additionally, more than half (51 percent) of employees who are currently working remotely said they worried their manager doubts their productivity, causing nearly half (44 percent) to start work earlier or stay online later.
Employee concern over productivity, leading to early mornings and late nights, can eventually cause burnout, disengagement, and turnover. Baumgartner added, "Leadership and HR teams can help managers curb employee fears by providing training on results-oriented management that focuses more on the outcomes of employees' work rather than the time spent in the home office. Additionally, managers should lead by example, shutting off their computer at night and making sure to both encourage vacation time and take it themselves."
As we look ahead to the second half of 2021 and beyond, it will be critical that employers are working to take action from employee feedback, commit to building back culture, and help employees strike a better work-life balance if they hope to keep employees on board.