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Engaging and Retaining Employees During the ‘Big Quit’

Get through a tight labor market with 10 techniques to increase employee engagement and reduce turnover.
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engaging and retaining employees during the ‘big quit’

In August, 4.3 million people quit their jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, leading to the phenomenon being dubbed “the big quit."

In addition to a tight labor market, increasing client demands and the changing business environment, employers are dealing with employees who are “bored out," where workers are suffering from chronic boredom leading to feeling totally meaningless. However, making an effort to engage employees can help mitigate all of these challenges and result in a stronger, more efficient workplace.

Gallup defines engaged employees as being “highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace." Employees who are engaged help to improve and innovate the business and are not just watching the clock to collect a paycheck. Higher engagement also results in lower turnover, which is a crucial advantage in today's tight labor market.

As we all continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, working to engage employees should be a matter of the highest priority for business leaders. While engagement techniques previously used to involve lofty ideas, these days smaller, more personalized techniques may prove best.

Here are 10 ways to effectively engage with employees:

1) Acknowledge everything is different. Employers should freely acknowledge the changes many of their employees have faced and that most people are making lifestyle changes—whether needed or wanted—because of COVID-19's wide-ranging impacts.

Regardless of the underlying reasons, employees are reevaluating their lives and priorities after these past 18 months and are making big decisions, such as looking for new jobs. Employers should also be honest about the changes to the business, whether it's clients, products, services, protocols, finances or staffing, that have impacted employees.

2) Check in with your employees regularly. Before employees return to the office, find out what life looks like for them now and have an honest dialogue about their concerns. After they return, continue to check in to make sure things are going well and make adjustments as needed.

3) Review the possibility of remote or hybrid work arrangements. The vast majority of workers (98%) want to stay remote either full-time or as part of a hybrid arrangement, according to a FlexJobs survey. Reasons include not having to commute (84%) and cost savings (75%) with 38% estimating they are saving at least $5,000 a year working remotely.

Employers who want employees in the office should explain the job-related necessity and, if at all possible, try to make some more flexible arrangements to retain these employees. If they cannot work remotely all, part, or any of the time, acknowledge that too and perhaps provide an off-setting benefit such as free lunches or flexible scheduling.

4) Address employee concerns, especially with health and safety. The FlexJobs survey also showed employees' primary concerns surrounding the return to the office included exposure to COVID-19 (49%), lack of COVID-19 health and safety measures (32%) and being required to adhere to health and safety measures (21%).

When you implement and enforce the guidelines set by experts and legal authorities, not only are you abiding by the legal regulations but you also are assuring hesitant employees of your commitment to safety, while also creating a zero-tolerance policy your resistant employees know they need not waste time in thwarting.

5) Establish and enforce job, performance and availability expectations. Whether an employee is in person, remote or hybrid, and regardless of their position in the company, you should hold them accountable for doing their job duties, communicating with co-workers and managers, and being available for clients and meetings.

Focus on availability, not attendance. If needed, reevaluate the job duties to accommodate where they are working or what they want to do. That way, employees are less likely to feel bored and discontent.

6) Establish clear channels of communication throughout the company. Companies function best when everyone is communicating clearly, and this is even more important when some employees are remote. While walking to someone's desk may have been the norm before, now there needs to be structure and planning.

Video and phone conferencing can be an efficient way to schedule meetings, send invites and track attendance. Instant messaging or texting may be a new way of getting a quicker answer.

7) Respect personal time and needs. Be mindful when work demands extend beyond the employee's day and try to restrict or discourage emails and voicemails outside work hours. Everyone needs time away from work whether to relax and recharge, attend a kid's soccer match, or just go to the grocery store. It may be harder for employees who work from home to truly check out from work—and if they are non-exempt, they probably need to be paid for that time.

Encourage all employees to unplug so they can focus when back at work.

8) Be flexible. COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. We will all have to continue to make adjustments. Employees will get sick or must care for people who are sick. Employees will have to quarantine or stay home with a child who is quarantining. Understand that employees must take care of their families first. The more flexible you can be, the more they will feel supported and ready to work when they can.

9) Allow employees to have some fun at work. While potlucks may be out of the question for a while, you can still give employees a chance to have fun at work. Hold a spirit day where people can wear their school or team colors. Sponsor a group to participate in a local charity event. Surprise employees with a half-day off when things are slow. Celebrate birthdays and special occasions with cupcakes and cookies. Find out what your employees value and work them into your plans.

10) Consider the big picture. While many employers may wonder how they will be able to add this to their long to-do list, it is important to balance the effort that engaging employees requires with the possibility of those employees leaving the company.

Often it is easier to accommodate a current employee's temporary needs than recruit, hire and train a new employee, which is even more difficult in today's labor market.

Paige McAllister is vice president, HR compliance, Affinity HR Group Inc. Affinity HR is the endorsed HR partner of Big “I" Hires, the Independent Insurance Agents of Virginia, Big I New York, Big I New Jersey and Big I Connecticut.

As you navigate the uncertain business landscape, reach out to Affinity HR Group by visiting its website, connecting over email or by calling 877-660-6400.

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Friday, November 12, 2021
Agency Operations & Best Practices