The Great Resignation is underway, but with the right approach to understanding staff needs and addressing key concerns, it's possible to minimize the impact of changing workplace expectations.

Organizations are going back to the office, but the caveat is that not all of their employees are going with them.

While some are opting for hybrid or remote work options, others are leaving corporate life behind entirely. And it's not just a few staff here and there — turnover is now so widespread that the movement has its own term: the Great Resignation. Data from an ADP Canada survey show that 15 per cent of employed Canadians voluntarily transitioned to a new position, a new industry or left the workforce altogether during the pandemic.

So, what's going on? Why are staff leaving secure positions to find other opportunities, and what can enterprises do to stem the talent tide?

Diving into the disconnect

As a general rule, when unemployment rates go up, turnover goes down. In some respects, the pandemic has proven to be an exception. When asked why they decided to change their career path, working Canadians cited changes in their personal lives (33%), the need to limit workload and stress (29%) and the desire for more flexible hours (28%) as their top three reasons - underscoring that work life balance played a key role in their decision for change.

The rise of remote work also play a role. Throughout the pandemic, many industries transitioned to remote work. What started as a short-term solution is now a new way of life for many Canadian employees, and an expectation for new candidates.

In some cases, the disconnect isn't tied to anything specific. Employees may just want to make a change and explore new opportunities or find a situation that will offer better work/life balance. While it's impossible for your business to be all things to all people, five strategies can help reduce turnover and boost retention.

Strategy 1: Foster flexible work

31 per cent of Canadians say that a job that respects their work life balance is more important to them now than it was to them pre-pandemic. As a result, it's critical for organizations to ensure flexible options remain available as they create their return-to-work plans.

This prioritization of work-life balance also appears to be influencing how companies recruit new talent. According to the survey, one-in-five (19%) of employed Canadians have been approached by a competing employer in the past six months offering better work conditions – and this strategy appears to be working. When asked about their next work-life move, 63 per cent of Canadians have started to think about it. While there's no doubt that face-to-face interactions come with business benefits, any moves to frustrate flexibility may result in employees going elsewhere.

Strategy 2: Consider competitive pay

While flexible work is a key priority for many employees, competitive pay also plays a substantial role in their decision to stay or go. This is especially true as wages continue to rise across the country — there's no shortage of enterprises looking for talented staff.

It is possible to keep staff under these conditions, even with the same salary or a pay cut, but doing so may require substantial investment in strategy #1, since employees working entirely from home can often avoid additional costs related to commuting, childcare or other concerns.

Strategy 3: Mind the generation gap

By 2025, Millennials will comprise the majority of the American workforce, and they have priorities that are substantively different from those of previous generations. Specifically, 76% say they're looking for a workplace that actively encourages diversity, and 70% say they would leave their current jobs for better career opportunities.

The result is the need for a social/skills balance: Businesses must demonstrate their commitment to environmental, social and corporate governance initiatives while simultaneously providing new training and upskilling options.

Strategy 4: Create an authentic culture

Corporate culture matters to staff. This isn't about the culture you showcase on social media or post on job boards — it's about the actual culture of your workplace day in and day out.

Employees want to be treated and valued as individual humans with their own needs, wants and preferences. They're looking for employers who don't expect staff to be carbon copies of one another but instead trust employees as trained and talented adults who are committed to getting their work done on time.

In practice, adopting this strategy could mean allowing staff to come and go as needed, provided their work gets done, or allowing them more freedom in prioritizing projects and hitting due dates.

Strategy 5: Make trust a true priority

Reducing talent shortages also depends on trust. Employees who trust their team leaders are more likely to be engaged Strategy 1: Foster flexible work Strategy 2: Consider competitive payStrategy 3: Mind the generation gapStrategy 4: Create an authentic cultureStrategy 5: Make trust a true priority, and engaged staff are much less likely to seek other employment.

According to data from research firm Gallup, while it takes almost no effort for other firms to poach disengaged employees, it takes at least a 20% pay raise to even get the attention of engaged team members.

Managing key metrics

In addition to effective retention strategies, businesses also need the ability to capture and leverage key metrics that will help them make better staffing decisions. For this, businesses need tools that can help them understand the market at large by providing industry data on wage and work benchmarks so they can see where they fall on the spectrum.

It's also critical to deploy in-depth survey solutions to identify where staff are satisfied and where your approach needs work, and to ensure that new staff sourcing approaches are targeting the right talent market in the event that staff move on to other opportunities.

Reducing the resignation impact

There's no way to avoid the Great Resignation completely. What began as a response to pandemic pressures has evolved into a fundamental shift in the way employees view their roles and responsibilities at work and what this means for their life as a whole.

As a result, some talent attrition should be expected no matter what strategies you employ, but with the right approach to understanding staff needs and addressing key concerns, it's possible to minimize the impact of changing workplace expectations.

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