Your Secret Weapon for Retaining Workforce Talent

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March 23, 2022

Have you been looking for a glimmer of light in the battle to retain workforce talent amid The Great Resignation? Now there’s a beacon guiding us in the right direction. A new survey by Pew Research Center reveals why employees are quitting. Pew’s findings also point to how workplace cultures must change in order to hold onto employees.

Top 5 Reasons People Quit in 2021

As we all well know, the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 sparked job losses across industries. But that was followed by tight labor markets in 2021. Pew’s survey asked employees who had quit a job in 2021 what factors drove their departure. So what were the top reasons that employees quit?

  1. Low pay. 63% of employees who quit their jobs told Pew they did so because of low pay.
  2. Lack of growth opportunities. 63% cited a lack of opportunities for advancement.
  3. Feeling disrespected. 57% indicated they quit because of feeling disrespected.  
  4. Childcare issues. 48% said childcare was a reason they quit.
  5. Lack of flexibility. 45% blamed a lack of flexibility to choose their hours of work for their departure.

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Surprising Data from Pew’s Research

Taking a closer look at the survey, we discover some unanticipated findings that fly in the face of common wisdom. There were no gender differences in why employees quit their jobs in 2021. But there were educational differences. And they probably are not what you might assume.

I have heard from leaders in varied industries — from manufacturing to retail to construction — that college-educated people want this “flexibility thing,” but employees without a college education are used to working the hours they are told to.  

Pew’s findings, however, tell a very different story. People without a college degree were far more likely (49%) to indicate they quit their jobs because of lack of flexibility compared with college-educated employees (34%). This is a critical (and perhaps counterintuitive) data point you should consider as you evolve your workplace culture in order to recruit and retain talent.

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Culture-Based Opportunities to Retain Talent

The top five reasons employees left their jobs in 2021 are all culture related. And it’s well within the purview of leaders to create culture shifts that address all of these issues.  This is a golden opportunity for leaders who understand that culture is a competitive advantage – particularly in the current work environment.

  • Low pay. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? If low pay makes your employees worry about feeding themselves and their families, paying their electric bill or keeping a roof over their heads, they will never attach to your culture.
  • Lack of growth opportunities. This is a challenge we have helped our client companies address by creating a “corporate lattice” instead of a “corporate ladder.” When you have a flat organization without many levels, you can offer opportunities for your employees to learn different skill sets, which give them the experience of growth.

In small to medium organizations (which tend to be flat – without much of a hierarchy), employees wear many hats — they have a variety of skill sets. “Cross mentoring” is a way to offer growth without having changes in titles.

  • Feeling disrespected. This is a result of communication in your culture. We have helped and supported dozens of clients in the process of changing communication between employees and leadership. This is a culture shift with a very high ROI.
  • Childcare issues. These issues can be broad in scope. The most common problem is finding a good childcare provider. While larger organizations sometimes create childcare centers for their employees, small to medium businesses usually cannot. But there are still many solutions available to these businesses. For example, they can help their employees find and secure childcare or offer childcare support in their benefits package.  Not every employee needs to avail themselves of the benefit. Just offering the benefit makes it part of your culture.
  • Lack of flexibility. Flexibility represents autonomy over one’s schedule – something that can’t be bought, sold or traded. Flexibility requires accountability. It should be a reward (not a right) that comes for high performance in your culture. From our work with clients, we have learned that there is a HUGE benefit in moving from individual performance metrics to team-based performance metrics. When flexibility is earned or lost based on team performance, the organization creates an upward spiral of performance because no one wants to give up this prized benefit.

So, the top five reasons employees left their jobs in 2021 can be addressed by focusing on your culture. Which one will you tackle first? Let us know how we can help.

I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note

Until then, let’s keep cultivating our culture, together!

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