There’s never been a time when a greater number of people collectively quit their jobs in search of something else. In September 2021 alone, over 4.4 million people left their jobs, according to the latest numbers shared by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And in a survey of freelancers we worked on with Opinium Research, we found that 50% of freelancers voluntarily quit their traditional job to pursue freelance and that 40% are not interested in returning to a traditional full-time job.
As the number of resignations continues to rise, employers are feeling the impact on both sides—they’re not only losing valuable, highly skilled workers from their teams, they’re also struggling to attract top talent and backfill open positions.
To survive and even benefit from this new labor revolution—referred to by many as the Great Resignation—employers need to do more to better understand and respond to what workers need and want from employers going forward.
The Pandemic Accelerated the Desire for Work Flexibility
In March 2020, the first shelter-in-place orders were issued by state governments in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
To comply with these orders, many employers began putting tools, systems, and guidelines in place that made it possible for their employees to work from home.
By May 2020, roughly 35% of American workers reported they had been working remotely for the past 4 weeks as a result of COVID-19 guidelines.
This new way of working created more flexibility for employees. Almost overnight, employees had more control and say over how, when, and where they worked.
Employers that had resisted the concept of remote work for fear of loss of productivity and loss of control were forced to put their hypotheses to the test.
How did those tests go for employers? In November 2020, McKinsey performed an analysis about remote work and found that in the United States, “22 percent of employees can work remotely between three and five days a week without affecting productivity.”
The flexibility that came as a result of shelter-in-place orders and office closings gave employees more control over their days; they were able to complete more tasks around the home, spend more time with their families, make it to doctor and dentist appointments, sell second cars, take up new hobbies, spend less time commuting, and take more wellness breaks throughout the day.
Now that offices are reopening, employees are thinking more critically about the amount of flexibility being offered to them by their employers.
Do Employees Still Care About Ping Pong Tables and Team Happy Hours?
As employees return to offices, they’re also thinking differently about the perks and benefits being offered by their employers.
The desire for pre-pandemic perks like foosball tables and team happy hours is being replaced by a growing desire for perks that focus more on mental wellness and physical health.
Why is this? One reason is that many people experienced new or increased levels of stress as a result of the pandemic.
Fast Company reports that “three out of four prescriptions for anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and anti-insomnia medications were new rather than refills.”
Another reason may be due to the extra benefits and perks employees received from their employers during the thick of the pandemic.
According to a 2021 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 40% of employers added or made improvements to the mental health benefits available to employees as a direct result of uncertainty and stress created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other businesses like Adobe, WW, Unilever, and Starbucks have partnered with wellness apps like Headspace to give their team members access to tools that would improve employee experience and happiness.
Some companies even offer on-site wellness centers and meditation rooms for their employees to take advantage of during the workday.
As wellness benefits become more common, employees will look for employers and jobs that allow them to take better care of themselves.
How to Attract and Retain Top Talent in a Post-Pandemic World
The Great Resignation is changing the relationship between employers and employees, as it’s becoming harder to attract and keep great workers. So, as an HR manager, a recruiter, or an employer, what can you do about it? Here are four tips that can help:
1. Offer Flexibility to Your Employees
Give your employees the same or a similar amount of flexibility to what they had during the pandemic, such as by creating a work-from-home policy that allows them to work from home a certain number of days per week.
Additionally, help employees feel empowered to set their own work schedules so long as they are able to do their job effectively and still collaborate with other team members during core team working hours.
Above all, give your employees your trust and respect. Let them know you care about them as human beings and recognize they have lives outside of work.
2. Make Employee Health and Wellness a Priority
Design programs and benefits for employees that encourage self-care.
Also, evaluate the benefits you currently offer, and determine if any changes need to be made to better support incoming and existing employees.
Finally, normalize conversations about health and wellness at work, and provide tools and resources people can use if they need help managing stress, anxiety, or burnout.
3. Get Feedback from Your People
Spend time asking your people what types of perks and benefits they want.
Find out what would help people remain happy and productive at work, and help them feel comfortable giving you input by asking for it during team meetings and privately during one-on-one conversations.
Include one or two team members at every level when you’re considering offering new perks or benefits to employees.
4. Promote New Perks and Benefits
If you create or improve perks and benefits for employees, make sure you are promoting them to people outside your organization.
You can promote new perks and benefits on LinkedIn, on your website, in job descriptions, and in any information you send when trying to recruit people to join your company.
Moreover, strengthen the promotional materials you create about perks and benefits by including testimonials and stories from existing employees.
The pandemic has changed what top employees look for when evaluating a company. Stay ahead of the competition, keep your best people, and attract top talent by offering flexibility and investing in benefits that keep your people happy, productive, healthy, and engaged.
Bryan Karas is the CEO and Founder of GrowTal, the talent marketplace for finding and hiring marketing experts in the most seamless way possible. GrowTal brings together talented marketing experts, who are looking to be fairly compensated for their ability to contribute to an organization independently, and companies, who have an immediate need but do not want to invest in hiring in-house talent. This has become even more important now given the increasing trend of the “freelance movement” due to the job losses caused by COVID-19.