Remember the Great Resignation, the phenomenon we first heard about in 2021? At that time, there was endless news coverage about the wave of resignations sweeping through industries worldwide, including New Zealand. It seemed like everyone was searching for a new work environment, higher pay, or simply a new set of professional challenges.
Now, we're noticing a flow-on effect from that time: The people who changed jobs then have become restless and are once again handing in their notices. Employee retention issues are now rising to the forefront for many organisations and making up a large proportion of HR focus in 2023.
Employers have an ongoing imperative to hold onto as many valued employees as possible. But how can they turn a Great Resignation into a Great Retention?
We'll delve into the underlying factors driving more workers to quit and the most practical employee retention strategies to help you avoid going back to the recruitment drawing board sooner than necessary.
A New Wave of Resignations is here
With a rising number of workers looking to leave their jobs after just six months in their current role, it's important to explain how this situation came to pass.
Throughout COVID, many people working from home experienced higher levels of productivity. Although we saw that many others found themselves languishing. Employees resorted to changing jobs as a consolation for the holidays they couldn't take. This desperation for a change of scenery, combined with unhappy workplace cultures, drove many professionals to resign.
Yet, many workers who jumped ship were a little too hasty. Instead of taking the time to identify potential employers with the right cultural fit, many allowed themselves to be lured by a higher salary. New Zealand's candidate-short market had generated a spike in headhunting activity, leading many organisations to offer higher-than-average salaries out of desperation. These conditions made it even more enticing for employees to quit.
Now, these employees have an acute case of buyer's remorse. The grass is not greener, after all.
Meanwhile, managers are having difficulty noticing the signs that their employees aren't happy.
Why are your Employees Quitting?
Why is there a fresh wave of people throwing in the towel? Firstly, I must stress the fact that no two businesses are the same, and each employee's circumstances will vary. But it's clear there are common reasons why employees are resigning:
Bad bosses: Over the years, numerous studies have consistently highlighted this fact—about half of employees who resign do so because of their manager. The actions and attitudes of managers are critical in shaping team morale, engagement, and productivity. This is relevant for many of the resignations we're seeing today.
Work overload: With more companies trying to get by with fewer resources, increasing workloads can cause employees to burn out, which is a huge risk for employee retention and engagement. As researchfrom Umbrella shows, New Zealand workers with a high workload are three times more likely to leave their jobs in the next six months.
Lack of recognition: Employees who feel undervalued and overlooked are more likely to resign compared to those who receive acknowledgment for their efforts.
Poor relationships with co-workers: Toxic workplace cultures that involve harassment, bullying, discrimination, or a hostile atmosphere can prompt employees to resign for the sake of their well-being. On a less severe note, simply finding it difficult to fit into the workplace culture is enough to lead an employee toward the door.
Lack of flexibility: Employees are at a much higher risk of leaving if they are unable to balance work with other life priorities. And it appears many workers still aren't having this need met: Two-thirds (67%) of New Zealand workers now want more work-life flexibility after the peak COVID years, a recent surveyby Massey University found.
Micromanagement: Leaving employees little room for autonomy or independent decision-making can increase their stress and hamper their engagement.
Signs an Employee is about to Resign
There are often red flags you can spot that indicate someone is about to resign, which are sometimes subtle. As a manager, knowing how to recognise these signs will give your employee retention strategies a better chance at success. Addressing issues and grievances before they worsen can save your business a great deal of stress in the long-term.
Deteriorating attitude: Unhappy employees tend to show more negativity. Look out for a gradual or sudden increase in complaints and venting of frustrations.
A drop in work quality: More errors, missed deadlines, or incomplete tasks hint at a decline in motivation or some other struggle at work. Recently referred to as 'quiet quitting,' about one in fiveNew Zealand employers have reported a noticeable disengagement among their teams.
Disengagement with colleagues: Another tell is when an employee becomes more withdrawn or distant from co-workers. They might stop participating in team activities and meetings or even show disinterest in social interactions with colleagues.
Uncharacteristic absences: A sudden increase in sick days or requests for time off can be a sign of disengagement or a desire to disassociate from the workplace.
Shifty behaviour: Be on the lookout for sabotage, plagiarism, cheating, spreading gossip or rumours, or anything else that appears underhanded or unethical.
How to Turn the Great Resignation into the Great Retention
If any of the above descriptions have helped you identify issues in your workplace, the good news is that it is possible to address these before your team finds itself with an empty seat or two. Here are seven strategies for improving employee retention and engagement:
Gauge your employees' job satisfaction: Regular pulse checks are vital for identifying pain points. Gathering feedback from regular one-on-ones and surveys is the most practical way to understand where the problems lie.
Make better work-life balance a priority: Remember to accommodate your employees' lives outside of work. Allow more options for remote work and flexible hours wherever possible.
Increase the pay of high performers: Your leading lights won't be compelled to stay if they know their current salary isn't competitive. Rewarding your best performers helps set a precedent that hard work and dedication are taken seriously.
Help employees recharge: To keep employees from burning out, keep a close eye on their workloads and promote the importance of taking breaks and holidays.
Motivate them with opportunities for professional development: Employees who see a clear path for professional growth and advancement are more likely to remain committed. Offer access to training, coaching, and other resources that will grow their skillset.
Keep an open-door policy: Everyone wants to be heard. Encourage team members to voice concerns, ideas, or questions without fear of reprisal. As a manager, making yourself accessible and approachable is a powerful way to inspire employee loyalty.
Show appreciation: Finally—don't forget to acknowledge employees' efforts and contributions. Simple gestures such as saying, 'thank you,' providing verbal recognition in team meetings, and establishing employee recognition programs can go a long way.
In the current hiring climate, being attentive and responsive to employees' needs can help turn a Great Resignation risk into a Great Retention success.
To learn more about the most critical factors influencing candidates' decisions in your field and to work with a dedicated New Zealand hiring partner, contact the Beyond Recruitment team today. Our knowledgeable team is devoted to providing hiring solutions informed by our deep engagement with our broad talent network.