Whether you believe the data that more than half the global workforce say they will be looking for another job over the next 12 months or not, it’s hard to ignore the challenging time many are having with finding, and keeping hold of talented people. In the UK, the Road Haulage Association estimates there is a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified lorry drivers. In the US, retailers are struggling to fill 1.1 million vacancies on the run up to Christmas. Despite raising wages, cutting down the time to hire people and offering novel incentives like signing on bonuses and generous employee referral payments, many organisations simple can’t attract the people they need.
But if we look at the data, we can see that this challenge in attracting and retaining people was a growing problem before the pandemic hit. In 2019, employees were quitting jobs at a higher rate than ever and worryingly, more and more are quitting without another job lined up. A near record 3.9 million American workers quit in June 2021. So where has the labour gone? It seems for some, to a completely new place.
In this article:
Where has the labour gone?
According to data from LinkedIn, 57% of job switches from May to July this year were from one industry to another. But why is this happening? What is driving employees to switch careers entirely? It seems that Brexit, an ageing workforce, and Coronavirus may be masking another reason why lorry drivers and other key workers are quitting the industry. One of the UK’s youngest lorry drivers says the hours and conditions of being a lorry driver are so bad he’s considering quitting. Daniel White says the job has made him seriously ill. Half of logistics companies say they have seen a rise in poor mental health. It appears the impact the pandemic had on some of our most vital workers health is driving them out of their industries completely.
Across the US, ‘exhausted and underpaid’ teachers are quitting their jobs in record numbers. In the UK, one in twelve teachers left the profession last year. A record one in six teachers now quit after just one year in the profession. Since February 2020, nearly one in five healthcare workers quit their jobs with burnout polling as a primary reason behind resignations. Right across the US, police, bankers and waiting staff are also experiencing record high levels of quit rates. Bankers in the US are the most likely to cite mental health issues as the main reason they have quit their job. But the close bonds many employees have at work highlight how important it is for employers to do their best to retain people.
While we will no doubt recover from some of the issues causing the great resignation, employers should be aware that they don’t have much time to react. Something I have seen first-hand is the mass exodus that appears to follow when a few key individuals leave an organisation. Turnover contagion is what happens when a highly regarded employee leaves and other employees get concerned and there is evidence to back up this phenomenon. Our close bonds at work mean that frequently, when someone we work closely with leaves, it makes us want to leave to.
While there are many employees that are leaving industries altogether, others are just looking for better employee experiences.Gethin Nadin, award-winning psychologist, bestselling Employee Experience Author and Director, Employee Wellbeing at Benefex
Why employees stay
The pandemic, Brexit, ageing workforces, low wage growth – whatever the reason why an industry is struggling to retain talented people, one thing is for certain. Content, happy, well compensated, included employees rarely quit their jobs. While many employers spend a lot of money working out why employees leave, what most of us want from work hasn’t changed in hundreds of years and I think they can be boiled down to two things:
They want to feel cared for.
Feeling valued, being recognised for their efforts, being trusted, and feeling heard are core human needs. In 2021 most employees want to work for an organisation that takes their wellbeing seriously. There has been a generational shift in expectations from employees and they are increasingly asking for help to support their wellbeing.
They want flexibility.
I’ve been banging this drum for a decade, but employees want to have control and autonomy over how and where they work. They want to decide if they work from a coffee shop or from home if they can. A massive 30% of job seekers say they are looking for an entirely remote role and one in six employees say they will quit if they aren’t able to continue to work from home after the pandemic. With 85% of UK workers saying they want to stay working from home all or some of the time and official figures showing that 31% of UK jobs could be done at home, it’s not something to ignore.
The Employee Experience Needs to be Designed
While there are many employees that are leaving industries altogether, others are just looking for better employee experiences. Nearly half of retailers in the UK say they have seen employees move on because they didn’t feel their mental health was being looked after. A nationwide survey showed that most of those employees who are considering leaving their jobs felt their employer hadn’t done enough to support their mental health during the pandemic.
Great employee experiences rarely just happen. They are designed around the wants and needs of workers to create the kind of conditions that employees aren’t just attracted to, but ones where they will stay and thrive. Accelerated by the pandemic, I think employee wellbeing has fast become a primary driver of the employee experience, but rarely do I see that strategy designed. I believe the most successful employers will be those that very quickly take time to consider and design employee experiences will the wellbeing of their people at the heart.