The Great Resignation

Whether or not you’ve experienced it firsthand, the Great Resignation has made a lasting impact on today’s workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47.4 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021 alone. From dealing with burnout due to the stress of living through a global pandemic to having to face one’s own mortality on a daily basis, employees have had to carry a lot on their backs in the last couple of years, all while tackling their usual everyday responsibilities at work and at home. 

In order to prevent a high employee turnover in 2022, companies must be willing to address employee concerns and adjust their employee engagement strategies accordingly. We talked to 6 HR leaders about their employee engagement strategy during the Great Resignation, how it’s changed or hasn’t changed, and what they’ve learned about their employees so far. Based on our conversations, we’ve uncovered the company benefits that are the most important to today’s employees and how employers can go about providing them.

Greater Work-Life Balance

“In 2022, Fendi implemented a multiphase total rewards strategy to combat the burnout which led to the Great Resignation. We’ve revitalized our PTO and parental leave policies to emphasize the importance of our employees’ physical and mental well-being and improve their work-life balance. While we know compensation is extremely important, rewarding our employees means taking the feedback we’ve received from our staff and applying necessary changes so we can allow for more flexibility and continue to evolve as a company. Employees need to know their personal time is valued and how much we appreciate their contribution.”

Bethany Suarez, former Fendi senior manager of compensation & benefits (currently BARK director of payroll & benefits)

A Remote Work Environment

“The pandemic has opened a window to continuous remote capabilities and many employees are seeing the advantages of working from somewhere other than a cubicle. Unfortunately, there are still large numbers of individuals in management roles that struggle with the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mindset, meaning if you are not in the office then you are not engaged, performing at your job successfully, or able to advance to a management level role. This is simply not true, and the pandemic has supported that. In fact, employees have been performing just as well, if not, more so than having to report to an office. They are finding new ways to engage with their peers and are more focused on their personal development and well-being.

We’ve built a strong culture around our employees at Reece USA and have accommodated those who want to return to an office setting, while still maintaining a remote or hybrid work schedule for those that prefer it. Our focus is to ensure we are remaining competitive and retaining our talent pool, while attracting a broader pool of talent. Our approach is more of a strategy to remain creative, understand our employee population, deliver a product that promotes our values, and strengthen our commitment to putting our employees first.”

Eric Rodriguez, Reece USA head of total rewards

A Tailored Total Rewards Package

“The most important thing to do right now is to listen to employees and lead with empathy. We have a really powerful feedback tool inside Workday and every Friday we send out a series of questions for all of our employees to respond to on a scale of 1 to 10 as well as provide open-ended feedback to the company. All of that then gets calibrated and pushed out to people leaders in the form of engagement scores so they know where their employees are and what it is that they need most. I, as a leader, get all of the anonymous feedback from my employees and it enables two-way dialogue in a safe way.

Pre-pandemic, people were organizing their life around their work and, since the pandemic, people are now organizing their work around their life. It’s no longer just about the salary, stack, and bonus—it’s the comprehensive total rewards and if you’re not providing benefits and services that help support your people, you’re going to fall behind. For instance, we’ve made adjustments and set up additional support for people to be able to get reimbursed for caregiving responsibilities. We’ve put a virtual health network in place for all employees in every country at the start of the pandemic that allows people to interact with a licensed medical professional in a matter of minutes. We’ve amplified our behavioral health resources because we know people are struggling. It’s getting back to your core, and our core is our people.

One of the most powerful things we’ve done during the pandemic is introduce something we call ‘Thank You Fridays’ where we shut the entire company down on a Friday to simply get away, unplug, recharge, and spend time with family. We’ve received such incredibly strong feedback from our employees because it’s one thing to say, ‘Hey take some time off and get away’ but everyone else is at work so your inbox fills up, you’re missing meetings, and you’re falling behind on project work, but quite another to take time off with everybody across the company.”

Ben Carter, Workday vice president of total rewards

The “Basics”

“In a lot of ways, the Great Resignation has forced employers to refocus on the fundamentals rather than the gimmicks and fads from some time ago such as ping pong tables, foosball tables, endless snacks, and beer fridges at the office. That stuff is fun but is basically a distraction—if you don’t have the basics, then none of that extra hoopla matters. 

The basics are having a strong company mission, clearly defined roles and responsibilities, a culture of psychological safety, and a rewards and recognition system that’s meaningful to employees. This is even that much more important for those who have a remote or hybrid work environment because you want to create a democratized, consistent experience for all your employees, regardless of their physical location. 

This new way of being a manager and leader is going to feel harder because it’s different, but in the end it’s less expensive, easier, and creates a more consistent experience without bias.”

Jenny Dearborn, chief people officer, board director, and startup advisor

Good Managers

“The Great Resignation has had little impact on my company, partly because we’ve been a great employer over the years. Our average tenure is six plus years, and we have employees with a tenure of over 25 years. We really do care about our employees and that is evident in our management style. 

No matter how great a company’s benefits and perks are, employees leave because of bad managers. I once worked for a company that allowed a manager and director to do what they want without any consequences, and their turnover was about 90%. They lost their entire team yet management did not question why the department was having such high turnover over the years. Upper management needs to have more oversight and hold managers accountable for their bad deeds. This will show employees that they can trust in the company’s leadership.”

Thi Tran, HR consultant

Employee Recognition

“We’re in the senior care industry so our employees have had an especially difficult time during the pandemic. There has been no shortage of long hours, exhausting shifts, and tough days. That’s why it’s so important for us to recognize employees who are going above and beyond. A lot of people could have given up and although some did, leaving us short-handed, we have a great group of employees who chose to stick it out. We want to recognize these people and reward them with points for stepping up.

We’ve also seen more peer-to-peer recognition take place in the last year. Coworkers would thank each other for helping and others would just pile on the praise. These positive moments of appreciation can make such a huge difference. Of course, we still experience turnover like everyone else but making sure we recognize our employees’ contribution seems to really motivate our front-line employees and makes them feel like they’re in it together.”

Candi Terry, Titan SenQuest Management, Inc. human resources director

It’s clear that employee needs have drastically changed since the pandemic. Companies that want to retain their top employees amidst the Great Resignation must readjust their employee engagement strategies to include benefits that truly make a difference. Only then, with everyone else jumping ship, will companies give their employees a compelling reason to stay.