The Great Resignation has put employees in the driver’s seat. Many American workers have pivoted careers and entered new roles and industries they feel better support their personal and professional goals or left the workforce altogether.
According, the Great Resignation has been a wake-up call for employers. As they face a nationwide talent shortage and struggle to regain control, retention is top of mind. But there is no quick fix. Leaders must come to terms with current reality, understand employees’ needs, and create big, bold solutions that put people first.
According to the Career Optimism Index, a University of Phoenix survey of 5,000 employees and 500 employers across the country, one in three Americans would quit their current jobs without a backup plan, but 69 percent would consider staying if they thought things could change at their organization. That’s a predominantly powerful — and good news for employers.
Rethinking how to best support your employees
I connected with University of Phoenix provost John Woods to better understand what employers can do to turn the Great Resignation into the Great Retention. To get there, Woods says that “employers will need to improve the level of support they are providing, better communicate the resources available, rethink systems and processes, and implement training programs that are designed with meaningful, long-term engagement in mind.”
As we already know, thanks to countless Gallup studies over the years, managers are the key drivers of employee engagement and can be the conduit to how employees perceive their organization.
“When employees don’t think the organization is supporting them — particularly as it relates to learning, training, and development — they likely experience that through their manager,” says Woods.
While many organizations are making significant investments to develop and advance their employees, perception doesn’t always match reality. The Career Optimism Index study shows that the majority of employers say they offer these opportunities, but employees don’t share that perception.
Here are five of the most critical areas where employers are missing the mark and must transform the level of workforce support offered:
1. Ensuring equitable compensation and financial security
Eighty-six percent of employers think their employees are satisfied with their compensation, but nearly half of employees are unsatisfied and 56 percent are living paycheck to paycheck, the Index found.
Pay discrepancies and a lack of financial security have been the top major factors throughout the Great Resignation. Knowing insufficient pay has been a consistent motivator for workers seeking new employment, employers must allow for more transparency about compensation-related issues so they can get on the same page as their workforce regarding compensation needs and expectations — and once they’re on the same page, employers must be prepared to act on improving compensation.
2. Providing opportunities for training, including upskilling and reskilling
Eighty-nine percent of employers say upskilling opportunities are frequently provided, in comparison to 61 percent of employees who say these opportunities are frequently provided.
Nearly half of workers worry that their job skills will become outdated, and one-third are reporting that their jobs have become automated during the pandemic. “By regularly offering upskilling and reskilling opportunities, employers are not only aiding people in their career enhancement and increasing engagement and retention but building a more agile workforce and stronger organizations that are better equipped for the future,” says Woods.
3. Creating structures for mentorship and advocacy
Ninety-one percent of employers believe their employees have someone in their professional life who advocates for them, but only 63 percent of employees agree.
“Employers can bridge this gap by offering both formal and informal mentorship opportunities within the workplace. Building support systems, encouraging mentorship, and enabling peer advocacy are key because they nurture connection,” Woods says. “When employees feel connected to each other and to their organization, when they are learning and growing, that creates a sense of belonging, which leads to engagement and retention.”
4. Reinforcing access to mental health
Eighty-five percent of employers say their employees have mental health resources available, yet less than half of the workforce have taken advantage of resources available to manage work-related stress.
Employers must work to reinforce the availability of resources and reiterate the importance of their use through continuous communication, particularly when it comes to stigmatized topics such as mental health. Creating a culture of support and wellness goes beyond simply offering programs and tools. It means engaging in ongoing conversations that perpetuate these values at every level of your company. By expressing the offerings available and encouraging employees to take advantage, employers can empower their workers to prioritize their mental health, ultimately creating a happier, more engaged workplace.
5. Mitigating job security concerns
Ninety-one percent of employers believe their employees feel empowered in their job, but 52 percent of American workers see themselves as easily replaceable in their position and 41 percent worry about losing their job.
Practicing compassion and empathy, and not being afraid to bring humanity to the workplace will only help employers ensure employees feel understood and empowered in their positions, which ultimately will help them see a future within the organization.
By focusing on these strategies, employers have the chance to create meaningful systems for sustainable career advancement that will better the American workforce in the long run.
“Americans are hopeful about their career prospects, despite significant setbacks,” Woods says. “For organizations across the country, this is the moment to take action that stabilizes the workforce, and to turn career optimism into career enhancement and organizational growth.”