The Great Resignation: Attracting and Retaining Employees During Record Turnover

Across America, employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August 2021 alone, and those numbers are climbing. Maybe you’ve even noticed it at your own company.

Industries with the highest resignation rates

Industries that experienced the highest demand during the pandemic also experienced the highest turnover.

  • Hospitality & Leisure
  • Retail (apparel, food, and grocery)
  • Healthcare
  • Education & Childcare
  • Technology

In November 2021, quits increased in several industries, with the largest increases in food services, transportation and warehousing, and health care [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]. Blue-collar and white-collar sectors are being equally affected as well as hourly and salaried positions.

What’s driving “The Big Quit”?

It’s easy to blame the stress of COVID-19 for the obvious burnout many workers are feeling, but it’s not the whole story. Research done by Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review points to a more insidious root cause that can be hard to identify and even harder to fix: workplace culture.

Specifically, toxic work culture.

Researchers found toxic work culture to be the biggest factor that led people to quit, and it was 10 times more important than pay in predicting turnover.

Identifying toxic work culture

Whether your company has worked on defining and cultivating a workplace culture or not, you have one. Unfortunately, companies that don’t proactively work on a positive culture often develop a negative one.

Many things can create toxic work environments, but here are some of the usual suspects:         

  • Trust and transparency

Companies that treat employees with distrust or discourage open and honest dialogue with leaders put undue stress on employees and lower morale.

  • Recognition and compensation

Heavy workloads and responsibility without proper compensation or opportunities for career growth can be the breaking point for many workers.

  • Leadership and management tactics

It should go without saying that abusive management techniques based on fear or intimidation will drive high performers elsewhere fast, but micromanagement is another big culprit.

  • Lack of concern for mental health and wellbeing

How companies handle workloads, flexibility, and of course, policies around things like return-to-office and vaccines show employees whether companies care about them as individuals or not.

These issues were amplified during the Coronavirus pandemic, leading to a boiling point for large numbers of workers. Many others reported that the pandemic gave them time to reevaluate their jobs, careers, and life goals.

This was especially true for women and older individuals, providing a blow to many companies’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts.

Women and Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce

COVID burnout, stress, and job insecurity is leading many older workers in advanced career positions to choose an early retirement. Women are also stepping out of the workforce temporarily (and sometimes permanently) for a variety of reasons. Some of these include being stretched too thin due to remote learning, losing daycare options, choosing to home school in response to COVID concerns, and taking on additional caretaker roles for elderly family members.

What do employees want?

A healthy company culture is at the top of the list, but competitive compensation and benefits are still highly important. Lateral career opportunities and job enrichment such as training opportunities or tuition reimbursement were also highly rated. Lateral career opportunities are 12 times more predictive of employee retention than promotions [MIT Sloan Management Review].

Finally, flexibility for better work-life balance — which is closely tied to culture — was a top consideration.

Flexibility can be as simple as allowing employees to adjust their work hours to better fit their personal schedules (particularly for parents). Allowing employees to work from home a certain number of days each week is another example. In fact, candidates are 2.5 times as likely to apply to jobs that are partially or fully remote.

Leveraging the Great Resignation

Now’s the time to implement a targeted strategy to attract and retain employees, and partnering with a full-service executive recruitment agency can be a crucial component.

Even if you’re not seeing turnover issues internally, this is an opportunity to hire top talent leaving (or considering leaving) other companies.

At Curtis Food Recruiters, our industry insights, research, and access to a network of diverse executive talent gives you a market advantage. As a woman-owned company, we’re also committed to DE&I, and it shows — over 50% of our placements are women or racially diverse individuals. Our goal and guarantee is to find you the right candidate for your job. Reach out to us, and let’s start a conversation about building your best team.