We’re in the middle of what many people are calling the “Great Resignation,” referring to the wave of workers quitting their jobs in droves. The U.S. Labor Department revealed that 4.3 million Americans left their jobs in August 2021 (roughly 2.9% of the national workforce), the highest number on record,1 and while some have returned to work since then, there has been no stop to the mass resignations either. In fact, recent research from Microsoft shows that more than 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employers this year,2 encouraged by the wider adoption of remote and hybrid work practices, along with heightened feelings of dissatisfaction regarding their current career paths.
The result is that employers both small and large are struggling to retain existing employees while looking for new ones. There is no single surefire method for this: the reasons for the Great Resignation are numerous, but most of the reasons that workers are leaving boils down to feeling as if their labor has more value than they’d previously been led to believe. Workers want better hours, better pay, and (perhaps most importantly) more incentives.
But when it comes to incentives, employees aren’t asking for Casual Fridays or a ping-pong table in the office lounge. They want substantial bonuses that not only improve their work experience but help them find meaning and a higher quality of life. As such, even small business owners need to consider adding incentive measures to remain competitive and attractive to talent.
What Are Workers Looking For?
The first and most desirable incentive that many workers are looking for is remote or hybrid work arrangements. This has been contentious, as some employers have remained firmly opposed to remote work, despite its obvious benefits during the pandemic. More importantly though, after experiencing these benefits themselves, many workers are now unwilling to go back to a full-time office job, with a Robert Half survey showing that 1-in-3 remote workers would quit if they were required to return to the office full-time.3 Not everyone necessarily wants to go fully remote, but workers increasingly recognize and appreciate the flexibility offered that working from home has to offer.
Employees also increasingly want opportunities for training and reskilling. With several new technologies transforming most major industries, workers need training in order to keep up with shifting demands and expectations. Even prior to the pandemic, there was talk of the “skills gap,” though some argued that this was less because of a lack of qualified people and more that employers needed to invest in their employee’s training.4 Now employers have multiple reasons to do so: not only does it ensure that workers have the skills needed to help companies keep up with the competition, but learning opportunities and increased opportunities for career progression are highly desirable incentives that can keep people on board.
The Benefits of Being Empathetic
Perhaps one of the most underrated incentives for employees right now is simply a leader who communicates well and understands how they feel. That might sound saccharine, but beyond just being easier to work with, an empathetic leader is better able to recognize why workers might want to leave in the first place. There have been many stories of businesses forcing workers to go back to the office as soon as possible, ignoring the fact that many of them are struggling with issues like childcare and transportation.
If employers want people to stick around, they need to be able to put themselves in their shoes and honestly answer the following question: are the jobs that I have to offer fulfilling? If the answer is “no,” ask yourself what you can do to change that. It is no longer to expect people to simply take a job because “work is work.” More than ever, employees know their value and expect their employer to do so as well. By being more conscious of what employees want, business owners can add the kind of incentives that retain and attract workers!
1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, October 12). Job openings and Labor turnover summary. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm.
2. Microsoft. (2021, March 22). The next great disruption is hybrid work-are we ready? Microsoft. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work.
3. Robert Half. (2021, April 6). 1 in 3 remote workers may quit if required to return to the office full time, Robert Half Survey finds. Robert Half. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://rh-us.mediaroom.com/2021-04-06-1-In-3-Remote-Workers-May-Quit-If-Required-To-Return-To-The-Office-Full-Time-Robert-Half-Survey-Finds.
4. Hess, A. J. (2019, February 27). LinkedIn: 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer for this reason-and it’s not a raise. CNBC. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/27/94percent-of-employees-would-stay-at-a-company-for-this-one-reason.html.