Retaining great people and avoiding mass departures are goals for all HR leaders to keep an eye on. But amid “The Great Resignation”—which has brought the highest levels of turnover seen in the past 20 years—companies need to understand what is driving the job change trend and what they can do to keep people around.

In 2021, HiBob surveyed 1,000 full-time professionals over the age of 25 to find out what they want in a workplace and what employers can do that would make the difference between leaving and staying.

HiBob’s Senior Director of Communications and Strategic Projects Zoe Haimovitch teamed up with Jonah Goldstein, the head of learning at 360Learning, to share the results of the study, as well as strategies for engaging and retaining top talent, in the webinar “Employee retention strategies for the new world of work.”

One common thread throughout their conversation was the importance of listening to your people through surveys and other feedback forums that invite sharing what matters to professionals and what they consider important for their career development. Flexible work arrangements and collaborative learning opportunities also play a crucial role in the 2022 workplace.

Here are some of the key takeaways from their conversation.

Don’t shirk work-life balance in mid-size companies, where resignation risk is higher

The Great Resignation has hit companies of all sizes across all kinds of industries. But, the survey data shows that people who work for mid-size companies (50-1,000 employees) are the most likely to have changed jobs in the past 12-18 months and consider quitting.

Only 44 percent of people at mid-size companies are working in the same roles they were in a year ago, and 56 percent said they are likely or very likely to quit in the year ahead. Large companies (1,000+) are the most stable, with 55 percent of people working in the same roles and only 36 percent likely to quit. Small companies (1-50 people) land somewhere in the middle.

“While some turnover is healthy, the Great Resignation has the power to blindside companies if they’re not attuned to the main motivations driving this shift,” Zoe says. “HR leaders need to understand why people are quitting and what they are looking for instead.”More than half of those who did or are planning to quit reported that seeking better work-life balance and better pay were the main reasons behind their decisions. Benefits and opportunities for advancement also ranked high as reasons to make a change.

Find ways to be flexible

Many people are choosing to quit because they want more flexibility in their work lives. When companies don’t offer flexible working models, they risk losing top talent, and there’s an opportunity to introduce practices that could significantly impact retention.

“As companies reevaluate returning to the office,” Zoe says, “many employees expect continued flexible options as the most important benefit of staying at their jobs.”

Half of survey respondents—including 53 percent of people working at mid-size companies and 55 percent at large companies—rated workplace flexibility as “very important.” Even more eye-opening, 56 percent of people at mid-size companies said they will quit if their employer does not offer flexible working hours and location options.

Unfortunately, many of these people have seen their HR teams backpedal on flexibility-related policies. And more than a third of people at mid-size companies are afraid taking advantage of flexible working policies would hinder their career growth or even delay promotions.

“Employees at mid-sized companies are productive working from home and they expect to be respected for that,” Zoe says, adding that it’s vital to create HR strategies that don’t pit those working from home against those who choose to work from the office.

“The company culture needs to support people working from home and people working from the office at the same time,” she says. “The new world of work needs to be adjusted.”

Here are a few solutions that organizations can employ to encourage flexibility and help retain people who have become used to working when and/or where they choose:

  • Don’t require people to be in the office five days a week. Allow them to set some working hours or choose their work location.
  • If you ask people to come into the office, make sure the ask has a purpose. “The office is evolving from an everyday workspace to a place of socialization, collaboration, and company culture,” Zoe says. Use in-office times for meetings, get-togethers, and onboarding activities and allow people to do their individual work elsewhere as desired.
  • Make it easier for people to communicate with each other, whether they’re on-site or remote. Create more private meeting rooms in your physical office for Zoom calls, and institute a “one person, one screen” policy for group meetings.

Workplace learning—but make it collaborative

Investing in your people’s career development and learning is another way to keep them engaged and happy in their roles.

In a survey that 360Learning conducted in 2021, respondents rated learning opportunities as highly important to job satisfaction, with 57 percent saying they would consider leaving a job that didn’t have enough professional development opportunities.

“But people are not just looking for content when it comes to learning,” Jonah says. “What they really want are opportunities for connection and collaboration.”

Applying a collaborative strategy to workplace learning looks a little different than traditional training models. Conventional models employ a top-down approach, with leadership identifying needs at a high level and learning and development teams creating large, slow training programs that quickly become outdated. “Success” for these programs usually is not measured beyond the number of people who complete them.

“In opposition to that,” Jonah says, “there’s this notion of collaborative learning where you are listening to your people, where you are identifying the needs that they have identified themselves, that will allow them to grow, which will allow them to progress in their careers, which will allow them to have more impact and to be even more high performing in their roles.”

All together now: how to make learning more collaborative

Here are some of the ways collaboration might appear in each stage of the learning process:

  1. Allow people in the organization to determine their own learning needs. Over half of the people surveyed said they know best what they need to learn. Create a space to collect topic suggestions and allow team members to chime in so you can see what subjects make them tick.
  2. Bring learners, managers, and subject matter experts together to create new courses or training programs. Decentralizing the ownership of the content makes it easier to maintain. As a result, the focus areas will be more relevant, up-to-date, and valuable to your people, and you’ll extend the life of the training material.
  3. Structure courses or training to include engaging questions. Rather than asking people to listen to a lecture or flip through a slide deck, include open-ended questions where learners can respond and receive feedback from colleagues or subject matter experts.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to drive is engagement and retention,” Jonah says. “You need to have the means to gather data in order to understand the impact that you’re having.”

He recommends collecting reaction and relevance scores to understand how effective the training material is and whether it’s meeting the intended need.

“That enables me to know that the content is on point,” he says, “For those learners who are engaged with it, it is, in fact, offering them opportunities to grow, to respond to the needs that they’ve identified, and to recognize that there are growth opportunities within the company.”

More ways to resignation-proof your organization

Beyond flexible workplace policies and investing in learning, there are many more strategies to address people’s workplace pain points and retain top talent amid the pressures of The Great Resignation.

  • Develop the relationships between managers and your HR team. “Managers are an HR team’s eyes and ears during the transitional phase of work,” Zoe says. “They are in the best position to guide HR about what might benefit their team.”
  • Manage compensation and benefits strategically. “Employees trust when their organization has a regular compensation management cycle, and they know there’s a reason to wait,” Zoe says.
  • Offer continuous feedback and regular recognition to make sure people feel valued for their hard work.
  • Be upfront and honest with candidates during the hiring process. The surest way to lose a new hire is to promise something you can’t deliver.
  • Don’t just talk about DE&I—live DE&I. It’s all about creating a sense of belonging and ensuring everyone feels welcome.

The Great Resignation is a sign that retention practices must be deliberate and targeted to the difficulties that lead good people to quit their jobs. Survey your people, listen to what they need, and be prepared to take action on what you learn—maybe in innovative new ways that allow for more flexibility and collaboration than ever before. The future of your workplace depends on it.

This article is based on the webinar “Employee retention strategies for the new world of work.” Watch the full webinar to learn more about HiBob’s research into The Great Resignation and other strategies to retain people in this shifting landscape.

Shelby Blitz

From Shelby Blitz

Shelby is the Director of Content at HiBob. She's passionate about the written word and storytelling. In a past life, she was a music journalist. When she's not writing and editing you can find her baking sweet treats in the kitchen.