2020 is the year the world went remote.
Before the pandemic, remote work really wasn’t a universally standard thing. Certainly, it existed for a handful of companies, but it was mostly limited to highly paid computer programmers, software engineers, information systems professionals, and the like. The COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that. The majority of American workers either went completely remote, or adoped hybrid models where work time spent in the office was constrained. Customer service jobs, voice operations, inbound sales administrative roles, government jobs—all of it was subject to a big shift out of the office environment. And for the foreseeable future, it appears that many companies are not making plans to bring many of these workers back to the offices.
Stanford University Economist, Nicholas Bloom refers to this new status quo as the “working-from-home economy.
But workers are not only adopting a new model of what their physical work environment looks like, they are evaluating and rethinking their core occupational identities. They are not willing to settle for a job that is “good enough.” We are on the precipice of what many refer to as The Great Resignation, a mass exodus to a better working life.
The Great Resignation
The Harvard Business Review characterizes the phenomenon by querying, “How can employers retain people in the face of this tidal wave of resignations?”
This tidal wave of resignations is backed by some hard numbers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. Resignations peaked in April and have remained abnormally high for the last several months, with a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July.
A new Pew Research Center survey finds that low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work are the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs last year.
According to a recent study, half of the workers now report that they will not return to jobs that do not offer remote work. Not only do people embrace remote work, but they have also grown to expect it.
Workers are not willing to go back to the old ways of doing business. After several months of working from home full-time, we see that one in two U.S workers won’t return to a job that doesn’t offer remote work as an option.
80% of full-time workers surveyed expect to work from home at least three times per week.
There is a significant disconnect between how management and employees currently view this new movement. Managers perceive workers’ desire for more money, greater development opportunities, and remote work options. However, research is revealing other reasons for the transition out of the office environment.
- Lower-paid workers are much more likely than higher-paid workers to live further from the office in many expensive cities. This makes for long commutes that make remote work highly desirable.
- Lower-paid workers don’t typically enjoy the services of nannies and childcare centers.
- An Ernst & Young survey found that 63% of Gen Z employees feel it is “very or extremely important to work for an employer that shares their values.”
- A 2021 Deloitte survey of 8,200 Gen Z workers in 45 countries found that nearly half (49%) make decisions about where to work based on personal ethics.
- Many workers have reached a breaking point after months and months of high workloads, hiring freezes, and other pressures, causing them to rethink their work and life goals. Resignation rates were higher among employees who worked in fields that had experienced extreme increases in demand due to the pandemic. Resignations up 3.6% in health care employees and up 4.5% in the tech sector, were likely the result of increased workloads and burnout.
MIT Sloan School of Management Review reports that Toxic Corporate Culture is the biggest problem.
“A toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. Our analysis found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.”
Job insecurity and reorganization.
It’s not surprising that employment instability and restructurings influence employee turnover. MIT reports that research has shown that employees’ negative assessments of their company’s future outlook is a strong predictor of attrition.
“When a company is struggling, employees are more likely to jump ship in search of more job security and professional opportunities. Past layoffs, moreover, typically leave surviving employees with heavier workloads, which may increase their odds of leaving.”
High levels of innovation.
“Staying at the bleeding edge of innovation typically requires employees to put in longer hours, work at a faster pace, and endure more stress than they would in a slower-moving company. The work may be exciting and satisfying but also difficult to sustain in the long term. When employees rate their company’s innovation positively, they are more likely to speak negatively about work-life balance and a manageable workload. During the Great Resignation, employees may be reconsidering the personal toll that relentless innovation takes.”
Failure to recognize performance.
“Employees are more likely to leave companies that fail to distinguish between high performers and laggards when it comes to recognition and rewards. Companies that fail to recognize and reward strong performers have higher rates of attrition, and the same is true for employers that tolerate underperformance. The issue is not compensation below market rates, but rather recognition — both informal and financial — that is not linked to effort and results.”
In an article published this month in ZDNet, “Remote-working jobs vs back to the office: Why tech’s Great Resignation may have only just begun,” Editorial Director Steve Ranger revealed the following startling facts:
- Two-thirds of tech workers are either already seeking new jobs or are open to moving
- Three-quarters of tech workers who actually changed jobs last year had two other offers
- There are already 2.5 million open cybersecurity jobs across the world: it would take the entire population of a city the size of Chicago to fill them
These and other factors have all the earmarks of an employment tidal wave shift.
How do Employers Respond to These Changes?
First things first, you need to see how your organization has been affected by calculating your employee retention rate.
Employee retention is the inverse of employee turnover. So, if employee turnover rate is defined as the percentage of employees that leave your organization during a given time frame. Then employee retention would be the percentage of employees that stay with your organization during that time frame. Keeping employees at your organization and committed to their roles is a must.
Calculate your retention rate using the following formula:
Number of Separations per Year ÷ Average Total Number of Employees = Turnover Rate
You can use similar formulas to identify how much of your turnover is coming from voluntary resignations, versus from layoffs or firings. This will help you gain visibility around exactly where your retention problem is coming from.
Next, determine the impact of resignations on key business metrics. Human Resource strategist Ian Cook reports in HBR, “When employees leave an organization, remaining teams often find themselves without key skillsets or resources, negatively impacting everything from the quality of work and time-to-completion to bottom-line revenue. It’s important to track how increased turnover correlates with changes in other relevant metrics in order to get a full picture of the costs of resignations.
For example, a trucking company I worked with identified that what appeared to be a small increase in turnover due to a nationwide driver shortage, was in fact costing them millions of dollars in hiring and training resources. Quantifying the problem both helped leaders get the internal buy-in necessary to address it, and informed decisions around what kind of retention interventions would be most effective.”
Identify the Root Causes
Once you’ve identified the scope of your retention problem, it’s time to conduct a detailed data analysis to determine what’s really causing your staff to leave. Ask yourself which factors could be driving higher resignation rates? Exploring metrics such as
- employee commutes,
- how employees value their work,
- the time between promotions,
- size of pay increases,
- and training opportunities
These cann help to identify trends and blind spots within your organization. You can also segment employees by categories such as location, function, and other demographics to better understand how work experiences and retention rates differ across distinct employee populations.
This analysis can help you identify not just which employees have the highest risk of resigning, but also which of these employees can likely be retained with targeted interventions. For example, after extensive analysis, the trucking company found that drivers who had less experience and a remote supervisor, were much more likely to resign than more-experienced drivers and those receiving in-person support.
Turn Down the Stress Levels
HBR reports that across the board, the percentage of women who said they experienced burnout, poor mental health, and even physical health issues stemming from work “often or very often” was larger than the percentage of men who reported the same.
“More women than men reported said their mental or physical health was often or very often negatively impacted by work, with more than 10% of women of color saying that work negatively impacted their physical or mental health often or very often.”
How Management Can Help
Together, managers and leaders can foster workplaces and create systems that don’t lead to burnout and worsening well-being. Workplace stress is preventable and identifying the potential sources of stress to employees in an organization is the first step in addressing them.
Corporate Wellness Magazine reports that primary interventions involve proactive measures to prevent stress by removing or reducing potential stressors. This level of intervention focuses on the sources of physical and psychosocial stress in the workplace. Examples of primary interventions include:
- Redesigning the work environment
- Increasing employee participation in decision making and work planning
- Increasing time and resources for completing specific job tasks
- Matching job description with employee skills and qualifications
- Creating clear promotion and reward pathways
- Eliminating physical hazards
- Substituting with safer equipment and technology
- Providing breaks and nap-times for employees
- Establishing control measures to reduce worker’s exposure to occupational hazards
- Promoting the use of personal protective equipment
- Training and education of employees
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy training for workers
- Routine health surveillance – screening for high blood pressure and stress symptoms
Provide Opportunities for Lateral Job Moves
MIT Sloan says, “Not all employees want to climb the corporate ladder or take on additional work or responsibilities. Many workers simply want a change of pace or the opportunity to try something new. When employees talk positively about lateral opportunities — new jobs offering fresh challenges without a promotion — they are less likely to quit. Lateral career opportunities are 12 times more predictive of employee retention than promotions. We observed the same pattern in multinationals: The more frequently employees discussed the possibility of international postings, the more likely they were to stick with their current employer.”
Sponsor Corporate Social Events
Company-organized social events, including happy hours, team-building excursions, potluck dinners, and other activities outside the workplace are a key element of a healthy corporate culture, so it’s no surprise that they are also associated with higher rates of retention. Organizing fun social events is a low-cost way to reinforce corporate culture as employees return to the office, and it strengthens employees’ personal connections to their team members.
Fixed Work Schedules
Make schedules more predictable for front-line employees. When blue-collar employees describe their schedules as predictable, they are less likely to quit. MIT reports that having a predictable schedule is six times more powerful in predicting front-line employee retention than having a flexible schedule.
Remote Work Opportunity
When employees discuss remote work options in more positive terms, they are less likely to quit. Newly published research from the Pew Research Center that surveyed roughly 10,000 Americans from Jan. 24 to Jan. 30 found that nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 6 in 10 U.S. workers say their jobs can be done from home. 59 percent are doing so from home all or most of the time. Now, more workers say they are working from home out of choice than necessity.
Among those who have a workplace outside of their home, 61 percent said they are choosing not to go in, while 38 percent said they’re working from home specifically because their workplace is closed or unavailable to them.
64% of those who are now working from home say it’s easier now for them to balance work with their personal life. And 44% say working from home has made it easier for them to get their work done and meet deadlines.
A recent Gallup poll found 45 percent of full-time employees working partly or fully remotely in September 2021, while 9 in 10 remote workers said they wanted to maintain remote work to some extent. Gallup also found that employers are at risk of losing talent if they don’t keep allowing remote work.
Gallup’s poll found that 3 in 10 employees say they are extremely likely to find another job if their current company eliminates the ability to work remotely.
Changing How We Do Remote Work
Consider developing a better model for helping your employees who are working remotely. You can help remote workers get on top of their workloads and help improve work-life balance by moving towards improved back-and-forth communication giving people the freedom to decide when and where to work.
There are a myriad of software tools to make your workforce remote-smart and provide your employees with greater freedom, more control, greater efficiency, and less stress.
The average person sends and receives about 121 business emails a day, spends about 23% of their time on unnecessary emails, and sends about 200 instant messages per week via platforms such as Slack. This dependency on email and instant messaging leaves people in a cycle of hyperresponsiveness, checking email once every 6 minutes as a result.
Task boards help eliminate most of the excessive emailing by providing a transparent status of project tasks, with a clear group view of what your colleagues are working on when, and how much progress has been made.
Whether it’s a task board from Trello, Asana, Monday, or Basecamp, task boards permit users to leave comments and ask questions in a way that promotes asynchronous responses instead of the real-time pull of email and instant messaging.
This transparency puts downward pressure on communication leads associated with reporting and status updates, and helps people prioritize their work in a way that’s aligned with longer-term goals. This helps prevent them from falling victim to always heeding the arbitrarily urgent task instead of the important one.
DAPs for Accelerated Software Adoption
A digital adoption platform (DAP) is software that integrates completely with a host application in order to help the user learn the application. Digital adoption platforms can use walk-throughs, videos, self-help menus, and more to guide the user through every aspect of the application.
When integrating a DAP into the software your team uses on a regular basis, adoption will increase and improve as the user finds more autonomy and confidence in completing their day-to-day processes. Subsequently, the DAP will lower training costs due to a reduction of training time and unnecessary repetition of knowledge transfer. The listed benefits of implementing a DAP are not relevant to only remote or hybrid models, however, you see the advantages more quickly.
At OnScreen, we are the easiest digital adoption platform built for business users (not requiring IT). We have a simple three-step process in our digital adoption platform product offering: 1. A subject matter expert goes through any web app process as normal and a step-by-step and page-by-page guide will be automatically recorded. 2. When complete, edit the recorded guide for relevant text or information that will assist every end-user while they complete that same process 3. Publish the guide and assign it to relevant users. Next time they log in, they’ll have OnScreen help to direct them and won’t have to dig through outdated documentation, screenshots, or submit tickets or emails when they get stuck.
You should always consider and review multiple DAPs to find the best fit for your organization’s specific needs. Common things to consider are: Is the DAP integration complex? Is it simple enough for not only the owners but the daily users? How much support is offered from the DAP to your team? Is it not only scalable for your organization, but does it provide a solid, valuable return on investment?
DAPs like OnScreen are ideal in a digital transformation world whether your team is fully remote, completely remote, or hybrid.
Office Hours and Scheduling Tools—Stop the Meeting Madness
In a Harvard business survey of 182 senior managers in a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.
It’s time business organizations free up their employees’ time to do what matters most and avoid congregating for the sake of meetings. Tools such as SimplyBook.me, Calendly, Appointy, and Zoho Bookings provide time management and appointment scheduling that can facilitate booking time slots that don’t sacrifice other people’s priorities and can help to improve meeting efficiency.
Shared documents empower people to work on the same document asynchronously without bearing the burden of version control. Google Drive, OneHub, Microsoft OneDrive, and eFileCabinet are some of the most popular file-sharing programs out there.
You can eliminate email overload, and block distracting apps and sites with Inbox Pause, BlockSite, and Freedom which eliminate interruptions, increase your productivity, and reduce stress.
Employers should identify and address the elements of their culture that are causing employees to disengage and leave work. Remote work is becoming a necessary benefit for most workers which will both help recruit new employees and retain existing employees. Companies who embrace and optimize remote work stand to benefit from improved employee morale, easier recruiting, higher efficiency, reduced stress levels, and improved performance.