Turnover, and retaining talent

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Q:  I run a consulting firm.  We have experienced turnover like never before.  We can’t seem to keep talent.  Some of our employees are going to competitors, but some are just taking time off.  What is an employer to do?

A: This has been dubbed “The Great Resignation” or “The Great Reshuffling.” Many employees are experiencing elevated stress levels and burnout. Here are some suggested actions to help you attract and retain talent:

  1. Providing mental health support.  Stress, anxiety and an overall restlessness seems to be present in most of our workplaces.
  2. Compensation.  This isn’t the only action an employer can take, but ensuring your compensation levels are competitive is important.  If you are lagging the market, it may be an uphill climb to attract and retain talent.  As the cost of gas, groceries and other items continue to rise, a $50,000 compensation doesn’t go as far as it did in 2018, especially in the Boston area.  Some of our clients are giving employees two compensation adjustments in a single calendar year.
  3. Career pathing.  If an employer does not move an employee into a new role, your competitor will.  Career pathing does not always mean “up” within an organization. Sometimes it could mean taking over a special project, or being offered a lateral move.
  4. Flexibility.  With remote and hybrid workplaces being the new norm, if an organization requires a full-time onsite presence, an employer is limiting their talent pool.
  5. Benefits.  An employer needs to ensure that their benefits are competitive.  Employees with families especially are sensitive to the cost of family plans for medical and dental benefits.
  6. Time off.   Most of us in Massachusetts know about the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.  Additionally, there were COVID leave policies, which now have expired.  All had some requirements for an employee to qualify.   For years, we have heard that the we would have a labor crisis when baby boomers retired.  Guess what?  They are retiring.  According to Pew Research Center, nearly 30 million baby boomers retired in the third quarter of 2020.  Women are leading this change.  Many parents had to navigate COVID-related school shutdowns and virtual classes.
  7. Employers can develop their own leave policies.  Several of our clients are offering employees personal leaves.  In short, the employee has to use their paid time off (PTO), vacation, etc. time first and then whatever is remaining is unpaid.  Some of our clients are offering one month and some are offering three months.  Some of these employers are deciding that this may be easier than trying to hire a new employee.  Of course, employers have specified some restrictions (one year of service or more, strong history of performance, must make a good-faith commitment to returning, etc.).
  8. Look at what your new hires value.  A Gen Z employee (now in their early 20s) is most likely to quit a job if they are not satisfied.  One-third of the population is now Gen Z. Gen Z candidates are most attracted to firms because of salary, but also a firm’s commitment to social causes like hunger and climate change, according to a recent survey by Deloitte.  Additionally, Gen Z employees are more comfortable with texting and other digital communication tools like Slack.  A telephone on their desk is an odd concept for Gen Z. Checking voicemail? What’s that?

Employers have to adjust to win this challenge.  You may not be able to implement all of these recommendations, but it may be worthwhile to consider at least some of these recommendations.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.