The Great Resignation
In 2021, our recovering economy experienced two historic, yet contradictory trends. First, the demand for workers returned in spectacular fashion, skyrocketing at unprecedented rates. Second and conversely, millions of potential workers have remained unemployed on the sidelines. The tension between the two economic patterns has given rise to a unique job market in which record unemployment figures were driven not by a lack of jobs, but by a lack of willing workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of December 2021, 6.3 million Americans were unemployed.1
Who is Leaving the Workforce and Why?
The American workforce is also experiencing sweeping demographic changes. Millennials and Gen Zs entering the hiring pool bring new ideologies, viewpoints and approaches to their work. Simply put, newer workers increasingly seek work they care about – work with purpose – and are less tolerant of mistreatment and unethical practices. The pandemic hit those with childcare responsibilities particularly hard, driving many to leave the workforce entirely. In 2021 alone, the workforce lost 1.6 million mothers of children under 18.2 The number of working fathers declined by an additional 1.3 million.3
In scouting out new and untapped applicant pools while fostering employee loyalty at home, organizations should consider structuring a future-proof retention framework upon principles that tout respect, transparency, and a morally sound, dynamic and purpose-driven culture.
Organizations should consider an emerging factor dominating worker concerns – the desire for increased flexibility. Acknowledge the strain on child and adult care providers and demonstrate a commitment to mitigate those concerns where feasible by exploring innovative shift schedules outside conventional business hours, on weekends or late night/early morning; split shifts; and even part-time work. As the available working population is increasingly comprised of working mothers, be mindful of underrepresentation in your workforce. Mothers and others seeking part-time work may present valuable opportunities for closing potential labor gaps.
Foster and Encourage Workplace Wellbeing
At the end of the day, people want to want to come to work. This necessarily includes offering a healthy and respectful work environment and remaining attuned to the importance of one’s wellbeing, especially during these stressful times. Consider offering unique in-house benefits and tangible perks like an onsite gym or fitness membership, healthy meals, transportation, and even onsite childcare.
Performance management is more critical now than ever before. In an era of unprecedented social and economic upheaval that has seen increased unemployment and resignation rates, perfecting how you manage, develop and motivate your employees should be a top priority.
Performance Management Tools
Start by just talking. Routine “check-ins” and ongoing conversations about performance should be an integral component of your performance management system. It facilitates employee engagement and boosts productivity. In addition to engagement, routine check-ins establish a rhythm of collaboration between managers and employees and creates a two-way street of communication that makes it easier to discuss needs and challenges.
A performance review is a two-way, individualized conversation between a manager and an employee about performance impact, development, and growth. Managers should aim to “coach” their employees, not “judge” them. Approaching performance reviews with a strictly evaluative mindset risks derailing the conversation and limiting growth potential.
How to Value Performance
Today’s employees generally want to be measured on the value they deliver, and not on the volume they produce. According to one study, 86% of employees said they would prefer to work for an organization that prioritizes outcomes over output. Consider how your organization can bridge that gap and redefine how you measure employee performance.
Employers can incorporate performance motivators into their policies and culture to motivate employees to perform at the highest level. They are designed to incentivize employee productivity and efficiency which, in turn, saves money. It also increases retention rates that in turn cut costs on employee recruiting, hiring and training.
- Workplace wellness activities: yoga, meditation, complimentary breakfast, etc.
- Scheduling flexibility: flexible scheduling, unlimited or increased (paid or unpaid) time off, sabbaticals, extended breaks throughout the workday, etc.
- Competition: large-scale competitions amongst teams, small competitions amongst team members, company-wide competitions against rival competitors, etc.
- Recognition: gold stars, “employee of the month,” award ceremonies, etc.
To be effective, you must know what your employees genuinely want and what would actually increase productivity, before tailoring a set of motivators around the unique aspects of your workplace culture.
For all intents and purposes, your brand is your reputation as an employer. Employer brand-ing is the process of managing and influencing your reputation as an employer among job applicants, employees and key stakeholders. It encompasses everything an organization does to position itself as the “employer of choice.”
Culture and Values
It goes without saying that an organization’s culture and values (along with its demonstrated ability to “live them” are crucial to sustained success. According to one study, over two-thirds of all job applicants are interested in a company’s culture and values, above all else.
A Good Corporate Citizen4
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) advances the notion that a company owes a duty to its surrounding community. CSR initiatives can be a powerful marketing tool to favorably position organizations in the eyes of consumers, investors, and regulators. It can also improve employee engagement and satisfaction, which are key measures that increase retention rates. Some of the most common CSR initiatives include:
- Reducing carbon footprints
- Improving labor policies
- Participating in fair trade
- Diversity, equity and inclusion
- Charitable global giving
- Community and virtual volunteering
- Corporate policies that benefit the environment
- Socially and environmentally conscious investments
Find out what works for your organization and consider dedicating time to the cause or incorporating it throughout your own business plan in small, but noticeable ways. Not only will the community thank you for it, but your employees will gain a sense of pride knowing they are contributing to a cause about which they are passionate.
4 https://www.google.com/search?q=How+can+Companies+be+a+good+corporate+citizen+post+2021&rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS969US969 &sxsrf=AOaemvLVIi1SAwbmAxd796PskscHGTOa7A%3A1642128267100&ei=i-
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Andria L. Ryan, Fisher Phillips, Co-Chair Hospitality Practice Group
Andria Ryan is a partner in the Atlanta office and serves as co-chair of the Hospitality Industry Group. She represents employers in virtually every area of employment and labor law.
Andria represents employers throughout the United States in defending employment discrimination and harassment cases as well as handling traditional labor matters such as unfair labor practices and union campaigns.
She spends much of her time counseling employers in day to day employment and labor decisions and educating employers about prevention and practical solutions to workplace problems.