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How companies can stem the Great Resignation in 2022

Leong CheeTung and Sonali Sharma
Leong CheeTung and Sonali Sharma • 6 min read
How companies can stem the Great Resignation in 2022
While compensation remains a central determining factor for joining a company, the reasons for staying go beyond that.
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As the Singapore government plans to relax regulations and initiate a gradual return to physical workplaces, companies face a critical question: What’s next?

With the gradual changes that have been happening for the past years and the reopening of cross-border travels, many organisations are left wondering how they can better prepare themselves for the year ahead.

All signs point to the fact that the normative pre-pandemic way of doing things may not be sufficient for employees in Singapore or, indeed, the global workforce. Our research at EngageRocket found that resilience levels among employees have dipped significantly between 2019 and 2020.

Research by Microsoft also shows that over 4 in 10 employees worldwide will consider quitting in 2022. The reasons behind this trend are complex and cannot be addressed by raising wages or enhancing benefits alone.

While compensation remains a central determining factor for joining a company, the reasons for staying are much more profound and rooted in human psychology and the fulfilment of fundamental human needs.

What causes the employer-employee disconnect?

See also: What does it mean for every company to be an AI company?

On the surface, one would expect that employees would hold onto their current roles during a period of economic turmoil. However, global labour sentiment indices signal a different trend – the average employee experience changed overnight due to COVID 19, leading to higher risks of burnout, different work-life balance requirements, and a cognizance of the need for more purposeful work.

As a way to adapt to the shifting employee expectations, many organisations respond by dangling the ‘high-salary carrot’ to attract and retain the best talents. But many studies have proven the law of diminishing marginal utility of income at play; indicating there is a ceiling to how much satisfaction people derive from salary hikes.

Even in the best of circumstances, your top talent is likely to feel a sense of stagnation (unless there is proactive intervention from the employer), and this is only exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. Yet, most organisational leaders continue to rely on perks, benefits, and compensation as the primary instrument for retaining employees. If this type of organisational response continues, it’s unlikely The Great Resignation phenomenon will abate anytime soon.

See also: Achieving true digital transformation: It’s not the tools, it’s the people

To better respond to the phenomenon, it is important for us to address the causes behind it. There are three reasons for this employer-employee disconnect:

  1. Leaders aren’t really listening to their employees
    In a large, complex, and now remote organisational setup, it is almost impossible to get into the granular details of an individual employee’s needs, wants, and aspirations. This is because most setups use conventional feedback tools like annual surveys or an informal “DIY” approach without expert help.

    A common example of this is how exit interviews are usually performed. Most exit interviews usually give poor quality data only at the end of an employee’s tenure - hence they don’t always reflect the full picture of the employee’s experience within the organisation.
  2. Employees perceive a gap in psychological safety, which prevents honest expression
    When leaders fail to listen, employees fear that there might be negative repercussions if they voice their opinions. Even if a four-day workweek might result in higher employee satisfaction, they will not suggest it in fear of impacting promotions and appraisals. For instance, a U.S. survey found that a third of employees are now working through lunch to demonstrate productivity and not lose out on “brownie points”.
  3. Cognitive biases blind leaders to the truth even when they listen
    Informal feedback collection and the absence of an organised Voice of the Employee (VoE) programs lead to a skewed understanding of the data. Many leaders are swayed by intuition when arriving at conclusions, prone to taking action based on the latest memorable events or simply attributing certain problems to the wrong reasons.

Recommendations for employers on the way forward

There are several measures organisations can take to start improving work culture and employee experience in their workplaces, such as:

  • Adopting a continuous listening strategy
    Monitoring and improving employee experience has gone from a “good-to-have” to a “must-have” for companies hoping to win the war for talent. And this has two benefits.

    Not only do you provide managers with detailed information on employee needs, but you also create a safe environment where employees feel heard. Feedback data collection must be coupled with intelligent segmentation and cohort analysis to find the retention drivers and pain points for employee groups.
  • Frequent check-ins beyond annual reviews
    Research shows that monthly or continuous performance reviews are up to 1.5 times more effective at retaining employees than the annual approach.

    By encouraging employees to frequently check in with their managers, you can detect the early signs of disengagement and latent needs to respond in an agile manner. It also ensures that the action is relevant to the employee’s immediate context and not several weeks or months too late.
  • Shift the organisational culture away from “transactional exchange”
    The past few quarters have led employees to recognise the value and role of work beyond just monetary benefits. Organisations will have to adapt – with a clear focus on empathy, communication skills, and trust-building, all in the backdrop of a fast-evolving digital and hybrid work environment.

    However, this duty should not fall on the HR teams alone. In fact, organisations also need to equip leaders and managers with the right tools and training to make better-informed decisions when it comes to their teams.

As offices reopen, the economy is revitalised, and new opportunities emerge, retaining talents should be a high priority for every organisation. With the three points listed above, companies can better watch for burnout, skewed work-life balance, and unhealthy productivity patterns so that they can adjust employee-related policies adequately. Ultimately, it comes down to how well organisations can listen to their people and how they plan for the follow-up actions as a result.

Leong CheeTung is the co-founder of EngageRocket. and Sonali Sharma is the VP of Product and People Science at EngageRocket

Photo: Unsplash

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