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It’s time for employers to embrace the ‘Big Quit’ and adapt

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Growing up, I watched my immigrant parents build their small business and attempt to navigate the tricky regulations of the automobile industry. Year by year, their workforce grew, and they evolved by implementing more employee-friendly policies. Before the pandemic, a visit to their dealership involved meeting a whole cast of characters, including the employees’ dogs and children, when they could not find other support. While my parents attempted to offer flexibility to their employees, in reality, often the only resource their small business could offer them was a respectful space to share their ideas, questions, or concerns.

Unfortunately, like many other small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, my parents were forced to close their doors and cut their losses. In retrospect, their time as small business owners showed me that the most essential qualities an employer can lend to their employees are empathy, honesty and grace. My parents were not immune from preventing employee defection, especially in the fickle auto industry. Still, they worked hard to retain the workers advocating for changes from the norm they understood. Nowadays, employers in every industry are subject to concerns about how they will live up to their employees’ expectations.

Since the global pandemic transformed the employment landscape and led to the Great Resignation, or “Big Quit,” employers continue to struggle to maintain a committed workforce. Employers recognize that their previous inflexible policies and low wages with minimal incremental growth no longer promise employee retention.

Even if employees stay in their positions, they may embrace a new phenomenon called “quiet quitting,” in which they perform only the minimum requirements of their jobs. The employees may show a lack of enthusiasm or effort, often because they feel unvalued or underpaid. Because of the labor shortage, employers often must either tolerate the quiet quitters or desperately search for new ways to satisfy them.

Offers of better benefits, higher salaries and flexible work schedules and places are useful strategies to avoid high turnover. Additionally, a common reason why employees sue their former employers or turn to union organization is often directly related to their work environment. Employers should reevaluate their workplace policies to ensure that workers can voice their concerns to a nonjudgmental channel and promote respectful behavior throughout the company.

Here are a few ways that employers can address workforce retention issues.

Don’t ignore employee complaints — Understand concerns of employees and consider their suggestions on how to improve the workplace. When employers stay informed and open-minded to changes of policies that no longer serve their employees, a trickle-down effect might be improvement of the customer experience.

Provide opportunities for growth and development — Employees want to continue progressing in their careers, especially at companies that contribute to their professional development. Employers should offer training and development programs with opportunities for advancement within the company. Upskilling employees will keep them motivated and engaged while also creating a return on investment for the company.

Implement monthly or quarterly check-ins — Monthly and quarterly check-ins with employees help facilitate better communication between supervisors and staff, especially if employees lost that connection during the pandemic or continued working remotely. By meeting with employees several times throughout the year, supervisors can communicate expectations, provide feedback, and gauge job satisfaction.

Offer ‘stay’ interviews — Employers are finding new ways to satisfy their high-performing, longtime employees. Unlike the “exit” interview, which occurs after an employee resigns, the “stay” interview allows the employer to improve employee morale and address concerns before the worker decides to leave. A yearly stay interview involves an informal conversation in which the employer expresses how much it values the employee and asks for ways to improve their experience. Employers can also inquire about the employee’s career objectives and potential new roles for the person within the company.

Communicate feedback consistently — All employees benefit from hearing positive and constructive feedback, which encourages them to improve their productivity. Recognizing and appreciating employees’ excellent work is crucial to building employee morale.

Offer competitive salaries and benefits — To ensure employees feel valued for their daily contributions, provision of competitive salaries and benefits should remain a top priority for any company. Competitive salaries also attract the most talented and loyal employees. Employers need to consider the current rise in inflation, the high cost of living, and how much competitors offer their employees in similar positions.

Provide mentorship — A great mentor can make a difference for new and longtime employees alike. A mentor can be a guiding force who informs a new employee how to meet the company’s expectations. A mentor also can give feedback while allowing employees to share honest questions or concerns. Employers should provide employees a mentorship option throughout their employment.

Permit flexible working arrangements — Most employees are not receiving compensation for their daily work commutes, at least not directly. Employers should offer flexibility to work remotely on a hybrid schedule, especially if the position allows for it. The COVID-19 pandemic forced employers and employees to embrace the convenience of remote work. Employees benefit from a hybrid schedule with greater productivity, less commute time, and flexibility when scheduling meetings with clients and co-workers. The value of hybrid or fully remote options is one of the least costly benefits that employers can offer their employees.

Develop a respectful company culture — Cultivation of a respectful and inclusive company culture is another critical factor in building and maintaining a committed and satisfied workforce. If employees arrive to a workplace dreading their daily encounters with difficult co-workers and supervisors, they will likely quit. Employees will often put up with lesser pay than they feel they deserve if there is an excellent company culture. Most new talents initially choose and stay with a company offering the best culture. Likewise, employers should take time to hire talent that fits into the culture and values.

The days of compliant employees remaining in their positions until retirement age are long gone. Small and large businesses alike need to take time to evaluate their employee retention strategies and minimize employee defection because no successful company is immune from reliance on a dedicated, loyal and satisfied workforce. Employees now understand their worth and expect their employers to do the same.

Orchid Tosh is an associate in the Portland office of Fisher Phillips, a national firm dedicated to representing employers’ interests in all aspects of workplace law. She represents employers in all aspects of labor and employment law. Contact her at 503-205-8066 or [email protected].