How to Stop the Great Resignation and Keep Office-Based Employees Happy

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In November 2021, U.S. employees quit their jobs in unprecedented numbers — a new high of 4.5 million — though the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent and the number of job openings decreased to 10.6 million from October. Though resignations are common, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals the nation’s quit rate has been increasing since June 2020. According to a recent report, one in four people quit their jobs in 2021, well above 2019 and 2020 levels. 

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Young and experienced employees are leaving their jobs to either accelerate their careers or completely reevaluate their approach to work. The industries with the highest resignation rates are tech and health care, two industries with traditionally high turnover rates. According to a tech trends report, the tech industry has an 18.3 percent turnover rate globally. Similarly, the average health care turnover rate in 2019 was 17.8 percent. Unironically, health care workers are in high demand due to the pandemic, and the tech industry is typically the catalyst for economic and commercial real estate recovery.

Burnout and underappreciation play a big part in the turnover across industries. According to one report on job and career satisfaction among tech professionals, 36 percent reported high burnout levels in second-quarter 2021, up from 32 percent in fourth-quarter 2020. Over the same period, those reporting little to no burnout declined from 38 percent to 31 percent.

Startlingly, reports indicate that the workforce has lost more than 2 million women since the pandemic began. According to a recent report, in August 2021, the rate of women who quit their jobs hit a high of 5.5 percent, compared with 4.4 percent of men. The rate of women quitting decreased to 4 percent in November, but still outpaced the rate for men. 

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Reasons for the mass exodus of women are clear. According to one report, more working women have had significant disruption in their lives from the pandemic than men. Another report found that 28 percent of mothers who stopped working did so to provide childcare for children out of school compared with just 12 percent of fathers who stopped working. Additionally, often the role of caretaker for sick parents or other relatives falls on women rather than men. 

In a recent survey, 40 percent of employees said they were “at least somewhat likely” to quit in the next three to six months, half of which were because they didn’t feel valued or have “a sense of belonging at work.” When the work of former employees gets piled onto the remaining employees, burnout increases and many employers don’t increase compensation for those now doing two and three jobs, which adds to workers feeling underappreciated.

Employers need to be intentional about crafting a workplace that better supports employees. Regular employee satisfaction surveys, with true transparency, ensure employers have their finger on the pulse of their workforce. Leadership should be educated on how to be inclusive, create a culture of feedback and provide support. Prioritizing physical and mental health by offering health and wellness programs, childcare, flexible work options, competitive salaries and innovative amenities are no longer “nice to haves,” but necessary.

Common company recruiting practices are actually contributing to hiring issues too. Assessing bottlenecks and streamlining processes can help ensure that candidates aren’t left wondering if they’ve been ghosted by a potential employer or lost in an abyss of approval chains. Moving quickly on top candidates speaks to a well-organized company and helps minimize downtime from open positions.

Many employers use recruiting management or marketing systems to filter or rank candidates, but these systems are erroneously excluding viable candidates from consideration. Qualified, highly skilled candidates can be overlooked because they do not exactly match the criteria in job descriptions. Outdated metrics and software systems also contribute to passing over qualified candidates, resulting in approximately 27 million “hidden” workers in the U.S.

Updating job descriptions can help widen applicant pools to include those candidates who might not possess every desired qualification, but have the skills necessary for fulfilling core job requirements. Employers should also establish new metrics for evaluating talent to uncover other barriers in the process. Additionally, companies should evaluate compensation levels to ensure they are staying competitive in the marketplace.

The pandemic shifted priorities for many employees who were no longer inclined to stay in unfulfilling, static, overworked, underpaid and underappreciated positions. Employers can retain their valuable top talent by recognizing their employees are a competitive advantage. By embracing a flexible workplace, providing growth opportunities, supporting working parents and revising hiring practices to find the best talent quickly, employers can avoid burnout and an exodus of valuable talent.

Petra Durnin is the head of market analytics at Raise Commercial Real Estate.