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What Employers Can Learn From "The Great Resignation"

What Employers Can Learn From "The Great Resignation"

It’s a startling fact – more people are quitting their jobs at a higher rate than normal. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, the highest on record dating back to December 2000. 11.5 million workers resigned during the months of April, May, and June of 2021.

You don’t have to look hard to find out why. A LinkedIn survey found that 74% of respondents said the pandemic was a wake-up call and more time at home led them to think twice about their current job. Some pointed to stress, others cited general dissatisfaction.

As someone who is hard-wired to find silver linings in every situation, no matter how dire, I think we as employers must accept there are lessons to be learned and work we can do to better support employees.

[Related: Why Hands-On Training is the Key to Maximizing Job Success]

Embrace flexibility.

One thing we learned from the pandemic is we all have lives outside of the office. Before, working parents may have shushed a child who asked for help while they were on a Zoom meeting. Now, I see lots of parents who are more comfortable with their child making a surprise appearance.

There’s greater acceptance of these little interruptions that demonstrate our work and home lives are more interconnected than ever before. And, as employers, we’re wise to recognize this. A recent survey shows 56% of workers said flexibility was their primary reason to look for a new job, even more so than higher pay.

At RBC Wealth Management, we’ve committed to flexible work schedules with time in the office (when it’s safe to do so) and time at home. Over the past eighteen months, it’s become clear that not every employee has to be in the office every single day. Enabling a greater portion of the workforce to work remotely will promote greater flexibility for employees who, for a multitude of life circumstances, can’t always be in the office from nine to five.

Support employees.

With pandemic stress and burnout topping the list of reasons why they quit, workers are looking for greater support. And employers are in a unique position to offer help, especially as the delta variant collides with the school year.

RBC’s medical plans already included telehealth options, and we’ve made it easier to use those services during this time by temporarily providing no-cost visits (no co-pays or co-insurance). We also have several programs that offer free, confidential counseling and coaching services for employees and their family members who may be experiencing stress, depression, and other mental health concerns. Employees can receive personal support by phone or videoconference — without leaving their homes.

Perhaps the best resource of all during the pandemic? Each other. Our employee network group, Women Empowered (WE), proved through virtual meetings we didn’t have to physically be together to be in this together. Sessions focused on work-from-home boundaries, communication skills, and mental health topics, like mindfulness. We even had a little fun with workshops where members would show off their talents – everything from sewing masks to making cocktails and yoga.

[Related: Think Like a Child: How Playing Drastically Improves Your Creativity at Work]

Find purpose.

Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, are looking for more than just a paycheck — they want purpose. The Cone Communications Millennial Employee Study found that 83% of respondents would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues. And 64% won’t take a job if their employer doesn’t have a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy.

At RBC Wealth Management, we understand that work needs to hold greater meaning today than ever before. That’s why we invite employees to share in our core value of diversity, equity, and inclusion, because we’re committed to building and nurturing a diverse workforce. It’s reflected in the makeup of our board, which is 38% women, and in how we hire and promote.

Responsible investing — applying environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data to an investment portfolio — should also be a focus. In fact, ESG is so important that it’s woven into everything we do, even front and center on our website. Our carbon neutral status, sustainable financing investment, and commitment to environmental solutions demonstrate our ideals and we hope that resonates with our employees and job seekers. Because a purpose-driven culture makes work fulfilling.

Authentic conversations.

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m rarely at a loss for words. It’s helped me better connect with colleagues and team members. And it’s really helpful when it comes to understanding employees’ concerns and questions before they begin to think about resigning.

Being proactive with authentic conversations is one of the best ways to create a workplace where employees feel respected and valued. To do that, leaders have to go beyond the typical “How are you?” and embrace vulnerability by sharing some of our own struggles.

It’s not easy to let down our guard, but you might be surprised at the results. The power of an authentic conversation has the ability to connect, help us understand, and ultimately, build trust that could potentially turn the tide on the great resignation.

[Related: How Vulnerability in Leadership and Creating Psychological Safety Can Unlock True Potential in the Workforce]

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Shareen Luze is the head of culture and field experience at RBC Wealth Management.

RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC.


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