By Sonica Aron
The Corporate world has witnessed radical shifts in the past three years. From a time where work from home was considered a perquisite to today being a norm, virtual meetings, conferences being preferred over in person travel and cost, the pace at which technology is being espoused across industries, the entry of generation Z in the workforce and the generation Y taking on leadership roles, there is much to contemplate about. In all this, the shifting mindset of the most critical asset of the organisation, its people, is another variable which is adding complexity. Attracting, engaging and retaining top talent is critical for organisational growth and is critical for long term sustainable growth of any organisation. And yet, today most organisations are struggling with ‘the great resignation’. Is this resignation specific to a function? An industry? An age group or generation? Actually, no. If one were to really analyse the trends, it would be easy to see that people are leaving across industries, across functions, across levels, across tenures.
Not only that, attracting and hiring talent is also becoming increasingly difficult in today’s times where the war for talent has intensified. There are reports of offer dropouts being as high as 55-60% for certain roles. Recruiters point out that in pre-Covid days, the average was as low as 10-15%.
So is this doomsday? Well, not really. It just needs authentic efforts to find out why people are leaving, and not joining and with intent and transparency addressing those needs. It is pointless to believe that as an organisation we can go back to the way we were 3 years back, continue with the same way of working, structures, policies and things will go on. No organisation exists in a bubble. They exist within an ecosystem where things have gone through a significant shift. Inward looking organisations unwilling to evolve with changing times will continue to struggle and bleed, whereas organisations that evolve and keep the evolving workforce at the center, will succeed.
Employee Retention: A Possible Turning Point for Organisations
So where do we start? We start with understanding wherein the key issues lies. Employee retention refers to a company’s ability to keep its employees. With relevant practices, policies and strategies, organisations can prevent talent from leaving. On the other hand, employee retention has become more difficult because employees today are very clear about what they want. It’s not just about the money; it’s also about the culture, the learning, the growth opportunities. Also, consider the flexibility, policies, and overall experience. Employees today evaluate the organisation based on how they feel working there; if it does not resonate with them, they do not hesitate to leave.
Employers can halt this migration of people if they take a step back and begin listening to their employees. There is no such thing as an organisation that exists in a vacuum. They are all part of the bigger picture. Employers will begin to retain employees if they listen to their workforce’s expectations and adapt. This necessitates organisations being adaptable, inquisitive, empathetic, and transparent. Any top management that comes from a place that says, “This is how we were, and this is how we will continue,” will find it challenging to retain today’s employees. Thus, by following practices like stay interviews, benchmarking and implementing new age policies, businesses can retain their talent and make it happen swiftly.
Flexibility and giving employees the right to choose: Every employee is different, in different life stages, with different working styles, different personalities. While some welcome continuing to work remotely, some are itching to get back to office and some are keen to find a mid-path. While the hybrid work model may feel subjective to some, it undeniably impacts retention. Indeed, with the advent of the new normal, hybrid working has gained traction and is being adopted as the norm by organisations. Some jobs cannot give possible outcomes remotely, and employers need to make every effort to enable remote and hybrid options wherever possible. For instance, core in-office days or recurring in-office meetings can provide the collaborative benefits of a shared workplace without requiring an overly rigid approach.
Flexible working: This is another strategy for the organisation to enhance the outcome. Entities can implement a variety of policies to assist employees who want to work from anywhere at any time. Employees who can flex their hours to accommodate family caregiving, medical needs, or even a quick trip to the creche/ school/hospice in the middle of the day are more likely to feel in control of their workday in order to meet their needs. This is true even if the total number of hours worked remains constant. Options such as a compressed workweek or allowing employees to complete their work on time can significantly increase satisfaction without affecting output.
Relevant medical benefits: Dealing with a health issue can create numerous obstacles for employees. To alleviate the problem and remove the impediment, organisations must implement policies solely focused on health and well-being. These could include insurance benefits as per the employee demographics in the organisation e.g. Do we include same sex couples? Do we cover parents? Do we have appropriate covid cover? How do we handle long or critical illnesses? How do we support medical expenses in an emergency?
Emotional Health and well-being: Having counselors on board, or an occasional session on stress management is no longer enough. The covid pandemic had multiple other fallouts. It impacted the mental health of people. There are people who lost their loved ones. There are people who were part of groups extending help and were burnt out. When they are back to work, those memories might be buried but not necessarily dealt with. Enabling people managers on building resilient teams and building psychological safety in teams is the need of the hour.
Also, Organisations need to have a backup plan for long leaves, parental leaves and attrition. The burden of additional work cannot fall on team members staying back for prolonged periods. Do we have a temp resourcing policy? Or are we being penny wise pound foolish? Not resourcing for absentee resources, and putting excess pressure on remaining employees will only lead to burnout, poor employee experience and more attrition.
Policies and benefits: Today’s times need that organisations look at their policies from a lens of what today’s workforce needs to be productive? During Covid, all creche/ play schools got closed, impacting working parents. But now, are organisations looking at childcare policy from a new lens? What does it mean in today’s hybrid scenario? A lot of employees became pet parents during covid. Are organisations looking at extending pet policy? Is your holiday list inclusive? Bereavement policy was introduced by a lot of organisations to help employees in their toughest times, making them feel cared for.
Implementing an Employee Retention Strategy
The importance of an employee centric strategy cannot be overstated in today’s volatile business environment. Since employees leaving an organisation can quickly result in low morale and unmanageable workload, it’s critical to be proactive by implementing effective and relevant employee retention strategies. Employees who feel valued by their organisation are more likely to stay. As a result, with the right strategies, employee retention is not impossible.
(The author is Managing Partner and Founder, Marching Sheep. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com)