We’re beginning to get a real sense of just how impactful the mental stress of the pandemic has been on Americans – and how employers might soon find themselves facing an exodus of their best people if they don’t act fast.
In December, an online survey by Harris Poll revealed 76% of employees were experiencing burnout, which we know is a threat to company stability. But a recent survey by IBM reveals something more troubling: 25% of employees plan to leave their current employer in 2021. An article published last month by the Society for Human Resource Management raises that figure to more than 50%. HR consulting firm Elements Global Services reveals more than one-third of employees would be willing to switch jobs for just a 10% raise.
What exactly is going on?
The stress of the last year has taken its toll. Working from home, which is usually a perk to employees, became a burden: Kids were home and struggling with distance learning, elderly parents needed looking after, social outlets were cancelled, people lost loved ones, and our country experienced unrest to boot. As a business owner, you felt these things, too, and you had the extra burden of keeping the doors of your company open so people could remain employed. (By the way, you did a great job.)
But the new normal is setting in, and the reality is that employers must address employee stress and burnout, along with their changing preferences (i.e., work from home is here to stay), if they’re going to have a successful 2021 and beyond. Your people “hung on” in 2020. In 2021, they need a good reason to stay.
We’re not perfect at this, but we’d like to share a few strategies that have helped and (we think) will continue to help:
1. Find what’s keeping employees motivated and productive (and what’s not) by conducting “stay interviews” that provide you insight into what’s happening before a person turns in their resignation. Based on feedback, you can then continue to retool your organization, business operations, and company culture.
Are you trying to do too much with too few employees? Do you have the right team in place? How could technology make their lives better? As the pandemic wanes, how do your employees want to work? Spoiler alert: Close to 50% of employees in this recent survey stated they would leave their employers unless offered the chance to work from home at least on a hybrid schedule.
2. Rethink accountability -- because we’re not talking about employees monitoring other employees.
True employee accountability comes from the top. To be successful, a company’s leaders must continually outline a powerful vision of their organization’s future and show that they value employees by listening to their concerns and acting on them. When leaders communicate “here’s where we are, here’s where we’re going and why” and act to resolve their employee’s concerns, it shows employees that their best job option might be staying put.
3. Listen and watch, and then take action.
We’re all sick of video calls to some degree, and it’s okay to let people skip the video feed on occasion, but video creates a greater sense of social support and makes spotting problems easier. Body language and facial expressions are spotted only when you can see people. Keep the cameras on!
Employee surveys as well as one-on-one calls can also identify stressors that you can help to eliminate. Technology can help you in this area. We’re personally using StandOut.
However you discover an employee’s issues, make sure you address them. Pick up the phone, hit them up on a video call, invite them to lunch if it’s safe to do so where you live. Personal connection is critical to resolving problems.
4. Don’t forget the fun.
To address isolation, connect employees using virtual games and activities. We love trivia, March Madness brackets, and holiday-themed competitions like gingerbread house competitions. Recent studies reveal that when employees develop a web of connections and relationships within an organization, they tend to remain with their employer.
5. Encourage time off.
PTO is there for a reason. We all need physical and mental breaks from work. If you’ve noticed an employee hasn’t taken some time off yet this year, give them a nudge.
2021 is the comeback year for so many businesses. Let’s make sure we keep our best people in place instead of realizing too late that they’re headed for the door.
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