Four ways to retain employees amid the ‘Great Resignation’

Liana Douillet Guzmán

In this guest article written exclusively for Business Leader, Liana Douillet Guzmán, CMO online learning community Skillshare, covers four ways to retain employees amid the ‘Great Resignation‘.

Employers throughout the country are facing unique pressures in trying to retain workers. There were 1.2 million job vacancies across the UK in September, an all-time record. Meanwhile, a recent study by WorkHuman revealed 40% are planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months. To retain their best workers, employers should not only provide competitive wages but also allow members of their teams to bring their whole selves to work. Here are four best practices that forward-thinking employers are rolling out to improve retention:

1) ​​Prioritize flexibility to make work more sustainable.

Research from Glassdoor showed mentions of ‘burnout’ have soared in the past few months. While many remote workers have relished reduced commute times and more time to spend with their families, working from home can also contribute to the feeling of being “always on.” Women have particularly felt the impact of “double shifts” since the pandemic began. Burnout has led more than 1 in 4 women to consider downshifting their career or leaving the workforce altogether.

To support remote workers, employers should encourage flexibility.  A family-first work schedule can take a huge weight off parents’ shoulders. Encourage them to log off and pick up their kids from school or drop off a parent at the airport, no strings attached. As people enjoy more public events, employers can also get creative with time-off policies by closing the office a few extra Fridays this year.

2) Encourage community and connection

A recent MIT study found that we crave human interactions and food in the same region of our brains, and another study said the same about how we experience social exclusion and physical pain. Being around people and making connections are biologically tied to our most basic instincts. When that’s stripped away from a huge part of our life — work — our wellbeing takes a hit. Our work then also suffers. There are many ways to connect even if you’re staying remote – for example offsites and purposeful time for connection in a remote environment.

For those who are back in offices, encouraging and facilitating social interactions, rather than just work-focused meetings can be a crucial way for interaction-starved workers to bond. It will make them feel more attached to each other and ergo the company. There are countless ways to have fun with colleagues and, most importantly, engage on a human level.

3) Facilitate and support a stress-relieving creative outlet

The pandemic has created a uniquely stressful situation for workers everywhere, with an unprecedented mental load causing many to burn out as the Glassdoor study reveals. One positive outlet for stress has been proven to be creativity. A study by psychology researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand in 2017 found the adult colouring-in craze had definite mental health gains for adults. Participants reported reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Therefore, actively encouraging your employees to pursue a creative passion can have tangible benefits. It can support their wellbeing and productivity, and provide a unique perk that will improve retention. A win/win. Employers can provide a benefit in kind service by enabling workers to spend money on classes from music, cooking, knitting or drawing.

4) Lean into your staff’s side hustles

Recent ONS data revealed that 30% of workers aged under 24 were on furlough at some point. In a study by my company, Skillshare, we found many put their time to good use: a remarkable 70% of 16-29 year olds reported having at least one ‘side hustle’.  Instead of viewing this as ‘moonlighting’, employers can actively encourage these interests. After all, having the impetus to set up a business or enterprise, even on a small scale,  requires entrepreneurial flair and dedication. These are qualities that can be nurtured by enlightened employers — and may mean it is more likely these employees will stay.

A smart way to integrate your teams’ side projects into the working environment would be to ask staff to present key learnings from their business or project in a weekly lunch and learn. You could further encourage them by offering a discount for the product or service to help “side hustlers” build a market for their micro-enterprise. This can build tremendous goodwill and appreciation. As the world of work changes, forward-thinking employers will find ways to create a more flexible and creative environment for their teams — and reap the rewards.