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Increasing Employee Engagement in the Midst of the Great Resignation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 20 million workers quit their jobs between April and August of this year, a 60% increase from the previous year.

The pandemic, which forced working from home, school closures, and changed most people’s work-life balance, has motivated professionals to rethink their careers and employment status. Some have left the workforce altogether, while others have looked for and accepted better opportunities. In the era of the Great Resignation and quitting contagion, high performing individuals are in more demand than ever. This means that both candidates and current employees have more bargaining power when negotiating their terms of employment. Recent resignations have also left employers scrambling to rethink traditional work environments, HR strategies, and employee offerings. As employers are faced with these new challenges, the paining question seems to be how to lead change that results in employee retention and helps attract top talent.

To ensure they are moving in the right direction, employers must first address the reasons their employees have left the organization. Many articles have explained the research and surveys that have been conducted to examine the mass exodus now known as the Great Resignation. The two key data points evaluated are who is quitting (based on demographics) and why they are leaving. Organizations can approach their process similarly, compiling data specific to them to understand why their employees are leaving and its impact on the enterprise, departments, bottom-line goals, and—the engine that keeps the train moving—their employees. Resignations can lead to loss of skillsets and decreased productivity, and give rise to termination, replacement, and vacancy costs.

Understanding the scope will allow management to determine how much change an organization can make unilaterally. These steps will guide you in understanding your current turnover state and devising a workable retention plan.

Get the data

1. Determine your turnover rate

Doing so will provide quantifiable data related to scope and impact. To determine turnover, use the following formula: Turnover = Number of employees separated per year/Total number of employees.

A similar formula can be used to identify your turnover related to voluntary separations: Turnover = Number of employees voluntarily separated/Total number of employees.

2. Conduct a data analysis to identify the root cause of the voluntary turnovers

Whenever possible, always conduct an exit interview to gather information on why an employee is leaving. Some areas to analyze include: salary, opportunity for advancement, benefits, work-life balance, tenure and training opportunities, and organizational culture.

3. Develop a personalized retention program

Your new retention program should reflect the results of the data and any workforce changes. The points outlined below should help guide your retention program.

  • Location, Location, Location

After nearly two years of working remotely, hybrid work environments are becoming more and more popular as adjustments made during the pandemic proved that believing a team can only work successfully from one shared physical workspace is dated. As organizations start to bring employees back into the office, they need to be prepared to adopt a hybrid working model. Remember, it is important to meet your employees where they are.

The Harvard Business Review states, “a majority of employees—some 81%—say they don’t want to return to the office or would prefer a hybrid-work scenario. Fifty-seven percent expect to be in the office fewer than 10 days a month.”

If you plan to have employees return in person full-time, give them something to come back to. Consider including incentives beyond a safe workspace. This might include providing breakfast or lunch, creating sleep or mediation rooms for employees to rest and reset, or offering alternate or flexible scheduling.

  • Engagement & Upskilling

When encouraging retention during the Great Resignation, making sure your employees are engaged and connected is your top priority. This is particularly important in remote work environments, as employees who have been at home may not feel as connected to the organization and their team. Many businesses have recommended upskilling as a way to build a more loyal and committed workforce. A survey released in August by digital software company Amdocs showed that 90% of respondents, representing 1,000 American workers, consider strong training and upskilling programs an important feature of prospective employers. In addition to helping keep employees engaged, investing in your employees’ skillsets is a long-term investment.

  • Strengthen the Culture

Since most people have been working from home, each organization’s culture may have changed. As employees return to work and as in person meetings resume, now is a great time to build or renew the business culture with intentionality. Hosting safe work events will help the team to connect. These events will also provide opportunities for those working from home to come in and meet in person.

  • Communication

Finally, ensure clear channels of communication and provide opportunities for employees to express their concerns. Pay careful attention to create an environment where your team feels comfortable and supported providing feedback.

The pandemic has brought about many changes and the way we work will be forever changed. Employee expectations have adjusted accordingly and the employers who succeed in retaining and attracting the highest performing individuals will be those that redefine productivity more broadly with employee well-being at the forefront.


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