By Molly Brennan, Global Managing Partner and Nonprofit and Social Impact Practice Lead, Diversified Search Group
More than 47 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021, the highest number of resignations on record, and there was still a record 11.5 million job openings in March 2022. As labor shortages continue, a senior economist said Q1 22 will go down as a “pit of despair for employers.”
It’s not all bad news, though. Data shows that most people aren’t exiting the workforce completely. Instead, they’re leveraging a strong job market to pursue more attractive opportunities, being more selective about the jobs they take and the organizations they represent.
Here are seven critical actions to help recruitment and retention efforts:
Realize it’s not just about money. Compensation is not the only factor causing employees to stay or leave. Competitive, equitable salaries are a good starting point but are not enough to differentiate your organization from the many others vying for top talent. Offer opportunities for training and advancement. Create a collaborative culture. Advocate for meaningful issues. Drive positive change. Providing more than just a good salary will help you retain employees and attract talented prospects.
Ask what employees want – and then give it to them. Conduct employee surveys and conversations with your teams to determine their needs and wants. Listen to what’s most important to them, such as remote days, flexible schedules or better health insurance. Also, consider your organization’s performance expectations. Pre-pandemic, many managers had unrealistic expectations about employee output, productivity and availability. Employees felt like they had to work constantly — to an unhealthy extent — which led to burnout. Recalibrate these expectations in our post-Covid world, where people may be unwilling to go back to that “grind” mentality. By meeting employees’ expectations, you’ll differentiate yourself from the competition to keep and attract top talent.
Prioritize employees’ physical and mental health. The pandemic amplified the need to prioritize health and wellness. Today’s employees are no longer interested in working to the point of exhaustion, pushing through illness, denying their anxiety or working for unbearable bosses. Employers need to be flexible and show compassion. Give employees grace if they’re unable to physically get into work because of a sick child. Allow them to take mental health days if they’re grappling with depression. Prioritize employees’ health and wellness to help increase their happiness, satisfaction, safety and engagement.
Foster a culture of belonging, inclusion and collaboration. Employees care about relationships, connectivity and belonging, so ensure that your organization facilitates connection and inclusion. Encourage a collaborative — not competitive — environment. Consider how you pool resources, celebrate wins and meet the diverse needs of all employees. Employees are hungry for connections and relationships, wanting to feel like an important, valued part of the organization.
Emphasize your organization’s values. What do you value and support as an organization? How do you drive positive change? It’s essential to connect social causes, diversity, inclusion and sustainability to your recruitment and retention efforts. People want to work for organizations that are committed to a greater good. Be outspoken about what you believe in and how you’re making a positive difference. Employees and candidates care about more than just earning a paycheck, wanting to align with their workplace’s mission, beliefs and values.
Prioritize and incentivize advancement opportunities. Provide ongoing training, education and advancement programs to keep employees engaged and inspired. Pair junior-level employees with more senior-level mentors. Have managers lead workshops about compelling topics. Empower employees to take on new projects and then give them the tools and support they need to maximize successes. Motivate your employees and encourage them to keep learning and growing at your organization — so they don’t seek growth opportunities elsewhere.
Express sincere gratitude. One of the most important things you can do to boost employee happiness, satisfaction, loyalty and retention is acknowledge and thank employees for their exceptional contributions. Recognize hard workers. Give financial bonuses or gift cards. Send handwritten notes about specific things you admire about your team members. Make employees feel valued, respected and appreciated, and they’ll be loyal to your organization.
In the current environment, employees are more in the driver’s seat than ever before with many job options to choose from. Provide a happy, healthy, engaging place to work, and you’ll successfully attract and retain great talent.
Molly Brennan is Global Managing Partner and Nonprofit and Social Impact Practice Lead at Diversified Search Group; and author of the 2019 report The Governance Gap: Examining Diversity and Equity on Nonprofit Boards of Directors. Her focus areas include leadership, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.