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Employee Engagement Employee Experience

Improving Employee Retention and Motivation Amid the Great Resignation

March 10, 2022
9 min read
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Everything You Need To Tackle Employee Engagement


The world of work has seen major upheaval since the onset of the pandemic. Work-from-home is now commonplace —59% of U.S. workers who can are working remotely all or most of the time. Wages are increasing, but so too is inflation. An unemployment measure that includes workers who are not actively searching for work is beginning to normalize, sitting at 4.7% compared to its pre-pandemic rate of 4.3 percent.

We’re also in the midst of the Great Resignation: a record-breaking 47.4 million people in the U.S. quit their jobs in 2021. Nearly one-quarter of workers plan to do so this year. Labor participation is down 2.9 million people compared to February 2020.

All of these factors combine to produce a job market where there are fewer workers than there are open positions. When competition for jobs is high, employers need to renew their focus on engaging, motivating, and retaining their current employees. Engagement and motivation affect the entire organization, leading to higher retention rates.

But how can you effectively improve employee retention and motivate your team? Luckily, there are many proven strategies to help keep employees engaged and onboard.

The #GreatResignation is here to stay, but you can work against the big quit at your company by motivating your employees. Learn more in the latest from @ClearCompany:

The Great Resignation: How Did We Get Here?

Although the Great Resignation technically began in early 2021, the phenomenon is undoubtedly a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s start at the beginning, with the labor market shake-up that began at the onset of the pandemic:

  • The number of U.S. workers temporarily laid off jumped from around 2 million in March 2020 to 18 million in April.
  • Women’s labor force participation was disproportionately affected by the pandemic, sitting at about 54% compared to 65.9% for men at its lowest point.
  • Workers in the service industry, especially hospitality and leisure, were hit hardest by pandemic unemployment. Their unemployment rate stood at 16.7% in December 2020, compared to 5% in December 2019.

In addition to layoffs, many workers chose to leave their jobs for a myriad of COVID-related reasons:

  • A lack of available childcare
  • School closures
  • Fears of contracting COVID-19
  • To care for a sick family member

As pandemic safety measures allowed businesses to reopen and begin to hire again, many workers still chose not to return to work. Others decided it was time to leave their organizations for a multitude of reasons:

  • Poor handling of the pandemic
  • A shift in their personal priorities brought on by the pandemic
  • A company culture that didn’t align with their personal values
  • Opportunities for better pay and professional development at other companies
  • Burnout and a desire for better work-life balance
  • A shift back to working in-office instead of remotely
  • Planned resignations delayed by the pandemic

So began the Great Resignation at the beginning of 2021, during which an estimated one in four workers quit their jobs, with record-breaking quits rates month after month. Today, there are around 2.29 million fewer people in the workforce compared to pre-pandemic. One report indicated that an astonishing three in four full-time workers plan to quit this year.

So, to get new employees in the door, companies have been offering more competitive pay, sign-on bonuses, and perks like full-time remote work and additional health and wellness benefits. Workers’ desire to align with their employer’s values means many companies are becoming more vocal about what they stand for. Workers, in general, have lots of choices about where to work.

All of this is a win for workers. But, it’s a major challenge for companies, and especially HR teams, as they work to maintain a full, productive workforce. The scarcity of available talent and the number of workers at risk of leaving means that HR teams are prioritizing their employee retention strategies more than ever in 2022.

“Job openings are close to record levels, and with the rise of remote work and interviewing, it’s never been easier for employees to switch jobs in search of greener pastures. As long as the market rewards job switching, employees will continue to pursue this path in large numbers. I do not see this dynamic changing anytime soon.”

- Kevin Harrington, CEO of Joblist

Motivate and Engage Employees to Drive Retention

Although we’re facing a tough labor market, luckily, employees are making it clear just what it will take to provide a better employee experience, increase their job satisfaction, and keep them on board. You almost certainly have some employees who are considering leaving their roles in the coming year. Give them reasons to stay instead.

1. Offer Competitive Wages and Benefits

This one’s a no-brainer, but in a tough hiring market, its importance can’t be understated. Ensure that new positions and existing roles offer competitive salaries and benefits packages. These are some of the top benefits employees are looking for this year:

  • Flexibility: Whether it’s a flexible environment with options for remote or hybrid work or flexible working hours, employees want more freedom around when and where they work. The pandemic made it clear that employees are productive when working remotely and they’re not interested in giving up that flexibility.
  • Mental health benefits: With 79% of employees reporting feeling stressed in 2021, it’s no surprise that health, especially mental health, benefits are a top concern for employees. It’s a must to keep your employees from burning out. Plus, mental health benefits are a huge boost to retention. According to Mercer’s 2021 Health on Demand report, 42% of employees said they’re more likely to stay at their company because of those benefits.
  • Paid time off: Another factor in preventing burnout and increasing retention is offering ample paid time off. Great PTO policies allow employees time to rest, spend time with their families, and travel. Allowing time off for vacation, sick days, mental health days, and other necessities leads to employees who are healthier, happier, and more productive when they are at work.

2. Challenge Them and Help Them Grow

Did You Know?

92% of employees say that access to professional development is important or very important.

A lack of professional development opportunities is a top reason employees choose to leave their employer for another position. A vast majority — 92% — of employees say that access to professional development is important or very important. Plus, retention is 34% higher and engagement 15% higher for employees that can access those opportunities.

“Younger generations especially are hungry for opportunities to learn,” said Mark Lobosco, VP of talent solutions at LinkedIn.

Upskilling is also an essential part of retention, especially when talent is scarce. Upskilling and providing other learning and development opportunities is a win-win for businesses and employees. Investing in training and upskilling ensures employees are prepared for their roles and can grow within the company. It also demonstrates to employees that your company values their professional growth.

3. Put Company Values First

More than ever, job seekers and employees say that they want to work at a company whose values align with their own. 93% of employees say companies have a responsibility to lead with purpose, and 88% say that companies can no longer exist just to make money — they must have a positive societal impact. 88% — nearly nine in ten — employees said that working for a company with a strong purpose is more important to them than ever.

With so many workers choosing to sit out of the labor force, and many more moving to organizations whose values resonate with them, it’s critical that company values are real and lived, and not just a few lines on your website.

4. Listen to Them

We’ve often pointed out the importance of employee feedback: those who feel heard are 4.6x more likely to feel empowered to do well at work. Employees’ priorities have shifted and they can switch jobs much more easily — if your company doesn’t listen to them, another one will.

It’s easy to find out what your employees need, what they like and dislike about their role, and their feelings about your company. Running employee engagement surveys regularly can take the guesswork out of your retention strategies so you can implement programs that work. 58% of employees actually want their companies to conduct surveys more often.

Asking employees for their opinions is an excellent way to increase #Engagement and #Retention — 58% of employees actually want to answer more #EmployeeEngagement surveys! See more effective ways to retain and motivate your teams from @ClearCompany:

While that may sound time-consuming, ClearCompany’s platform offers employee engagement survey templates and automatic notifications so you can keep your finger on the pulse of your workforce. Choose from a variety of survey topics to gain priceless insight and meet your employees’ needs:

  • Employee Engagement
  • e-NPS
  • Onboarding
  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
  • Emotional Wellbeing

5. Celebrate Them

Employee recognition goes a long way — sometimes even further than pay. 63% of employees who had recently received recognition at work said they were unlikely to look for a new job.

Recognition programs help to increase employee engagement, motivate employees, and retain that top talent. They’re also easy to implement. You can start simple with a Slack channel for celebrations and congratulations, or try a software solution like ClearCompany with built-in tools that make recognizing colleagues and celebrating milestones a breeze.

Engage, motivate, and retain your employees through the Great Resignation — and for years to come — with the help of ClearCompany’s Employee Engagement Suite. See for yourself how employee engagement surveys and recognition tools play an essential part in employee retention.

Sign up for a demo with the ClearCompany experts to get an inside look at the platform and test out the Employee Engagement tools your business needs.

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