It’s summertime, and across the globe, the consumer is back, despite the continued uncertainty the delta variant poses, and burgeoning demand is leaving businesses of every stripe in the lurch as they struggle to service customers even as they work to bring staff levels up to par. Leaders and HR departments are in a state of triage, focusing their efforts on attracting candidates and out-competing other businesses for scarce talent.

Turns out, R&R doesn’t mean “rest and relaxation” this summer – it means retention and recruiting!

Workers can afford to be pickier

The headlines underscore the challenges they face: according to People Management, there have been more than 1.1 million job vacancies across the UK for 11 consecutive weeks, and 72,000 of those are marked as ‘urgent’ or requiring an ‘immediate start’.

Things are no better across the pond in the United States.

“U.S. workers can afford to be pickier. The number of job openings rose to just above 9.2 million in May and there is now a position available for every unemployed person, according to U.S. Labor Department data,” notes a story from Reuters titled “US Job Vacancy Numbers are Jolt for Employers.” “The vacancies-to-jobless ratio has recovered to pre-pandemic levels when the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low. That means businesses will have to do more to attract workers.”

While the enthusiastic return of the consumer has contributed mightily to the challenges many employers are facing, the “Great Resignation” is also a significant factor. At many organisations, the efforts to get new people through the front door mean that many are leaving the back door unattended, and employees are departing their jobs in droves.

Stopping the revolving door

In fact, the very efforts organisations are making to position themselves as employers of choice may be contributing to their difficulties: rich signing bonuses, new perks, and higher wages are motivating many employees to test the job market themselves.

According to Gallup, it takes more than a 20% wage increase to motivate an engaged employee to consider a new job. However, for unengaged employees, that number falls to nil. They are ready and willing to jump ship, posing a clear risk to their employer.

How, then, can leaders escape what can rapidly turn into a revolving door, and prevent the exodus of experienced employees from exacerbating the challenge to increase staffing levels? The short answer is also a simple solution: identify and resolve the issues within your organisation that may be disengaging your own employees.

Engagement is easier than you think

Increasing employee engagement is faster and easier than you think, and the benefits can be immediate: engaged employees are significantly less likely to consider leaving the organization. If you want to stem the tide of resignations, acting quickly to resolve the issues that are causing people to leave is the surest and most effective action you can take.

We’ve been looking at employee feedback and surveys for years, and in the vast majority, employees are asking for simple changes, such as:

  • Better communication from leadership that offers more insight into strategy is high on the list,
  • More understanding of how their role contributes to the business and its success,
  • Simply being heard, and feeling like their opinion counts.

In almost every case, there are changes such as these that are quick to make and don’t cost a dime. Simply fielding a survey and asking employees for their unvarnished feedback and opinion can, in and of itself, make a significant difference.

This may seem incredibly simplistic, but the key to employee engagement we’ve found most effective is adopting the principle of Kaizen – making small incremental changes consistently over time, leading to continuous, employee-led improvement.

Small changes add up pretty quickly in terms of scope and impact, but even more important is the cadence of listening and responding that builds trust with employees and leads to improved levels of engagement, and all of the benefits it confers the organization.

Our whole engagement process is built around this simple idea. Survey employees, generate the action plan for delivering improvements over the next 90 days, keep the communications flowing and re-survey the team quarterly.

The bonus: engagement helps with recruiting

There’s an especially timely benefit to increasing employee engagement right now that many don’t realise: your engagement strategies enable you to prove the excellence in your workplace and the strength of your culture in a visible, tangible way that resonates with candidates.

How do you make employee engagement visible to outsiders? There are several ways, and they work beautifully together to create a compelling narrative that can truly differentiate your organisation. Best of all, these tactics should represent little to no additional work, as they are likely to already be elements of your current engagement programme, such as:

  • Share your team’s engagement scores, showing trends over time,
  • Discuss the organisation’s engagement strategy: the cadence of surveys, how feedback is used, what the organisation has learned,
  • Illustrate how employee feedback is valued with examples of initiatives that started with employee feedback,
  • Share insights or feedback gleaned from a recent survey or roundtable discussion.

Resources to help with recruiting & retention

We’re responding to the critical staffing situation with new resources to help your organisation, including:

  • Guide: Keep Your People: A Tactical Guide for Employee Retention (free download)
  • eBook: The Workplace People Don’t Want to Leave (free download)
  • On-Demand Survey: Assess Your Company’s Stay Factors (free access)