The post-pandemic recovery is hitting full stride in the United States, and according to new data, the UK is not far behind, recording the greatest increase in new jobs since 2014. This is undoubtedly great news, but it’s not without impact – a perfect storm is brewing that is making retaining and attracting employees monstrously more difficult.

In the US, people are quitting their jobs at a rate not seen in 20 years. Worldwide, a recent survey found that 41% of people are thinking about leaving their current positions. For any employer, an exodus of employees is difficult. It’s even worse at this particular moment, just as demand is soaring and businesses are recovering.

As the job market heats up, the question for leaders is twofold:

  • How do you stand out as an organisation, and attract new employees?
  • How do you retain your existing talent?

The secret to answering these two questions is simple, and it’s found in the reasons why people leave jobs.

Looking at the reasons why people leave their jobs provides an immediate roadmap you can use to shore up employee retention. However, those factors are also the key things job candidates are seeking in their new roles, so ensuring you speak to them in your recruitment marketing and related communications is vital to positioning the company advantageously.

Why do people leave jobs? 

So why do people leave jobs? For starters, it’s generally not for more pay. Key drivers we’re seeing right now are:

  • They seek flexibility and prefer working from home or hybrid working
  • They are stressed and burned out
  • They don’t feel they belong anymore
  • They’re seeking new opportunities (in ways you may not expect)
  • Their manager

It’s also important to look at the “why” behind these drivers, delving into what people feeling and how the experience of the coronavirus pandemic has changed their priorities.

Flexible work

We’ve written extensively about the need for leaders to consider flexible work options for their teams. After a year of working from home, many employees are determined to hang onto the benefits they’ve gained: more time in their days because they’re not spending hours commuting, flexible schedules that enable them to watch their children’s sports practice, or attend events after work, more time with their family, and healthier work/life balance.

Stress and burnout 

The stress of the last year – layered upon the effort employees worldwide made to help their clients and organisations throughout the pandemic – is taking its toll on people. A global survey of workers by Harvard Business Review earlier this year found:

  • 89% said their work-life was getting worse.
  • 85% said their well-being had declined.
  • 56% said their job demands had increased.
  • 62% of the people who were struggling to manage their workloads had experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” in the previous three months.
  • 57% of employees felt that the pandemic had a “large effect on” or “completely dominated” their work.

Employees who are burned out are more than twice as likely to leave the company, and burnout is at an all-time high. Taking action to identify burnout and mitigate it within an organisation is one of most effective ways to improve employee retention.

They feel they no longer belong 

A sense of belonging is the top driver of employee engagement this year. Belonging is a big umbrella, and underneath it, you’ll find inclusivity, support for wellbeing, security, fairness, and purpose. Leaders who prioritize the cultivation of a sense of belonging and the creation of inclusive and welcoming environments – and who ensure company managers are equipped to support and sustain that sense of belonging — will be rewarded with higher employee engagement and its many bottom-line benefits, while also becoming an employer of choice.

They’re seeking new opportunities 

People have always valued the opportunity for growth and development – that hasn’t changed. What has changed are people’s priorities. Specifically, employees have re-prioritised their relationships and well-being and aren’t willing to compromise on either. This is leading a startling number of women are deciding to leave the workforce, and also spurring many people to change professions. Understanding the ‘whys’ driving these changes is vitally important – because if you can speak to those same desires within your organisation, you’ll have a shot at keeping more of your talent, and will have an appealing story for candidates, too.

Their manager 

Employees don’t leave companies, they leave their managers. The pandemic face managers with a pantheon of rarely- or never-anticipated challenges.

“One thing we learned was that front-line managers are critical to the success of the team and, unfortunately, most of them were not up to the task. This is the biggest risk to business going forward,” writes Brian Watkins in a Chief Learning Officer article titled, “COVID-19 didn’t challenge managers, it exposed them.”

Understanding whether your managers are compelling your staff to leave is the first act to take to stem the turnover tide.

How this relates to attracting candidates

Bearing these elements in mind, savvy employers can adjust the language candidates see in job descriptions, on the company website, and in outreach from the company’s talent acquisition specialists to align with these issues. More candidates are likely to apply if it’s immediately clear that in addition to offering competitive pay, benefits, and an interesting role, the organization also values employee feedback, is committed to creating an inclusive and high-belonging environment, and cares about its employees’ well-being end work-life balance.

Any marketer will tell you that language matters, and small tweaks in verbiage can deliver surprising results. Take a minute to evaluate your organisation’s recruiting messages, through the lens of an employee who is burned out from a grueling job and which she’s felt like a mere cog in a wheel, but for the first time in her life can have dinner with her whole family as a result of newfound flexibility. Would she apply for your posting?

Webinar: Keys to Attracting & Retaining Employees

To learn more about recruiting and retention, tune into our latest webinar with our CEO & Founder, Stefan Wissenbach, and Sean McCleary of Insight IT & Engineering Recruitment.