About the series
John Bremen is a guest contributor for Forbes.com, writing on topics including the future of work, leadership strategy, compensation and benefits, and sustainable strategies that support productivity and business success.
In the midst of what many are calling “The Great Resignation,” future-seeking leaders have retooled their organizations to adopt strategies that involve both offense and defense when it comes to talent, and creating the place people want to be. They know the headlines miss the fact that far more people have been hired in 2021 than quit, and that the Great Resignation is to some extent a misnomer: the vast majority of those who quit one job have simultaneously shifted to a different, more attractive job, thus also prompting “The Great Hire.”
In the U.S., for example, April was a record month for quits, yet companies made many more hires. Even when involuntary separations such as layoffs are factored in, employers hired more employees each month of 2021 than people left. Labor markets remain disrupted, as millions of job openings remain unfilled due to talent shortages and lower-than-pre-pandemic labor force participation rates.
The same holds true globally. In the U.K., a survey predicted the majority of employers planned to hire during the early months of 2021. It also reported the number of firms planning to make redundancies dropped from previous periods. Talent shortages are expected in countries across Europe, Asia and Australia.
In short, the data suggest that companies can do more to attract workers as well as retain them.
In this environment, leaders strive to be “net talent gainers,” hiring more employees than they lose and focusing on why people join and stay as well as why they leave. They create value propositions and employee experiences to drive success, setting their organizations apart by:
A recent Microsoft study confirms employees want the best of both worlds when it comes to workplace flexibility, with over 70% of workers desiring flexible remote work options to continue, and over 65% seeking more in-person time with their teams. As organizations get real about remote and hybrid work, they learn that those able to provide workers with the flexibility to work where and when they want enjoy significant competitive advantage in talent access over less flexible peers. Research shows 85% of U.S. employees who worked remotely during the pandemic prefer to work either remotely or in hybrid arrangements permanently. They want the ability to choose and are seeking employment opportunities that allow them to do so.
According to one study, approximately one in five employees reported leaving their jobs in 2020 due to pay and benefits concerns, with unsatisfactory pay being the top reason. At the same time, workers’ wages are rising at the fastest pace in years, due largely to structural shifts in labor markets, talent supply challenges and potential inflation.Research shows 72% of companies are updating pay and benefits programs in 2021 to address multiple challenges. Net talent gainers ensure that pay is competitive and fair in shifting post-pandemic labor markets, not only for new hires but also existing employees. They continue to modernize and personalize their health benefits, and recognize savings and retirement are a top priority of employees, increasing their focus to further strengthen employees’ financial security.
During 2020 and 2021, employees and organizations have demonstrated resiliency in light of significant challenges. At the same time, research shows a decline in physical, emotional, financial and social wellbeing. For example, more than 55% of employees reported moderate to high levels of anxiety in 2020; younger employees were three times more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety or depression than other groups. Employees reported feeling disconnected and the deterioration of workplace social connections has created productivity and stress challenges that can hamper performance. With direct connection between employee wellbeing and business outcomes, net talent gainers focus on efforts to drive resiliency through efforts that consider workload, time off, counseling, behavioral and mental health assistance, as well as financial wellbeing support and continuous skilling and development. They know healthy employees drive healthy organizations.
Research also shows that issues surrounding culture, values, and purpose differentiate net talent gainers. Leaders who start with purpose create continuity in company culture while business models and daily operations disrupt and transform. They stress values, emphasizing what differentiates them from other organizations. They drive healthy company mindset around characteristics such as agility, tolerance for risk taking, innovation, safety (physical and psychological), wellbeing, fairness, dignity and belonging that are needed to support growth and drive high performance. They create diverse and inclusive environments where employee voices are heard and respected. Data suggest organizations with such transformative employee experiences are far more likely to report lower turnover than those who lack such definition.
Net talent gainers play both talent offense and defense by creating an environment where people want to be, offering value propositions that appeal to employees from the moment of onboarding through their career lifecycle. Employees, in turn, value their experiences and are more likely to join or stay.
A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.com on July 28, 2021.