Employers Delay Promotions Due to Pandemic

What’s the impact when nearly six in 10 U.S. employers put off promoting their top performers?

by Travis Laird

The pandemic put a pause on everything, including raises. In a recent study by professional staffing firm Robert Half, more than half of U.S. employers (59%) revealed that they put off promoting top performers due to COVID-19. In addition, nearly four in 10 U.S. workers surveyed (38%) confirmed that their careers had stalled since the start of the pandemic. They report feeling most “stuck” when it comes to salary growth (54%), career advancement (47%), ability to grow their professional network (47%) and skills development (44%).

Skilled and driven professionals are apt to make career moves in any environment — and drive up a company’s employee turnover rate. Top performers thrive on being recognized for excellent work. While some companies may not be able to offer immediate raises, they should consider other incentives to reward staff for their hard work. 

Key staff departures disrupt productivity, dampen morale and delay business growth. Employees want to feel challenged and appreciated — and they don’t want to be underpaid or stuck in a career rut. If their current job isn’t a source of fulfillment, they’ll likely search for employment elsewhere – and once turnover starts, it’s hard to stop. 

Here are some tips we offer our clients on the best retention strategies for their businesses:

Pay top performers well. If employers are not matching or exceeding what other companies are paying for similar work, companies will risk losing their most valued employees. 

Consider offering promotions without raises. They’re not ideal, but sometimes budgets are a limiting factor. Employees just starting out in their careers may be more focused on advancement and appreciate a bigger title, even if it doesn’t come with higher pay. 

Discuss career paths. It can be beneficial to take time to understand what each team member aspires to be or do in the organization, and then help them set those plans in motion.

Invest in professional development. Identifying opportunities to upskill staff will remain a key strategy for retaining a loyal, talented workforce that’s ready for the future.

Keep a pulse on employee well-being. Businesses should conduct surveys and meet with staff regularly to uncover issues that might impact their engagement and productivity, then adjust policies and processes as appropriate to meet employees’ ongoing needs. 

Reinforce the importance of employees’ work. It’s important to help employees see the connection between what they do and the company’s mission and business goals.  

Thirty-eight percent of workers nationwide say their career has stalled since the pandemic began.

From a high of 53% in Charlotte to a low of 21% in Minneapolis, Phoenix is fifth-high at 48%.

Breakdown by age, nationwide Percentage
18 – 24 66%
25 – 40  47%
41 – 54  27%
55+ 21%

Nearly one in three workers nationwide (32%) who experienced a shift in feelings toward work due to the pandemic want to pursue a more meaningful or fulfilling job.

Seventy-eight percent of managers nationwide worry about retaining top talent due to postponing promotions during the pandemic.From a high of 92% in Denver to a low of 65% in Miami, Phoenix is second lowest at 66%.

Travis Laird is regional vice president of Robert Half in Phoenix. Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. The company has more than 300 staffing locations worldwide and offers hiring and job search services.

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