It’s an Employee’s Market, Here’s How to Keep Them

Have employees ever had this much leverage?

Employers are struggling to fill jobs in the wake of “The Great Resignation.” There were a record number of U.S. job openings in June – over 10 million – as nearly four million Americans quit in that month alone, reflecting confidence they can find better positions and places to work.

Many employers are having to compete for workers by offering attractive signing bonuses, higher pay, better benefits, and remote work flexibility. But company leaders, whether they are trying to recruit top talent or retain it, must be cognizant that doing either successfully depends on much more than an attractive compensation package and big raises, says Kathleen Quinn Votaw, the author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work.

“The role of leaders in recruitment and retention has been changing,” says Quinn Votaw, CEO of TalenTrust, a strategic recruiting and human capital consulting firm. “People want different things from you now. A paycheck is not enough on any level.

“It comes down to work culture, and leaders set the tone for that. Leaders who hold onto outdated management styles like top-down control or distrust of anyone working from home will lose some of their best employees. Today, you can count on the fact that top talent is evaluating your values, leadership style, and your level of commitment to putting people first. These are the things that determine whether people stay with you or go.”

The global pandemic, Quinn Votaw says, has increased the importance employees place on work-life balance, more flexibility, and stronger connection with leadership. Deloitte’s 2021 Human Capital Trends report shows that many executives believe workers will gain greater independence and influence relative to their employers in the future.

“In this type of market, workers have a lot of leverage,” says Deloitte CEO Joe Ucuzoglu.

Quinn Votaw offers three ways for leaders to create a culture where workers want to stay and one that new talent wants to join.

  • Emphasize communication and recognition. “When people feel underappreciated for their contributions, it’s impossible to have a positive employee experience,” Quinn Votaw says. Increasing recognition, along with prioritizing open and transparent communication, she says, “build the strong connections and trusting relationships that employees want most.”
  • Nurture a healthy work-life balance. Putting a higher priority on productivity than the well-being of employees leads to disengagement, burnout, and turnover. Research by Robert Half finds that 70 percent of employees say they’ve been working on weekends and working more hours than they did before the pandemic, yet 51 percent of them worry that their manager doubts their productivity when working from home. “Who can blame them for looking for new opportunities in happier, healthier, more trusting work environments?” Quinn Votaw says. “Give employees manageable workloads and the flexibility to get the job done in a way that fits their life holistically.”
  • Listen and take meaningful action. Quinn Votaw says turnover prevention boils down to understanding what your people need. “Employees have complained for decades that leaders are terrible at making needed changes in response to their feedback,” she says. “Today’s employees won’t put up with lip service. Act on their feedback quickly so they know you are listening and understand that they are valued.”

“People want leaders who listen to them, trust them, show patience and humility, and support and empower them,” Quinn Votaw says. “Retaining your talent means creating an amazing, positive, inclusive culture where everyone is paid fairly, appreciated, and able to grow.”

Kathleen Quinn Votaw () is the CEO of TalenTrust, a strategic recruiting and human capital consulting firm. She is the author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work. Regarded as a key disruptor in her industry, Quinn Votaw has helped thousands of companies across multiple industries develop purpose-based, inclusive communities that inspire employees to come to work. Her company has been recognized in the Inc. 5000.

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