The “Great Resignation” or mass exit of employees from the workforce in 2021 and 2022 is not just a labor trend. It's a larger social movement driven by rapid technological change, the pandemic, and a shift in collective priorities that challenges values and beliefs about work. Gen Zers and new professionals are arriving at work with different sets of expectations than previous generations. Workers of all demographics are struggling to navigate the constant changes to work environments associated with the pandemic.
Experienced employees are leaving the traditional workforce in pursuit of alternative forms of income that better accommodate their desire for autonomy over their time, increased pay and personal and professional development . As companies look to attract and retain top talent, workers have a better opportunity than ever before to strategically negotiate their benefits, salaries, and working conditions.
Florida International University’s College of Business (FIU Business) gathered an expert panel to address the renegotiation potential offered by the Great Resignation in the latest installment of FIU’s Master of Science in Human Resources program’s Is My Mic On? lecture series. William Hardin , interim dean of FIU Business, Maribel Diz, senior vice president of human resources at Visa, Matt Arsenault, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Baptist Health South Florida, Maureen Shea, CEO of Right Management – Florida/Caribbean, and moderator Marc Weinstein, director of the FIU Master of Science in Human Resources program, discussed how workers and companies can meet in the middle to fill labor shortages and adapt to new cultural ideals surrounding work.
The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the wave of resignations and consequently hiring opportunities is still going strong. November 2021 saw quits reach an all-time high at 4.5 million, up 370,000 from October, and quits increased in accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, transportation, warehousing and utilities. As workers continue to resign, seek alternative employment, or pursue entrepreneurship or other sources of income, companies are eager to fill labor shortages.
“For the first time in 60 years, the positive employment outlook is off the charts. 57% of companies plan to hire. Growth is expected across all 11 industries,” said Maureen Shea. “Everyone is looking to hire, [but] how do we fill all these positions?”
One key path forward for companies looking to hire will be providing working conditions aligned with the long term wants and needs of workers. Generally, workers want more flexible schedules and better benefits - insurance (medical, dental, vision, life, etc.), paid vacation leave, personal leave, sick leave, child care, retirement benefits and planning services, etc. Incorporation of hybrid, remote, and in-office (when possible) working arrangement options and more comprehensive benefits packages that include mental and physical wellness treatment plans are vital to retain and attract employees.
Furthermore, younger workers are more entrepreneurial than previous generations, and older generations may need help planning for retirement. Companies need to consider these desires and adjust benefits and hiring packages accordingly for successful employee retention strategies. Organizations must ask themselves: How can we help younger generations professionally develop in ways that are significant to them? How can we help older generations best prepare for a graceful and lucrative exit from the workforce? Most importantly, how can organizational internal leadership give employees guidance and show them they’re valued in these unprecedented times?
“The Pandemic has been an example of what sociologists are now referring to as ‘the collective trauma’,” explained Maribel Diz. “When we look at these up and coming diverse generations like Zoomers (Gen Z and Millennials), they’ve just never been educated on how to cope with this. Winning companies are going to train leaders on how to embrace this new reality [and] how to care for your employees.”
Panelist Matt Arsenault with Baptist Health South Florida echoed the importance and positive impact of training leaders to meet expectations.
“Our leaders are expected to be great leaders so we invest heavily to help them be great leaders,” said Arsenault. “We’ve been making investments in leadership development and leadership coaching. I think it’s paid great dividends not only in retention but also in the culture of the organization and a happier workforce.”
Keeping your workforce happy has always been important, but companies are realizing that the value of their workforce extends well beyond the bottom line. The technological advancements partially driving the Great Resignation provide opportunities for skilled and experienced employees at all levels to pursue alternative sources of income such as freelancing, entrepreneurship, social media and contract work.
If companies aren’t willing to offer these high-quality professionals the pay, work arrangements, benefits and clear paths of advancement they desire, it’s easier now than ever for professionals to walk away. Successful companies must shift their perspective from "what can the worker do for us" to "how can we help our team succeed” and “how can we show our staff we know and value their worth” to retain employees.
“We’re dealing with very sophisticated candidate(s) nowadays. As organizations, we need to buy the talent at what they’re worth,” said Maribel Diz.
As organizations, we need to buy the talent at what they’re worth.
Companies in the public sector may not be able to directly increase salary to meet a potential candidate’s desire, but other incentives such as comprehensive benefits packages, supportive and efficient work environments and ladder programs for entry-level employees to advance their careers and salaries help demonstrate an organization’s commitment to its employees professional development and job satisfaction.
“People choose [FIU] because we have a great benefits package and we are mission-driven,” said William Hardin, the FIU Business interim dean.
To hear directly from the panelists about negotiation of compensation and benefits and how companies can increase retention rates, view the entire event recording in the video below.
Event Recording and Summary
How companies can best retain and attract top talent:
- Understand different generations’ and demographics’ needs in terms of professional development, flexible working arrangements, retirement goals and guidance from leadership
- Offer current market-rate compensation - buy the talent at what they’re worth
- Offer comprehensive benefits packages including paid vacation and sick leave, child care assistance, extensive insurance options, retirement savings, etc.
- Invest in properly training internal leadership to care about and guide employees
- Introduce clear paths for internal career advancement for current and future employees