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Attract, Not Transact: How Employers and Employees can be better Aligned


The Great Resignation is not yet over. Despite the recession, rising inflation, and growing uncertainties unraveled by the pandemic, many are still considering to quit this 2022. In fact, one in five workers is “likely to switch to a new employer”, according to a March 2022 survey of consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). And Gen Z workers are leading the charge.

Most of the 52,000 survey participants say that aside from fair pay, finding their job “fulfilling” and feeling they can “truly be [themselves]” at work are the most important factors when they think of switching jobs. These findings support an earlier survey of consulting firm McKinsey in September 2021, which reveals employers’ failure to invest in a more fulfilling employee experience is costing them their business.

Senior executives continue to struggle with understanding why their employees are leaving, and so the Great Resignation continues. McKinsey’s survey findings reveal more about this glaring misalignment between employers’ and employees’ expectations. In the employers’ survey, participants cite “compensation, work-life balance, and poor physical and emotional health” as the main reasons why they think their staff quit. In the employees’ survey, however, those factors were only secondary. The foremost reasons they would want to quit include not feeling valued by the organization or managers, and not feeling a sense of belonging at work.

For McKinsey, this highlights how “employees were far more likely to prioritize relational factors, whereas employers were more likely to focus on transactional ones.” The finding also underscores the importance of including employees in the conversation when it comes to making critical changes at work.

How to better understand your employees

So how can employers better understand and retain the most prized talents in their organizations? McKinsey suggests senior executives to ask themselves important questions like the following, and reflect on the answers at every point:

“Do we shelter toxic leaders?” “Do we have the right people in the right places?”

McKinsey says not having the right leaders at the right places can be “damaging”, especially in hybrid environments. Organizations must be equipped with managers who can inspire and lead with compassion in a difficult time such as now.

“Is our work environment transactional?” “Are our benefits aligned with employee priorities?”

Compensation can still influence workers’ decision-making process when it comes to their jobs. But for McKinsey, responding to attrition with a higher paycheck is “unwittingly” telling staff that an organization’s relationship with them is “transactional.” 

Human resource executives are also starting to find that raising wages is no longer enough to keep their staff from quitting, or switching to a competitor. Executives must instead ensure that employee benefits are still aligned with their teams’ priorities. 

45% of the employees McKinsey surveyed cite demands of family care as one of the factors in their decision to switch jobs. Expanding healthcare benefits may then be an improvement organizations can take to ensure retention. 

“Employees want career paths and development opportunities. Can we provide it?”

McKinsey reiterates that employees desire recognition and development. These don’t just come in the form of promotions, but also through additional progression levels within employees’ current roles. These allow employees to feel they are progressing even without a big change in job titles. 

PwC also suggests that managers empower their people by investing in upskilling them and giving them “greater autonomy” over their work. This allows employees to stretch their skill set, and give them the confidence to speak up more at work. Employees who have specialized skills are also more likely to recommend their employer as a place of work.  

Turning the Great Resignation into a great opportunity

Every crisis is an opportunity to make changes. These evidence-based survey findings and insights underline the need for organizations to take reflective steps to ensure their business survives future headwinds.

These points also highlight the importance of collaborating with employees. Letting employees speak and listening to them intently can be beneficial learning experiences for both employer and employee. And by understanding each employee and their individual needs, organizations can determine the specific steps they must take to turn the Great Resignation into an opportunity for transformational change.

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