OPINION10 May 2022

Retention: The antidote to the great resignation

Opinion Trends Wellbeing

The competition for talent is intensifying and retaining the best people is not as simple as offering a hybrid working environment and a hefty salary. Not only have the needs of customers changed since Covid-19, but so have those of employees, as Econsultancy's Richard Breeden explains.

Two cogs with the words,

While a skills shortage seems to have put employees in the driving seat, employers have the power to take control and mitigate against ‘the great resignation’ – an increasingly favoured media term. Currently, twice as many brands are looking to outsource talent rather than growing their own, thereby missing out on huge untapped potential right on their doorstep, and this is driving employees away.

The great resignation analysed

In the first six months of 2021, LinkedIn saw marketing job vacancies increase by 63%, with a clear skew toward digital specialist skillsets, and job openings hit 11.3 million by the start of this year. With 87% of businesses now facing a talent shortage, we must ask ourselves what is fuelling the apparently growing number of resignations, as well as scrutinising the stats.

From 2009-2019, the average monthly quit rate in the US increased by 0.1% each year ( 2020 was as an anomaly due to the pandemic). In 2021 there was an inevitable pent-up demand for change, as people were finally able to move on from the roles they would have left earlier if not for Covid. But, according to research, ‘the great resignation’ really isn’t that great – in fact, the jump in the number of staff leaving follows the average trajectory of resignations over time.  

The challenge to find and keep top talent has undeniably been heightened by the pandemic, however, not only prompting many to re-evaluate their priorities around career and location, but accelerating the need for a smooth ecommerce offering and an omnichannel experience. The 168-hour week was born as the new way customers interact with brands.

Companies in every sector have had to fast track their digital transformation to keep up with these needs, increasing the pressure to access the right digital skills to continue to stay ahead of competitors and remain relevant.

To this end, companies must provide clear opportunities for employees to upskill, gain promotion, address new challenges, use the experience they have built up within the company, contribute to the wider purpose of the organisation and know that they are being listened to.

Finding the right levers

The skills needed to succeed in today’s workplace are shifting rapidly and the total number of skills required are increasing by 10% year on year – because customers and buyers are undergoing rapid digital transformation, so must employees. According to a 2021 US survey by Gallup, commissioned by Amazon, upskilling is becoming a sought-after employee benefit, with 48% of American workers saying they would switch to a new job if it offered skills training opportunities. It is the responsibility of the employer to respond to this need to avoid employees looking elsewhere for learning opportunities.

So, what are these skills that are most in demand when looking for an antidote? Research points to the top five skills gaps in marketing departments as data analytics, content and copy writing, performance marketing, social media and ecommerce. After the rapid acceleration in digital transformation, it is no accident that these are all digital skills. 

Moving forward companies must think more broadly – about how to support their employees in growing their mindsets, enabling people to think critically and embrace change to collaborate. Nowhere can this effort, and the fruits of its labour, be seen more clearly than at Microsoft. CEO Satya Nadella moved the company and all his people from the mantra of ‘know it all’, ‘to learn it all’ – and Microsoft’s stock price boomed as a result.

In addition to upskilling, internal mobility is giving a real edge to retention. According to LinkedIn’s Global Workplace Learning report, employees are staying 41% longer at companies that hire internally compared to those that don’t. HR and L&D departments must increasingly partner to understand existing skillsets, address the gaps and build robust internal mobility progress.

Companies must look at adopting these strategies to form part of their essential corporate ethos because if you retain existing staff, you will retain immediate institutional knowledge and problem-solving networks. In addition, you'll have the ability to form solutions that will excite the customer much faster.

The pandemic has made people revaluate their relationship with many things around them, not least the way they want to spend the largest part of their day. Modern hybrid companies focus on customer experience to drive loyalty, so maybe it’s time to adopt the same technique for employers. 

This means your employer brand must align with the new needs of your staff – be that around purpose, culture, training, promotion and recognition, or work/life balance.

Richard Breeden is managing director of Econsultancy, which is part of the Xeim Group, owned by Centaur Media. Breeden has more than 20 years’ experience in ecommerce and business transformation, having worked across numerous B2B and B2C sectors. He has held leadership roles at Ascential, DMGT and Universal Music Group, both in the UK and the Middle East. He also founded the ecommerce retailer EBTM in 2005 and has an MBA from Imperial College Business School.