Resignations are at record highs. In 2021, over 38 million U.S. employees quit their jobs—and that trend shows no signs of stopping in 2022.
Some people are leaving because they’re tired of constant change and ambiguity, while others are looking for better balance and wellbeing. Ultimately, employees’ reasons for quitting vary, but the bottom line is the same: they want to escape environments that leave them feeling demotivated and deflated.
Employee turnover isn’t inevitable. In a 2019 Gallup survey, 52% of employees who quit their job said their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from quitting. But if you’re a manager, what exactly can you do to retain top talent during the height of this mass exodus? The answer: focus on actions that will re-energize employees. Here are six research-backed tips to help you get started.
1. Let people pick when and where
In 2021, Ernst & Young found that 54% of employees would leave their jobs post-pandemic if they didn’t get a say in when and where they do their work. This isn’t a surprise--autonomy is proven to boost meaning and help people feel a greater sense of ownership over what they do. Increased flexibility also translates to higher employee wellbeing: when employees have the freedom to decide when and how to do their work, they’re 43% less likely to experience burnout.
So how can you offer your people more autonomy? First, stop micromanaging. Instead, whenever possible, allow flexibility by letting your employees decide on a work schedule that best suits them. For example, encourage your people to block off time on their calendars during the work day for heads down work or personal commitments.
Of course, in some workplaces, it’s not always possible to provide flexibility in terms of when and where people work. In this case, you can also boost autonomy by giving employees more choices about how to do their work. For example, if you’re a manager of a call center, let your people write their own call opening, or let them choose from a couple of options. Ultimately, providing choices—even small ones—will drive greater ownership and fulfillment at work.
2. Make a big deal of landmark moments
Gratitude plays a powerful role in driving motivation and retention. When employees’ accomplishments–even the small ones–are regularly acknowledged and celebrated by their manager, they feel more appreciated, respected, and driven to contribute to the company’s mission.
Keep in mind that recognition doesn’t have to be monetary—simple, genuine actions like sending a thank you card, taking your team out to lunch, or giving someone a shout-out during a group meeting can go a long way (studies suggest that recognition is most motivating when it’s made publicly).
The timing of recognition also matters. Research points to a “fresh start effect”, meaning kudos can be particularly impactful when they’re given at landmark moments like the start of the new year or the conclusion of a major client project.
3. Highlight the “why”
If employees don’t feel that their work matters, they’ll leave: our research shows that people who don’t feel their work contributes to their company’s mission are 630% more likely to quit their jobs than their peers who do.
To paint a clear picture of why your team’s work is important, set aside time in your next group meeting to ask each person: “What is one thing about our company’s mission that’s meaningful to you, and why?” And be prepared to share your own answer! Taking time for conversations like this will help your team see how their work efforts contribute to the broader mission.
4. Make your expectations crystal clear
Ambiguity is stressful: when employees don’t know what’s expected of them, they disengage and eventually quit. Our own research finds that people who don’t feel like they have clear, achievable goals are 6.2x more likely to leave their company than those who do.
To reduce ambiguity, consistently communicate your expectations. Consider holding a brief 5-10 minute team “huddle” on Mondays to discuss each person’s responsibilities for the week. Also be sure to leave time for your employees to ask questions so that they can get further clarification if needed.
5. Explain your decision-making process
People are willing and able to put in effort at work only when they feel respected, valued, and included. By respecting your people in this way, they’ll trust you more and will be more motivated to stick around: our research finds that people who feel decisions are made in a fair and unbiased manner are 5.8x more likely to stay.
A key aspect of respecting your team is to keep them in the loop about important decisions. Try this: each time you make a decision that will impact your team, reserve 5 minutes during the next team meeting to walk through why you arrived at the decision that you did. For instance, if you decide that it’s best for your hybrid team to come into the office on a specific day of the week, don’t just tell them that’s a new requirement, share the reasoning behind your decision. And be sure to ask for their feedback (both before and after the decision is made) to ensure they have a say.
6. Be a growth and development champion
Employees who feel their managers offer them growth opportunities are 7.9x more motivated to stay at their organization. To help your people learn in the flow of their work, try this: the next time an employee comes to you with a new idea or solution, build up their suggestion instead of tearing them down. Ask, “What would we need to implement your suggestion?” or “What’s the best way to quickly test a version of that idea?” This will not only give them a boost and help them achieve greater impact at work through their ideas, but it will also drive more creativity and innovation among your team.
By taking these simple actions, you’ll boost motivation among your team, turning the “great resignation” into a “great reinvigoration”.