If you have not yet heard about the “Great Resignation”, that is probably a good thing. In the best of circumstances, that would be because you have a stable and sustainable rate of attrition at the current time. Employers across Canada, however, are experiencing abnormal rates of employee voluntary attrition unlike anything we have seen in the last few decades.
The pandemic has no doubt created business challenges across most industries, and with so many unemployed or displaced workers over the last 24 months, many have made career choices to adapt during this turbulent time, and with recovery here or on the horizon for many, moved on to new career options or opportunities.
In the Stats Canada Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, they are reporting that the labour force participation rate—that is, the share of the population aged 15 and older who are either employed or unemployed—was 65.3% in April 2022. Excluding a dip in January 2022, the participation rate has hovered around its pre-COVID-19 February 2020 level since September 2021. One can draw a conclusion that it is therefore not unavailability of labour causing elevated job vacancies and attrition – so what is driving the difficulties employers are facing in finding, and keeping staff?
WHAT ARE THE DRIVERS?
With reopening and greater job confidence, employees who have been “sheltering in job” during the instabilities of 2020 and 2021 are now making their move
Increasing retirement rates where vacancies are continuously being created in more senior positions, allowing employees to jump at opportunities that allows them to advance in their careers
The “Great Resignation” is driving up salaries and hourly rates of pay as employers fight for a shifting workforce. Some employers are trying to keep pace while others are not, or cannot. With high and ever-increasing rates of inflation on everything from gas, groceries, housing, and essential goods, higher-paying jobs are pretty attractive to many
Employees having the opportunity to move from hourly, shift worker, service-type positions to more attractive or stable roles
Some employers are panic hiring (warm body syndrome), filling roles with employees who are perhaps not the right fit, and unlikely to stay for any significant period of time (voluntarily or involuntarily)
Employees are examining the growth potential of prospective workplaces, and improved policies and supervisor-employee relations, because they can
Those seeking greater workplace flexibility, and a work culture that values the wellbeing of employees
With businesses realizing they do not need office space to function (where it was possible), employees are seeking roles that offer remote work or hybrid models as the new way of working
Stats Canada also reports that recruiting skilled employees was expected to be an obstacle over the next three months for nearly two-fifths (36.9%) of all businesses, led by those in construction (49.5%), manufacturing (47.4%), and accommodation and food services (46.3%). In addition, shortage of labour force was expected to be an obstacle for over one-third (35.0%) of businesses, while retaining skilled employees was expected to be an obstacle for over one-quarter (27.6%). According to workforce analytics company, Visier, across North America, two industries that have seen the highest number of resignations over pre-pandemic averages are (1) high-tech industries with a 4.5% increase and (2) the healthcare industry with a 3.61% increase.
So now that we have established what is driving the current state and the forward-looking labour market conditions, what can employers do to lessen the impact?
WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO?
The easy answer is to tell employers to carefully look at the list of drivers in this article and assess if they are drivers in your workplace or have the potential to be - and address them. It is always best to assess this from the perspective of others, especially your workforce.
Perform exit interviews on all departing employees to better understand why they are leaving and what could have made them stay
More proactively, conduct interviews, focus groups, or even surveys with current staff to gauge their likelihood of staying with your organization, and what is causing them to think about leaving
If compensation is proven to be a driver, when was the last time you did a formal or informal benchmark compensation review and adjusted your compensation strategy?
Consider if your supervisors and managers need skills development to be stronger leaders, or even how to notice the signs of a potentially departing team member and how to take action if they do
Does your company have an early talent strategy that seeks to forecast and plan for filling future requirements (vs. filling current vacancies)?
Use reopening as an opportunity to a fresh start and rethink what you want your culture to be
Align your policies and practices to be employee-friendly and support your desired workplace culture, and
Most importantly, have a plan focused on attraction, retention, and employee engagement so that you have everyone pointed in the same direction on strategies to make your workplace where employees want to come, grow, stay and participate.
Reach out to the specialists at TAP Strategy & HR Consulting to help you navigate your attraction and retention challenges, all while building employee commitment and business success.
This article also contains links to our sister company TAP Institute, your learning and development, coaching, and team effectiveness specialists.
Bruce Weippert is the co-founder and president of TAP Strategy & HR Consulting, a boutique-style management consulting firm specializing in strategy, HR services and Helping Businesses Succeed.