When we talk about the Great Retention, we first need to talk about the Great Resignation—an economic trend in which employees are voluntarily resigning from their jobs en masse.
In North America, we saw an average of 3.95 million workers quit their jobs each month in 2021. These jobs spanned industries including education, healthcare, hospitality, retail, food services, transportation and manufacturing.
This disruption will continue in the foreseeable future, with 73 per cent of CEOs anticipating work shortages to disrupt their business over the next 12 months, according to stats provided by Cisco.
The Great Resignation
“Sixty-five per cent of employees said that they’re looking for a new job for one reason or another,” said Justin Fields, Cisco business development manager for hybrid work/SASE, during the webinar. Maybe it’s because they want more pay or more flexibility; maybe they want to work from home in a different city or part of the country.
“The why is very important. It gives us the data points so that we can counter it,” he said. Some of reasons why employees are leaving or considering leaving include:
- a toxic mix of low pay, high workloads and a broader lack of recognition
- frustration with technology, slow performance and/or poor application experience
- lack of control over workspaces and processes
- lack of work/life balance
- lack of team engagement
What does all of this mean? It means there are plenty of open positions and not enough people to fill them. It means companies are facing high turnover with an inability to back-fill. It means they might have to shift or reduce their operating hours. And it means those who haven’t quit could be facing burnout.
The Great Retention
Fields happens to be one of these statistics. In early 2021 he was exploring the job market before he landed at Cisco. For him, it was important to be part of a corporate culture that embraced his skill sets. But he was worried that he’d feel left out of that corporate culture because he was working remotely.
“I’ve done countless training sessions, team meetings and team-building activities that make me feel a part of the culture,” he said. “In fact, our next team-building event is a hot sauce sampling event—everyone is getting shipped a sample set of spicy sauces.”
Flexibility means more than just technology, said Fields. But technology plays a significant role in setting up clear work/life boundaries and creating a more level playing field.
“Our tools also need to be able to go where we are, or go where we’re going, whether it be at home, or in the office or at a coffee shop. We need to embrace technology for all of these things that we do: training, team building, happy hours,” he said.
It’s important for companies to encourage employees to take breaks and establish a regular working rhythm—and to remind them that they’re valued for their ability to meet goals and exceed expectations, wherever they may be.
“We want to ensure that people at home are not overlooked for stretch assignments or promotion opportunities,” said Fields. “Outdated success metrics, like how many hours one puts in, needs to be refocused on results and impact.”
Diversity and inclusion
In such a hot job market, we’re going to see a lot of turnover. That means we’ll need more diverse, inclusive workforces—not tied down by geographic barriers. Such a workforce may include contingent workers, part-time workers, flexible workers and micro-workers.
“The office is the new offsite amenity. When you think about it, the office is now a place you go when you need it, not necessarily all the time. And in this world of hybrid work, it changes the expectation around what the office has to possess—this idea that the office needs to offer something that I can’t get working remotely,” said Mark Miller, director of Cisco’s Collaboration Center of Excellence, who leads hybrid work initiatives.
Companies need to manage this notion of time to competency—meaning, how quickly people can become productive once they’re hired. “We need to make sure that we create work environments that are supportive to get people competent in a much shorter period of time. I think technology plays a really, really interesting role in making that happen,” said Miller.
First and foremost, pick the right tools that give your employees the ability to be flexible and work from anywhere. “We want to change the norm of what was once done in-person,” said Fields.
But he cautions against becoming Big Brother. “We know that there’s technology out there that can watch every single keystroke or everything that we’re doing. Let’s get away from screen-time and move towards results-driven performance,” he said.
“And always remember, work is about what you do, not where you are. Let’s let technology do the heavy lifting and make your employees feel supported.”