The Great Resignation made numerous headlines in 2021 and 2022, followed by the ‘Silent Quitting’ phenomenon which continued into 2023.
Both of which saw disgruntled employees suddenly resigning or doing the bare minimum on the job.
But while recent data shows this pandemic-era trend is now tapering off, there’s still a serious concern amongst CEOS about retaining top talent.
A 2023 Gallagher Organisational Wellbeing Report highlighted the top priority for organisations in 2024 was retaining their skilled workers, even above revenue.
Another study revealed that 61% of employers are struggling with retention, while Gallup data in June last year reported that almost 60% of 122, 416 global workers were not feeling engaged at work.
In South Africa, where businesses struggle daily with the cost of living crisis, the impact of load shedding, and logistics challenges, all of which impact business growth, the SA job market grows increasingly competitive as employees seek employers that can put their workplace needs above all else.
According to Nathalie Schooling, CEO of customer experience company, nlightencx, retaining top talent has always been a concern, but it’s now reached a critical point for company leaders and their business growth strategies.
“In our research with CEOs and executives last year, we asked what they feel impacts their customer experience the most. A recurring theme was skilled employees and retaining the talent needed to keep customers satisfied.
With things like remote and hybrid work, rising costs, work-life balance priorities, CEOs are feeling uncertain about the year ahead when it comes to keeping employees engaged, not to mention the heavy costs involved with losing staff,” Schooling said.
Studies show that losing an employee can cost a company one-half to two times the employee's salary.
The employer-employee relationship reset
The traditional employee-employer relationship whereby the employer has more power, has been waning since pre-pandemic days, with experts citing COVID as the tipping point for workers to reevaluate what they want out of their jobs. The shift in the working relationship is so significant that Gallup's global workplace report says that in 2024 employers and employees are heading for a relationship reset.
This is strongly driven by the concerning trend in the decrease in employees who feel connected to their company’s values and purpose, In fact, the millennial labour force, who make up the largest generation in the workforce, are said to quit their jobs due to a lack of meaning in their work, rather than leaving for more money.
According to Schooling, meaning and purpose in a job should come from the top down.
“A big part of the customer experience strategies we develop for companies is to look at how the employee experience is having a positive or negative impact on how workers interact with customers. When we speak to employees, a common issue that surfaces is poor leadership. More than 50% of the time, the feedback we get is that leadership is responsible for employees feeling demotivated, disengaged, and unsatisfied in their positions.”
“Just like an organisations customer expectations are always changing, so too are their employee expectations. Staff are looking for more than just a paycheck, they want to feel valued and be engaged in their work. This is where I believe leaders can step up in 2024.”
Five steps companies can take to retain top talent
Below, Schooling shares the areas in which companies can focus on to retain their talent:
Make your employee experience as important, if not more important than your digital and innovation strategies – oftentimes, companies get caught up in digitising offerings and implementing the latest technology. While this has its place, it can’t be at the expense of employee happiness.
Regular employee Insights – consider how often you ask your employees how they feel about the job, what could be done better, where they would like to see improvements etc.
Customer feedback – your customers can be an effective key in uncovering the cracks in the employee experience. Make gathering customer feedback an important and consistent part of your business strategy.
Training – this is a must if you want to hold onto your skilled workers. The research coming out of the pandemic years tells us that a top priority for employees is skills and career growth. Leaders need to empower their staff so they can grow as individuals, which in turn will provide value to the company.
Create a purpose-led culture – surprisingly, most employees aren’t even able to articulate their company’s mission and vision. If they don’t know why they are showing up each day, it’s tempting to find another organisation that can offer them more purpose.