Since the onset of the pandemic, the Big Quit, or what economists have termed ‘the Great Resignation’, has been a prominent trend in the labour market with employees voluntarily leaving their jobs at higher rates than seen before. In the UK, around 2.9% of the workforce have quit their jobs in the past few months, whilst 38% of surveyed workers plan on quitting in the next six months to a year, despite it being a time of financial uncertainty and employers complaining of labour shortages.
This has indicated a sharp, permanent shift in the workforce dynamic. The root cause of these shocking figures can be boiled down to two main factors. Firstly, the pandemic offered workers the time to reflect on the lack of fulfilment and exploitation they were enduring in their office static 9-5 jobs. For many, this signified a shift in priorities, with many chasing after a ‘dream job’ with more flexibility and independence from their employer. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the pandemic served as a reminder of the way in which employees want to be treated by employers, particularly in a time of global and personal difficulty. With firms struggling to maintain retention rates, it is therefore crucial to understand what junior and mid-career employees are looking for in their careers moving forward.
A common desire for junior employees has been that of ‘embeddedness’ in the workplace. This includes an individual’s compatibility with a company’s values and work culture. The pandemic, which served as a “turnover shock” for many, shed light on the social and human rights risks of corporations. For a majority of young employees, a firm’s social reputation is now more important than salary or prestige and is often a ground breaker in their job search.
This notion of turnover shock also relates to the relationships employees have with colleagues, as well as the sacrifices they make for their jobs. This includes how many hours employees work overtime, the mental wellbeing as well as the personal time they sacrifice in doing so. Simply put, junior employees no longer live to work, but instead value their individual time, values and wellbeing above the profit of their employer. It is important, therefore, that employees are not expected to sacrifice personal boundaries in the workplace. Companies such as Patagonia have increasingly understood the importance of this and have proven that this is key to maintaining junior talent.
Patagonia has been considered a part of the 100 best companies to work for, for over six years now, and has surprisingly maintained high retention rates even after the pandemic. The three attributes of Patagonia’s work culture that have made them successful as such are flexibility, work-life balance and their unique hiring process. Patagonia not only offers 15 different schedules for their warehouse employees and retail employees, but has also implemented a three day weekend every other week for their corporate employees.
This has meant that employees not only have happier and healthier personal lives, but this also bleeds into increased productivity at work and higher performing teams. Moreover, there is a conscious effort to ensure employees are not only good for business, but also that they are a good cultural fit for the office. This has resulted in Patagonia achieving a high-functioning team of happier and more fulfilled workers with a much lower intent-to-quit rate than would be expected of a business in 2021.
Simply put, in order to maintain retention rates, firms must look to make the following changes in the workplace; genuine work-life balance, work from home and schedule flexibility, and prioritisation of employee mental health over profit and productivity.
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