Turnover Tsunami

A tsunami is not just one wave — it’s a series of waves caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or other underwater explosions. Worse yet, the first wave is often not the deadliest. Tsunami waves tend to get stronger as the wave train moves farther onto land.

Let’s think about this from an employers’ perspective and the expectations for a “turnover tsunami” in 2021.

Several recent surveys reveal that up to 52% of employees say they’re ready for a new job opportunity.

Why now? Unemployment, stimulus checks, and vaccines have made it easier for many Americans to take a desperately needed break, practice their deep yoga breathing and reevaluate their options for employment. As the economy and labor market get healthier, so do the opportunities to move to another employer.

Feeling undervalued and pandemic-related burnout (PRB) are among the main reasons employees are willing to leave their current employer. There are many factors at play in the consideration according to Forbes, Axios, and SHRM: pandemic stress and uncertainty, working long hours, working from home, lack of trust, disengagement, rewards and recognition, and in one of the most discouraging findings, at least for my People and Culture (aka HR) colleagues, a lack of HR advocacy. Employees are also looking for new opportunities to work remotely and more desirable places to live.

Employees are not only thinking about why they do what they do but also who they work for and where they physically work. People want to be closer to family and friends, aging parents, grandchildren, or where they grew up. A geographic redistribution of the workforce began during the pandemic, and it will continue long after it is over. The chart below shows where some of the movement is occurring.

Top Ten States for Job Growth in the US for April 2021 (non-farm) – source ASU Sideman Institute using BLS data:

The tsunami warning systems have already sounded. Company leaders and HR professionals need to address the reasons employees leave for other workplaces.

  • Prepare and adapt.
  • Conduct a workforce planning (organizational) assessment.
  • Listen and communicate sincerely to your team about company culture and needs.
  • Care and advocate.
  • Acknowledge employee value, resilience, and flexibility.
  • Survey your current employees to find out what is working and what is not.
  • Ensure you are on top of your industry’s market trends.
    • Identify shortcomings and create action plans to address them.
      • Incorporate feedback to determine ways to care and advocate for your team.
  • Be innovative in your recruiting and cultivating talent.
    • Upskill — Identify and foster new skills for the open roles.
    • Reskill.
    • Train.
    • Draw from different pools than those you’ve used in the past.
    • Embrace different perspectives on how to make work and processes better.
  • Undertake stay interviews
  • Look at and adjust your total rewards package to meet the needs of your workforce now and in the future. This includes all the tools available to attract, motivate and retain employees – compensation, benefits, work-life quality, career development, etc. Pay your people fairly.
    • Consider raises or bonuses because the ROI is worthwhile.
    • Recognize employees for the work they do.
  • Create a workplace that is hard to resist.
    • 70% of workers want flexible work options to continue.
    • 65% continue to want more in-person time with their colleagues.
      • Enhance collaboration for employees regardless of location — get creative.
      • Ensure equitable opportunities.
  • Have a holistic approach to well-being.
    • Understand “personal” issues can impact the ability to function professionally.
    • Separate boxes cannot exist for the personal and professional.
    • It is an unrealistic expectation of employees and colleagues that they thrive professionally while struggling personally.
  • Trust your employees to complete what needs to be done.

Climb to higher ground. Avoid the stronger later waves (long-term effect) of the turnover tsunami by lessening their impact upfront. Be holistic in your approach to well-being, be proactive and honest, ask your employees questions, listen to what they have to say, be flexible/adaptable, diligent, creative, and trusting. By heeding this advice, you will set your organization up for success over the long haul and mitigate the havoc 2021’s “turnover tsunami” is sure to wreak on employers across the country. Employers Council can help; click here for resources.