Updated: May 26
Original Post: June 6, 2018 - Updated: March 9, 2021
Before 2020, studies and surveys focusing on employee engagement found money wasn't the main reason people left their jobs. In his 2012 book, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, Leigh Branham found that, while 89% of bosses believed people quit because they were seeking more money, only 12% of employees actually cited money as their main reason for leaving.
What’s the reality in 2021?
After a year of constant change, challenge and uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people — thankful just to be working at all — haven chosen to stay in their jobs, and the Society of Human Resources Management found quit rates in the United States reached their lowest level in nine years in April 2020.
But an Eagle Hill Consulting COVID-19 Employee Burnout survey conducted in late 2020 by Ipsos finds “one in four U.S. employees plans to leave their employer as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. That number is even higher for Millennials and employees with children at home in remote learning situations, with one in three planning to jump ship once the pandemic is over.”
And according to the 11th annual Hays Salary Guide, released in October 2020, 49% of Canadian employees are seriously considering leaving their current role — a nine-point jump over last year.
What’s Driving Employee Unhappiness In 2021?
In the Hays Salary Guide noted above, Canadian employees named reduced social interaction, increased workloads and a lack of well-being and mental health support among their reasons for dissatisfaction on the job.
In their 2021 Global Culture Report, the O.C. Tanner Learning Group found that burnout has increased by 15% during COVID-19, and engagement has decreased by 11%.
According to Eagle Hill Consulting: “employees who report burnout are four times more likely to leave their organization after the pandemic is over compared to colleagues who are not burnt out (37 percent vs. 10 percent).”
What Will Drive Engagement In 2021?
A global study conducted in late 2020 by Qualtrics identified a new driver of employee engagement: a sense of belonging. In fact, the sense of belonging ranked higher than typical drivers like trust in leadership and ability for career growth. And, Qualtrics says, they expect this desire for belonging to not only grow, but to completely reshape the employee experience.
“In order for employees to feel like they belong, employers must demonstrate they care with actions,” says Thivia Mogan, a scientist with Qualtrics, in a quote on the company’s blog. “Treating employees with respect, taking action on their feedback, and recognizing their contributions are ways to show employees that they matter.”
Acknowledge The Power Of Recognition
There are many ways to recognize these contributions, and they go beyond salary, medical benefits, bonuses, vacations, pension contributions and other ‘premium’ benefits:
A simple compliment or acknowledgement of a job well done.
A formal acknowledgement (an award or mention in a newsletter, blog or tweet).
Employee perks and reward programs.
Extra holiday days tacked to a long weekend.
And while long-standing perks such as team-building events, treating employees to meals or providing tickets to a game are not possible today because of the pandemic — even working from home, once considered a perk but now much more mainstream due to COVID19 — the most important aspect of any recognition is the human aspect. In fact, the 2021 Global Culture Report found 70% of employees say recognition is most meaningful when it is personalized.
In a recent Forbes article, writer David Sturt says, “If there was ever a time for an authentic expression of personal appreciation to employees, this is it. A handwritten note recognizing an individual’s sacrifices, contributions and successes during 2020 is something that will be kept and remembered for years … . [Be] thoughtful and specific about the impact a team member has made at work this past year, and point to more encouraging opportunities for greater success this year.”
Do Recognition And Perk Programs Work?
Past research shows 84% of U.S. businesses offer employees some form of non-cash incentive awards including incentive travel, merchandise, gift cards, and award points (Incentive Federation).
The best thing about these types of programs is they can be offered at a relatively low cost per employee and are typically easy to implement. Discount and employee reward programs are generally ‘plug and play.’ New employees are brought online as they join, and people can take advantage of offers independently – without the involvement of your HR team.
In research conducted by staffing firm Robert Half for its 2021 Robert Half Salary Guides, the five most popular perks currently are flexible work schedules, remote work options, paid parental leaves, paid time off for volunteering, and employee discounts on a wide range of purchases.
Employers are seeing the results of these efforts. According to one 2018 survey, 89% of HR professionals believe that recognition programs contribute to a better worker experience.
Putting Perks To Work
With employee burn-out, COVID vaccinations and employee turnover all projected to rise — and compared to the costs of replacing and retraining team members, or adding costly benefits — simple acts of appreciation and low-cost perks can go a long way when it comes to keeping your people happy. And they may be all the added incentive employees need to stay put.
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