In the early days of COVID-19, we heard a lot about how working practices were changing, probably forever. People would no longer want to crowd into the office every day. And employers would no longer need to pay for expensive city-centre real estate. Instead, remote working would become the norm for most.
Two years on, and clearly change has happened; hybrid working, for example, is now commonplace. But the biggest change has come from elsewhere. COVID gave many employees a period of calm reflection to think about what really mattered to them – and the determination to make the changes necessary to reflect this in their working lives.
Pondering the ‘Great Resignation’
This "Great Resignation" has led huge numbers of people to change jobs, even careers. They are now on the move, searching for that different something that will meet their needs and the needs of their families.
In the US job market, 19 million workers quit their jobs between April and September 2021. The biggest increase in attrition came from people midcareer, usually age 30-45. These people are typically settled into a career, with strong skills and drive, and with plenty still to give. They are the engine room of many organisations, with that hard-to-replace combination of experience and ambition.
The cost of losing these employees is substantial. First is the opportunity cost from losing the resource while the vacancy is unfilled – the time lost while you recruit someone new and get them up to speed (assuming you find the right person the first time and quickly). Second is the hard cost of hiring new staff and training them up to the same level of productivity as the leaver. Typically, businesses spend around a third of a departing employee’s annual salary to replace them.
Recruit or retain?
Few would dispute that it’s better to retain employees than to have to recruit their replacements. But how can you be sure your efforts to retain people will be successful –and match the needs of your business?
To attract and retain the best employees, you need to create the right employee value proposition. Right now, that has to reflect the new world of flexible and hybrid working. But you also need to understand both the people who work for you and the future needs of your business.
There is a problem, however. I’ve found as a manager that it’s much more difficult to use my tried and tested ways to understand my team. Remote working has meant that the little things – the conversation over a coffee, the informal chat during the walk to the sandwich shop, the anecdotes shared over a drink after work – are no longer available to me. I’m sure I’m not alone. Managers must find another way, and many are turning to HR analytics to rapidly answer hard questions about their workforce.
Insights and decisions
HR analytics gives you insight into the capabilities that already exist in your organisation and the skills needed to succeed in the future. Using analytics and data can help you make the right decisions about the roles needed for major projects and how to match staff to those roles. It can also assess the impact of a highly motivated workforce on the effectiveness of future projects.
From governments to the private and third sector, organisations who invest in HR analytics can better forecast staff availability and match this with forward demand for services. They better understand employee churn and can customise incentives to reduce it. And their greater understanding of the needs of their organisation means they can hire more efficiently and effectively.
As the Great Resignation starts to bite, employees’ demands are growing and resources are scarce. It’s now even more important to make the right interventions to support your organisation into the future. Deeper insight into what your organization needs and how best to manage your people to meet these needs will give you a crucial tool for success.
Want to find out more? Some resources I found valuable:
Ian Cook in the Harvard Business Review recommends taking a data-driven approach to improving retention. He identifies a three-step plan: 1. Quantify the problem; 2. Identify the root causes; 3. Develop tailored retention programs.
Ann Field in Deloitte Insights in The Wall Street Journal suggests that the Great Resignation precedes a Great Reimagination of work as a landscape of tasks and skills that dynamically evolves with business priorities. In a detailed analysis, she includes using AI, developing insights from the data you have now, and engaging in predictive modeling and scenario planning as ways to get started.
The SAS government team has even more resources at sas.com/uk/workforce.