Rebuilding Employee Trust Amid the Great Resignation

With the Great Resignation in full swing, we conducted a survey of over 2,000 adults in the U.S. to understand exactly what’s going on in the workplace—from current attitudes around benefits and company ethics to the biggest reasons employees leave their jobs. What we found has us rethinking the Great Resignation as more than the mass exodus of dissatisfied employees, but as a “Great Shift” in what people are prioritizing in their lives and how they think about work.

Based on these findings, we’ve put together some guidance for rebuilding employee trust, earning loyalty, and combating the effects of the Great Resignation within your own company.

You’ll find detailed guidance in the full report, as well as an in-depth look at the data (and the story it’s telling), but keep reading for the highlights. We’ll also provide a few tips to help you get started on creating a retention strategy for the modern workforce.

Hint: It all starts with answering the question, “What do today’s employees really want from their employer?”

Moving from the Great Resignation to a “Great Shift”

The working world changed drastically for many of us during the last two years. But even before COVID-19, small shifts in the average employee’s approach to their career have been gradually evolving what it means to be a professional for decades. Adults in the 1950s, for example, took a radically different approach to their careers than their modern counterparts. It was commonplace to join a company as a 20-something adult or even a teen and stay there until retirement (pension included). Unemployment was low at that time, too, and the typical work week consisted of 48 hours. Now, seventy years later, the “Great Shift” has opened up a new chapter in the workplace playbook, and attrition is the name of the game.

Who’s Leaving?

The highest churn appears to be among Millennials and Gen Z:

One likely reason young workers lead in resignations is because Millennials and Gen Zers were some of the hardest hit financially over the last two years, with almost a third of Millennials reporting they have more credit card debt than savings and close to half of Gen Zers with less emergency savings now than before the pandemic.

Employees Prioritize Fair Compensation

Young workers aren’t the only generation with financial security high on their list of priorities—61 percent of all survey respondents said “a livable wage” is the most important thing they value about their company or their work environment.

Competing with Total Compensation, Not Just Higher Wages

Between the pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues, and the political turmoil in the U.S. and overseas, there’s been more than enough financial hardship to go around in the last few years, but people aren’t just wanting to grab the next big paycheck.

When workers consider a new industry, they also care about work-life balance, flexibility (hybrid, remote, etc.), and benefits. So if your company can’t offer a higher base wage than your competitors, there’s still plenty it can do to draw in and keep talented candidates, especially by crafting a complete compensation package and supportive culture.

Employees Want a Positive Work Environment

Naturally, employees want more profitable career paths, but money isn’t the only thing that matters. In fact, if we remove compensation from the equation, the most important facet of the workplace is working in a positive or uplifting environment (for 52 percent of our respondents this came in second after a livable wage).

Burnout and a Lack of Work-Life Balance Are Coming Home to Roost

When you consider our findings from our survey of remote workers in 2021, it’s not surprising that a better work environment followed “a livable wage” on the list of employee priorities:

While the virus has slowed, stress has not. Employees are still struggling with burnout, with over a quarter of Gen Z (28%) and Millennials (26%) reporting the strain on their mental health was making them consider leaving their current employer.

Becoming a Fire-Spotter for Burnout

Because burnout is so debilitating on a personal and organizational level, there really is no overstating the importance of a healthy workplace. Lack of support can cause employees to quit even when they don’t have another job lined up. In fact,19 percent of the willingly unemployed people we surveyed indicated the primary reason for quitting was dissatisfaction with their work, while 17 percent needed a mental health break.

While our parents and grandparents were more likely to stay with a job even if it was miserable, leading research shows that burnout culture was never actually a good thing—and modern employees are simply unwilling to tolerate a toxic workplace.

Healthcare Is Table-Stakes

Benefits aren’t regarded as, well, benefits—they’re now the baseline. Seventy-six percent of our survey respondents agreed that benefits are a necessity for companies to offer employees. And the vast majority of Americans take them heavily into account when deciding whether or not to take a job, especially healthcare benefits.

Invest in Healthcare and Time Off

While offering subscriptions to mental health apps and discounts on gym memberships are nice ways to pad already-robust benefits, these are the benefits to add when your core plan is meeting the needs of your workforce. They’re the sort of things your employees will appreciate, helping to boost your employer brand, but they’re not what they look for first when evaluating potential employers. The benefits Americans look at first are:

Employees Hold Employers to a High Ethical Standard

Today, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts play a large role in most HR department’s recruiting and hiring strategies. And while today’s job seekers value diversity when considering their options—53 percent according to our survey—they also hold their employers accountable to DEI standards after getting hired, with one in four U.S. workers (25%) saying they’d go to the press if their employer did something completely unacceptable.

Your Employees Are Watching You

These statistics should set off alarm bells at every type of business, not just those in the public eye, especially when you consider that 74 percent of our respondents also revealed that not all employees are treated equally at their organization. This has perhaps led in part to our finding that one in ten (14%) employees are considering leaving their positions due to unethical actions in leadership.

And it’s not just the top brass or the most visible leaders that are in the line of fire. Employees also prioritize a respectful manager (29%) and a better company culture (20%) when looking at a new company. If you have bad managers in the bunch or teams with less-than-stellar cultures, they can potentially impact your ability to recruit and retain people.

Ultimately, you can assume that your employees and prospective hires are taking note of the actions of your company, leadership, management, and even other employees. They’re comparing those actions with leaderships’ words and the company values, and making their career decisions accordingly, so it’s more important than ever for companies to be true to their values and build their culture on that ethical foundation.

Help Your People Feel Valued

In the last year, 38 percent of Americans have felt the least valued by their employer than they have in their entire working career. Employees want more support, financial stability, and balance in their lives. Earning their trust and loyalty in the current job market starts by listening to their needs, understanding their shifting priorities, and making them feel valued by responding and acting on what you learn.

This is an unusual time in business, and it may be the first time we’ve seen employees prioritize their own wellbeing en masse over a regular paycheck. But with a few strategic shifts in company policy and HR processes, any organization can create a more welcoming work environment. Your organization’s greatest asset will always be its employees, so doing what it takes to keep them is well worth the effort.

For more data and insight into how to respond to employees’ current needs, read the full report.