The past couple of years have been pretty much defined by stress. And with vast numbers of employees actively looking for new work, it seems that many have finally reached their breaking point. So many people are quitting jobs, in fact, that we’re surprised nobody’s started selling “Great resignation 2021” T-shirts yet. But why are employees quitting in droves, and what can you do about it?

In what’s being referred to by some as the Great Resignation of 2021, significant numbers of employees are actively searching for new work. A recent survey from Bankrate found that 55% of Americans who are in work or searching are likely to seek a new job in the next twelve months.

If that sounds hard to believe, consider the fact that four million Americans quit their jobs in April. They’re not alone, either, as in the UK, the number of available job vacancies passed one million for the first time.

What is driving the Great Resignation 2021?

If you want to understand what’s causing employee turnover in 2021, look no further than Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report. On top of truly record-breaking levels of stress, Gallup found that only 20% of employees are engaged globally.

As noted by Vipula Gandhi and Jennifer Robinson of Gallup’s editorial team, the “Great Resignation” of 2021 is actually the Great discontent. Employees are becoming fed up with the lack of engagement. Even new hires aren’t. This is because the teams they are being introduced to are already struggling with engagement. That’s a difficult environment for any new employee to thrive in.

But make no mistake, employee engagement is absolutely essential for mitigating turnover. Without engagement, employees feel no sense of commitment or attachment to their role or the business itself. That means no taking pride in their work, no discretionary effort, and definitely no making positive contributions to workplace culture.

Why the great resignation should matter to business leaders

The great resignation 2021’s astronomical level of turnover presents a serious problem for businesses. For employers, turnover can be one of the biggest unplanned expenses possible. In fact, as we’ve previously noted, the average case of staff attrition in the UK costs businesses £30,000. That’s the sort of expense that, in times like these, can swiftly pile up to millions before you can even blink.

Turnover can also negatively impact workplace culture, and even future hiring potential. Endless turnover makes you seem like a revolving door of an employer. When people are always on the way out, it makes it hard for people to be confident about sticking with you.

You need to remember that there’s really no reason for disgruntled ex-staff not to complain about a bad employer. Sites like Glassdoor have risen to popularity exactly because they enable professionals to share personal experiences and salary expectations. These days, virtual word-of-mouth can seriously affect your hiring potential.

This cuts through the air of mystery around various hiring practices and better enables employees to self-advocate. So, if you keep losing employees to disengagement, word will travel and your well of applicants will dry up.

How to reduce employee turnover in 2021

You absolutely need to have a game plan for dealing with employee turnover and disengagement on this scale. Fortunately, that’s where we come in!

Connect with the values employees care about

One of the best things for attracting applicants is to prominently display your company’s values. But what about your existing staff? Does your mission statement even accurately reflect what matters to them?

Building a dialogue can help you connect with employees and understand the values that matter to them. This is an essential part of building a workplace culture everyone in your organisation can be proud of.

Check in and communicate with employees regularly

A weekly check-in is a huge help to build a dialogue. Check-ins contain a range of questions that can be customized on the individual level, along with goal-setting options. Check-ins are a lightweight and time-efficient way to keep track of employee sentiment.

So, they’re not just for telling your staff how to do their jobs better. They’re a vital line of communication. Employees will only communicate earnestly if they expect you to take it seriously, so ignore the results of your check-ins at your own peril.

Use goal-setting to show employees the impact of their work

Your employees know the work that they do, but they don’t necessarily know why it matters. Using OKRs, you can connect employee tasks to larger company goals. This can be an extremely useful way of motivating your people. But it’s also helpful in the sense that it gives them a broader context for their own decision-making.

Using OKRs means they can see the progress made over time and understand the difference their work makes. When employee responsibilities are actually a means to an end, and not just some endless hamster wheel, it’s so much easier for them to take pride in their work.

Give employees opportunities to develop and try new things

Doing the same thing day in and day out really makes you crave a challenge. Making sure employees have opportunities to mix things up, whether through new skills training or going on a secondment with another department, can really help people break out of their rut.

Use flexibility to reduce job stress

Disengagement isn’t the only culprit behind the great resignation of 2021. If you remember the state of the global workplace, you’ll remember that stress levels are practically in orbit. Flexibility isn’t just good for keeping businesses afloat. It can also give your employees more control over their working lives, and therefore, more resilience to stress.

We don’t just mean typical types of job flexibility either. It’s important to support employee wellbeing, so finding more informal types of flexibility (like letting employees take mental health days, for example) can really make a difference in stopping people from burning out.

Effective communication is the most important weapon against employee turnover. See how an employee check-in can help you keep hold of your best people.