The Great Resignation. It’s been the headline of the day and the topic that looms large at any company trying to snap back to business quickly. About 4 million people —roughly 2.7 percent of all workers —quit their jobs in April, the highest level in about 20 years. Moreover, recent surveys show that anywhere from 25 percent to 40 percent of workers are actively looking for a new job.
The question is, which group is bolting the fastest?
According to many business leaders and human resources pros, the largest pool of employees quitting is those doing remote work. That comes as a surprise to some who were hoping that allowing workers to stay at home this past year and a half would increase people’s satisfaction in their roles when the time came to return. Instead, many are apparently preferring to test the job market even when they are not asked to return to the office.
So what’s behind this phenomenon?
Many point to unresponsive managers and a failure to develop relationships with remote workers.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Flexible schedules, no commute, and the ability to live anywhere were supposed to help keep people engaged and loyal. But at the same time, the memories of last year’s historic layoffs and pay cuts are still fresh in people’s minds. However, with companies now scrambling to hire workers, people are taking more control of their careers.
With many companies moving to a hybrid or fully remote schedule for some positions, the high turnover rate among remote workers foreshadows major talent issues for companies. While the shift to remote work opens up wider recruiting opportunities, it also makes it harder for leaders to get remote workers aligned to the company’s values and culture and to build trust and loyalty with them.
Leaders will have to rethink retention programs and find new and innovative ways to incorporate remote workers into the culture. Offering sign-on and retention bonuses will only go so far, and if companies try to tie people down with them for too long, they could backfire.
One suggestion is to have remote workers come to the office for a week once every quarter to meet and socialize with managers and other leaders. Another is to put together off-site meetings between remote workers in the same city, state, or region so they can develop their own network of relationships. A good company practice is to continually gather feedback from recently hired remote workers to improve virtual onboarding and integration experiences.
Even with all that it is still going to be inherently more difficult for companies to keep remote employees in the future.