You Need to Offer More than Flexible Working to Stop the Great Resignation

We’ve all been there in the last year or so. You’ve completed the long ‘commute’ from your kitchen to your home office. Quite frankly, office is a grand term for the small room you’ve taken over with a makeshift desk, laptop and monitor.

Your day is spent speaking to teams virtually, some of who you’ve hardly met in real life.

It’s not perfect, but you’ve come to enjoy some of the perks of working at home – actually seeing your family and friends during the week is a plus.

But now, the call has come to return to the office at least some of the time. Simultaneously, you keep getting the tempting ping of messages via LinkedIn. There are a lot of opportunities out there right now in your field and flexible working means the radius of possibility is much wider than ever before.

It’s been an endurance challenge, working through the pandemic. Now the job sector is booming, is there anything actually keeping you loyal to your current company?

The Age of The Great Resignation

salary survey

I am hearing a version of this story again and again, only from the top down as senior leaders ask why so many employees are leaving and how to halt the skyrocketing attrition rate.

The stats are not encouraging. Our Arrows tech job salary survey 2021, which was sent to our network of thousands of technologists, suggests around 47% plan to change job within the next year.

The huge growth in job vacancies will be fuelling this figure. According to the latest ONS data, the number of job vacancies in the UK between July to September 2021 was a record high of 1,102,000.

I wrote in a recent article about how companies can improve their interview process to secure new talent. But, on the other side of the coin, businesses need to focus on the existing workforce and their happiness and loyalty. Otherwise, it could quickly become a situation of “one in, one out.” 

“Businesses must focus on the existing workforce … or it could quickly become a situation of “one in, one out.”

The Critical Importance of Culture

I believe to keep a workforce engaged; company culture is the most important thing any business can focus on.

With flexible and hybrid working the norm, gone are the days when working in the flashiest location or being taken out for lunches are motivating. The companies that will win are the ones who have a culture that employees are proud of, that champions things that are important to them and makes them loyal enough to stay in the face of tempting opportunities.

Some of the most important aspects of this I hear about, from research among both Arrows employees and our candidate network, are:

  1. Flexible Working is an Expected Benefit

Flexible working has become a benefit in the same way holiday days and the pension scheme are. If you offer no flexible working at all, people are likely to leave (and won’t want to join). I caveat that some jobs – like teaching – obviously can’t offer working at home options! Other than that, whether you offer two or three days a week in the office will only create a mild preference.

If you think you’ve solved the retention challenge just by offering flexible working, you’re mistaken. 

“If you think you’ve solved the retention challenge just by offering flexible working, you’re mistaken.”

  1. Career Development is Still Key

There’s no doubt, lack of career development is one of the biggest reasons why people leave companies. Some 85% of respondents to our Arrows tech job salary survey 2021 stated career progression is important or very important to them.

ResignationIn the sales world, people used to stay because they were learning from their inspirational peers. How to maintain this when you’re not in the office together five days a week?

At Arrows Group, we’ve acknowledged that now we can’t always do in-person training. The inclusion of more video-based learning has allowed us to create training plans where delegates at the same level from our international offices can come together. This shared experience helps different teams feel more connected to each other, as well as supporting development.

Peer learning remains critical for graduates and junior team members. Our junior staff members are in the office four days a week, instead of two or three. Senior staff rotate extra days in the office to support them on a voluntary basis. We are still working on the perfect combination and I’m not sure we’ve fully cracked it yet.

We do ‘lunch and learns’ every second week, paying for lunch on the condition that people eat with teams other than their own.

  1. Embed Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Aside from personal development, people care about what sort of company they work for, that it’s progressive and equitable. Policies and approach around DE&I are absolutely, critically important.

Diversity and InclusionAs a company, as well as it being one of our key pillars, the biggest thing we are doing is supporting listening and learning opportunities for all. We have held training sessions hosted by Johanne Penney, CEO/Founder of ‘Amp Up Your Voice’, who helps get DE&I on the agendas of corporate businesses. Her progressive approach helps facilitate a culture where we can all talk openly about racial equality, empowering confidence to make changes where needed..

People also want companies to follow through with their actions. This can start from the moment you interview – if you claim to embrace diversity, this should be represented by the interview panel. And one part of valuing equity means recognising what support people from different backgrounds may need to get them to a level playing field with their peers.

DE&I needs to be publicly embraced and not solely an HR initiative.

  1. Company Purpose Matters

We increasingly hear – particularly from graduates – that what a business stands for makes all the difference, including its approach to people and the planet. In our Arrows tech job salary survey 2021, 65% of respondents said they find it important or very important that a company has a positive purpose in the world.

“What a business stands for makes all the difference.”

Supporting charities is great, but it can be a bit surface level. People are moving away from CSR to entrenched sustainability and actions to support climate change have rocketed up the list of importance.

It’s very clear that we all need to do our bit, whether that’s as individuals or as a business. If employees find their company lacks ambition and a clear plan, they may well vote with their feet and leave.

  1. Listen to Feedback

What is normal in the world of work is still evolving faster than any time I remember in my career.

We try to make sure Arrows employees have plenty of opportunity to have their say – they’re the ones who’ll let us know if we’re getting something wrong! We do monthly surveys, but also make sure there’s that crucial facetime when in office, even if that’s an informal 15-minute coffee chat catch-up.

We recently discovered, for example, that our monthly Friday lunch incentives had lost their shine as a perk, given that most people work at home on a Friday. So, we’ve switched to quarterly overnight ‘staycation’ incentives, with activities like yoga, or a cooking course. This is much better suited to what people want and is proving very engaging.

The reality is, you’re not going to be able to stop everyone leaving. But, if you want employees to feel company loyalty, they need to see that the things they care about really are embedded from the top down.

Are you experiencing a rising attrition rate? How are you trying to promote company loyalty? I’d love to hear if any of these ring true for you.