As millions of workers quit their jobs, what a company does next could be the difference between losing talent and attracting the best.
It started happening in early 2021. Employers were noticing an uptick in voluntary resignations in their employee populations. By March 2021, the quit rate as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started climbing sharply. From a quit rate that never surpassed 2.4 percent to quit rates in various states that climbed as high as 2.9 percent, the writing was on the wall—American workers were tired and looking for change.
By the end of 2021 an average of 3.98 million people were leaving their jobs each month. Many were citing pay, but also citing the desire for benefits, job security and flexible work arrangements, says a Willis Towers Watson 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey.1 Exacerbating the issue, the factors leading up to the Great Resignation, some of which include feeling overworked, undervalued, and overwhelmed, has workers at all career levels rethinking their professional lives.
For the insurance industry, that’s unwelcome news to an industry already struggling to fill hundreds of thousands of openings. As the Baby Boomer generation began its exit, the labor shortage tightened in the industry with no end in sight.
What’s more, retirements have accelerated. Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have sped up their exodus amid the pandemic. In the third quarter of 2020, 28.6 million left work behind, a 3.2 million increase over the same period in 2019, says data from the Pew Research Center.2
Younger generations of workers are not lining up to fill those positions. According to The 2015 Millennial Survey conducted by The Hartford, just four percent of millennials were willing to consider a career in the insurance industry. In the insurance sector there were approximately 304,000 openings in February 2022 as reported by the BLS.
Add a pandemic to the mix, and the labor market ratcheted down for the long haul. Employees were stressed and looking for more value and a better work-life balance. They weren’t willing to accept the same conditions they’d agreed to prior to the pandemic.
That includes starting up their commute again. A Beamery survey shows a surprising 42 percent of employees3 saying they want flexible work to continue beyond the pandemic. In fact, 37 percent say their work-life balance during the height of the pandemic was better than before. A global survey conducted by EY reveals that 87 percent and 88 percent of respondents cite workplace flexibility—where and when they work—as important factors.
That’s a must-have on many employee wish lists, says a recent Ceridian survey.4 (https://www.ceridian.com/blog/2022-poll-what-workers-want) Globally, 37 percent of employees want more emphasis on mental and physical health benefits, and 31 percent say that financial wellness should also be provided by employers.
They want a more inclusive, engaged culture, too. A recent Deloitte report5 shows that millennials in particular are 83 percent more engaged when they are working in an inclusive culture.
Why your organization should care: A 2021 EY Workplace Index6 found that 70 percent to 85 percent of respondents say their current work model is more effective than prior to the pandemic, with the most improved areas being productivity, culture, wellbeing, and operations. And surprisingly, 83 percent of organizations report that their culture has improved by having fewer than 50 percent of their staff full-time in the office.
Building a New Environment
That in itself should be enough reason for your organization to adopt a hybrid work model. Yet the questions loom: How can you marry remote and hybrid work into your business and keep your employees productive and happy?
Lose old habits
Start by eliminating antiquated management styles. As the world headed home to work, we learned to adjust to the needs of workers who had other obligations—children schooling from home, workers taking care of loved ones, and those dealing with illness or loss.
What we learned from that is that employees were more productive. A study by Stanford University and Ctrip7 found that productivity jumped the equivalent of a full day’s work. Early in the pandemic, a Boston Consulting Group survey8 found that 75 percent of employees believe they either maintained or improved their productivity since the pandemic onset.
Introduce productivity-based measures
What’s even more surprising is that when companies remove the required eight hour day, productivity still improves. Microsoft Japan9 implemented a four-day workweek in 2019. The result: Employee productivity shot up by 40 percent and sales climbed by 39.9 percent.
Instead, set performance benchmarks. If the work is being completed on time and accurately, the need to have an employee clocked in for eight hours makes little sense. So does the assumption that an employee’s best hours are between nine and five.
Put the emphasis on the employee
Removing those requirements can vastly improve a worker’s emotional wellbeing. So too can an additional focus by your organization on providing better access to mental and financial services. A worker struggling with financial issues is much less productive, says a PwC survey,10 which found that 45 percent of employees say their financial stress has become a workplace distraction. Employee wellness efforts should encompass financial matters as well.
A sound hybrid work culture happens naturally if your organization focuses on communicating in a better way. Focus on building and maintaining relationships with each employee. We recommend a monthly one-on-one video chat with each employee. It’s a time to set goals, check on progress, and let your employee talk about whatever is on their minds. Learning to listen and respond with the right resources or tools can boost the success of your employee.
Another boost—holding weekly team meetings. Make them short, have a set agenda, and stick to it. At the end, allow for employees to bring up issues. Instead of hashing them out in the meeting, assign the issue to an employee. They will then report on the issue at the next meeting for closure or for further brainstorming.
This makes every employee feel part of the organization. Even when working in a hybrid office setting, employees can connect to your organization through a feeling of responsibility and inclusion in the success of the operation.
Finding New Talent
Even with your best culture in place and your retention improved, employees will leave. Finding qualified candidates needn’t be limited to your geographic region. Capitalize on the national talent pool by looking for remote workers who may not be based anywhere near your physical offices.
While that may seem counterproductive from a team standpoint, your new hybrid culture should be more than ready to welcome a remote worker onto the team. Doing so means you can get the right fit for the job without hiring someone and training them to fit the job. It reduces onboarding, training, and gets your new employee up and running quickly.
Also, look beyond current job seekers. Expand your search to include retiring or retired professionals. Many are looking to augment their retirement income or just remain engaged in the industry in a support role. Your organization can benefit from decades of experience.
Embracing a Changing Workforce
Whether your organization is considering adopting a fully remote workforce or is establishing a hybrid model, the flexible work culture has arrived. As employees exit their jobs in droves, employers are being pushed toward more flexible work arrangements and cultural changes that were long overdue.
Yet doing so now puts any organization at a competitive advantage. The more your organization can demonstrate its commitment to a hybrid culture that emphasizes employee wellbeing and measures success by how productive an employee is, the more attractive your team becomes to a job seeker. Embracing remote work and hiring without borders can help your organization find top talent and win the talent war.