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With 17th January being labelled as “Blue Monday”, it’s commonly known as one of the gloomiest days of the year. Against the backdrop of cold weather, limited daylight, and undoing of Christmas excesses, it’s a day where many re-evaluate their lives and consider overhauls – such as changing job. Recruiters typically see a spike in applicants during this time of year, and given that it’s an employee’s market, businesses need to do all they can to hold on to talent.

Dubbed the “Great Resignation”, 2021 saw a significant increase in employees voluntarily walking away from their jobs due to burnout and desire to seek a better work-life balance.  Resignations show no sign of abating this year either, with one in five employees expected to jump ship. So how can employers stop the rot, and encourage talented employees to stay with the business?

Think before acting

In an eagerness to return to pre-Covid days, some employers forced staff back to office working before they were ready. Even with government advice to work from home where possible, and a new Covid-19 strain having threatened to cancel Christmas once more, some employers still made staff be unnecessarily present in the office. How employees were treated throughout the pandemic won’t be easily forgotten, driving decisions whether to stay or go.

Employers that supported staff through the pandemic – both welcoming them to the office if they desired or continuing to support home working – will be reaping the benefits of an engaged workforce. Continuing to provide flexible working options and supporting the health, wellbeing, and external commitments of employees, will stand businesses in good stead for talent engagement and retention.

Those that put profit ahead of people, ploughing on regardless and returning to old ways of working, may find themselves in a precarious position with talent this year. The pandemic has taught us many things, and for organisations one important lesson is to think carefully before acting.

Tap into values

More than just a salary, employees are increasingly looking for organisations that align with their values. Just as consumers are becoming savvier about the products they buy, based on their values, employees are too about workplaces.

Working for a sustainable organisation is an attractive proposition for jobseekers, with 48% saying they would accept a lower salary to work for an environmentally responsible company. A further 71% of employees said sustainable companies are more attractive employers. Employees are demanding greater value alignment from the workplace, and they aren’t afraid to vote with their feet.

The rise of the “belief driven employee” can have a positive and negative impact on businesses, depending on how they react to the trend. Employees that have their beliefs supported are more likely to stay with a company for many years (76%) and recommend the organisation to other recruits (also 76%). However, belief driven employees are more likely to be activists (86%) and willing to take a matter public (50%) – acting as a warning to employers that don’t take this new organisational force seriously enough.  Tapping into employees’ values is no longer a nice to have, but a business imperative.

Listen to requests

Employees are more empowered than ever before, stipulating what they want from their careers and where and how they work. We know salaries and achieving partner status aren’t the only factors at play, which makes it even more important for organisations to genuinely listen to what employees want. And with 86% of employees feeling they had not been listened to equally or fairly, and a third (34%) saying they’d rather quit or switch teams than voice their true concerns with management, listening is a vital skill for businesses to have. Creating a safe space for employees to voice their opinions, whilst demonstrating they have been listened to, is crucial for engagement and retention.

As well as flexible working options and aligning work to values, many employees want to see wellbeing more robustly embedded in organisations. Listening to employees’ ideas about how this can be best achieved, supporting requests where possible, will help to engage staff and build a resilient workforce.

With the new year often encouraging reflection, many employees will be considering whether they can imagine staying with a company for another. Businesses that behaved considerately throughout the pandemic, listening to employee needs, and adapting where possible, will be rewarded with engaged and committed talent. Organisations that carried on regardless, not factoring in the health, wellbeing, and values of employees, may be in for another tumultuous year. But it’s never too late for businesses to start afresh either, ensuring that their employees are at the heart of everything they do.