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October 4, 2022
David Connors

How to Backfill the Great Resignation

While the Great Resignation may have been kickstarted by the pandemic, it’s long outlasted its associated office closings and mask mandates — and it shows no signs of slowing. In fact, according to a Conference Board survey, close to a third of U.S. workers said as recently as July that they’re actively searching for a new job.

Of course, while the Great Resignation was spurred on by the pandemic, the real reason employees are leaving jobs has little to do with COVID-19. For employers that are now backfilling empty roles, that’s an important distinction to make — because it means an entirely different approach to recruiting is needed.

When McKinsey surveyed individuals about the factors they believed made employees stay at a job, employers were far more likely to name transactional factors, while employees themselves focused more on relational factors.

Top factors at work that are important to employees, ranked:

  1. Feeling valued by the organization
  2. Feeling valued by their manager
  3. Sense of belonging
  4. Work-life balance
  5. Compensation
  6. Potential for development

Top factors that employers believe are driving employee resignations, ranked:

  1. Looking for a better job
  2. Compensation
  3. Work-life balance
  4. Poor health
  5. Need to care for family
  6. Unmanageable workload

Transactional factors — such as compensation, work-life balance, and development opportunities — were important to employees, too. But above all else, employees said they desired a strong sense of belonging and to feel valued by their managers and organizations.

For companies that are backfilling roles today, that means boosting compensation alone isn’t going to do the trick in attracting new candidates. Instead, companies need to take a holistic, relationship-based approach to recruiting.

I recommend taking a two-pronged approach.

Ensure your transactional foundation is strong

While relational factors impact whether an employee will stay at a job, the transactional factors are still important to them. In today’s world, strong transactional factors (like compensation, work-life balance, and flexibility) are table stakes.

So, before you begin recruiting, make sure that you’re putting an attractive package together for candidates.

Review your total compensation package

Too many companies have compensation policies that are below market rate, making it a hard sell for a candidate to join (or remain at) their company. To make sure you’re building an attractive compensation package, use Pave to benchmark your compensation.

Ensure your benefits also match your employees’ actual needs — whether that includes mental health support, a work-from-home stipend, a learning budget, or executive coaching.

Embrace flexibility

Since the pandemic began, there’s been a lot of talk about building hybrid, flexible workplaces — but I think a better way to think about it is in terms of autonomy. How much autonomy are you currently offering your employees?

As Daniel Pink explains in Drive, autonomy acts as an intrinsic motivator. When employees are given autonomy over how, where, and when they do their work, as well as who they do it with, they feel ownership over their work. That means they also have the flexibility to work remotely and design their work around their lives, rather than vice versa.

Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion

To feel a sense of belonging at work, employees need to be able to see themselves in the community around them. If your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts are lagging, it’s time to start building DEI into your hiring strategy and culture before you rack up diversity debt.

Take a relationship-based approach to recruiting

Top talent today are no longer submitting their applications to faceless, nameless recruiters through job boards. Instead, they’re developing connections to the hiring managers and leaders that they’ll be working directly with.

Nurture candidates long before you begin hiring

Start thinking about the roles you’ll be hiring for 6 to 12 months before you begin accepting applicants. Identify potential candidates in your network and begin to engage them casually ahead of time. That can mean:

  • Complimenting their work
  • Ask for their expertise on a certain problem
  • Engaging them as a consultant/advisor
  • Staying in touch on Twitter or LinkedIn
  • Sending them an article in their niche that they might find interesting

By nurturing these relationships early on, you ensure that candidates already feel a sense of belonging, trust, and respect by the time they interview with you.

If you’re backfilling roles more urgently, look at expanding your pool of candidates. Ask your advisors, investors, and team members for connections that might be potential candidates, since your network will be able to vouch for your company externally — leveraging that foundation of trust that has already been built.

Explore candidates’ career paths early on

Make it clear that you value candidates’ professional development by asking candidates about their career paths and plans. Before a candidate has even landed the role, work with them to understand how your open role fits into their goals and the different ways you can improve that fit.

Often, I find it helpful to ask a candidate:

  • Where do you want to be in three to five years?
  • How can we help you get there?
  • What kind of experience do you want to have?
  • What kind of successes do you want to have on your CV after leaving this role?

For a candidate, it’s one thing to read about a company’s learning budget in a job description; it’s another thing altogether to have these supportive conversations with hiring managers early on that become the basis of their performance management plan.

Ask your network to share social proof

If an advisor, investor, or team member connects you to a potential candidate, ask your connection if they can send the candidate a quick, 30-second video explaining why they’d recommend your company. Why do they believe in it? What makes them feel the candidate will be a good fit?

This type of individualized attention helps a candidate feel valued from Day 1 in the recruiting process. Don’t stop once a candidate is hired, either — have the team they’re joining send them a quick intro video sharing their excitement at having them join the team. Using a tool like Loom can be very helpful to speed up this process.

Involve your existing team

Inviting your existing team into the recruiting and referral process is helpful in two ways.

According to research by iCIMS, employees who refer others into the company tend to stay 20% longer than standard hires do. And their referrals stay longer, too: in fact, on average, referral hires have 70% higher retention rates than non-referrals.

Including your entire team in your recruiting efforts can help increase employees’ sense of community and belonging at work. Make sure to find ways to thank employees for their efforts so they feel valued for their contributions! Dedicating time at a company All-Hands to share appreciation to every employee who helped make a referral is an easy way to showcase these efforts. Introducing a referral incentive bonus can also be effective (and consider using a tool like Blueboard to provide rewards).

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