HR and the Great Resignation: Who’s Leaving, Hiring Outlook, and Strategies for Retention

The AllVoices Team
February 15, 2022

A word from our CEO

HR leaders are dedicated to their employees, and are drawn to the field because they want to see individuals thrive in their professions.

Yet they face a number of challenges today that are preventing them from doing their best work, the most significant of which is the Great Resignation, a massive shift in our workforce that has seen employees leaving current jobs and seeking new opportunities at an unprecedented rate. This high level of turnover is not only impacting job functions, but bottom lines as well.

There’s been a lot of coverage of the Great Resignation from the employee side and the business leader side. But what about the HR side? After all, HR teams are the ones seemingly stuck in the middle between losing employees and hiring new ones, all the while trying to implement ways to increase engagement and get their employees to stay.

That’s why we started this project. We wanted to know what HR leaders are seeing in terms of who’s leaving and why, what their organizations are doing to increase engagement, what their hiring outlook is like, and how HR leaders themselves are shouldering this weight.

Overall, we hope this report will help HR leaders understand what they can do to create better work environments for their employees, while also making HR leaders’ jobs more fulfilling and effective.

- Claire Schmidt, CEO and Founder, AllVoices

Key Findings

Here are some of the most compelling insights we learned from HR leaders:

48% of HR leaders have seen over 30% of their staff quit in the past year. Of those who left, the majority were mid-level, customer-facing employees. 49% had three years or more experience with the company, and the majority are Millennials.

Most employees are leaving because they’ve found a better offer. Other reasons for leaving include personal responsibilities, changing career paths, reevaluating their life and their priorities, and simply because they want to take time off.

65% of HR leaders have seen more employee requests lately. The majority are seeing mostly financial requests, like pay raises, stipends, bonuses, and more. This is followed by requests for better benefits, like 401(k)s and health insurance, and requests for more flexible work arrangements.

56% are increasing salaries. Of those organizations increasing salaries, 68% are implementing increases across all employees, not just leadership. The majority are increasing salaries between 16% and 20%.

HR leaders will be hiring heavily over the next three months. HR leaders in major corporations will be hiring 21 or more people, those in large and medium businesses will be hiring 16 to 20 people, and those in small businesses will be hiring 1 to 5 people. They plan to attract qualified candidates by offering competitive salaries, good benefits, and hybrid work options.

It costs between $61,000 and $80,000 to replace an employee. To hire someone new, the majority replied that it costs between $61,000 and $80,000. Since the majority of HR leaders are looking to hire 16 to 20 people in the next three months, organizations are looking at $976,000 to $1,600,000 to replace personnel.

53% of HR leaders are burned out, and 48% are looking for a new job. However, they’re excited about the future of their profession, including improving collaboration and communication in their organization, implementing new technologies and data-driven analytics, and finding ways to get the right people into the right roles.

Who We Surveyed

Methodology and Participant Demographics

In order to provide greater context around these findings, here are more details on who we surveyed and the methodology used. Starting on December 13, 2021, we surveyed 400 human resource managers, supervisors, leaders, directors, and executives. The survey was conducted online via Pollfish using organic sampling. Learn more about the Pollfish methodology here.



Summary

Now that we know a bit more about our respondents — HR managers, supervisors, leaders, directors, VPs, or executives, the majority of whom work at large businesses of 1,000 to 10,000 employees, have 36 to 40 people on their HR team, and who have two to five years of experience in their role — let’s look at what they’re witnessing in terms of employee turnover, and the ways in which they’re combating it.

Part 1: The Great Resignation: Who’s Leaving and Why

Nearly half of HR leaders have seen over 30% of their staff quit in the past year. Why are they joining the Great Resignation? Top reasons include getting a better offer at another organization, personal responsibilities, or changing career paths.

Key Takeaways:

  • 48% of HR leaders have seen over 30% of their staff quit in the past year.
  • Of those who left, the majority were mid-level, customer-facing employees, and majority were Millennial.
  • The top reason employees are leaving is because they found a better offer elsewhere.


We’re in the midst of the Great Resignation. We hear the stories and the stats, but what is the Great Resignation like from an HR leader’s perspective? Who are they seeing leave, and why? This section gives us insight into today’s turnover.

Nearly half of HR leaders have seen 30% or more of their staff quit in the past year

The majority of HR leaders surveyed (21.3%) reported that they’ve seen between 11% and 20% of their staff leave their jobs in the past year.

Overall, 48.1% of HR leaders have seen over 30% of their staff quit in the past year, and 60.4% have seen more than 20% of their staff leave. No HR leaders had no one leave in the past year.


Of those who left, the majority were mid-level

Of those who resigned in the past year, the majority of HR leaders (37.5%) saw the most turnover in their company at the mid-level. However, 34% experienced it the most at their company’s senior level, and 28.5% saw the most turnover at their company’s entry level. 


Of those who left, the majority were customer-facing employees

The majority of HR leaders (30%) are seeing the most turnover in their frontline, customer-facing staff. Next, HR leaders are seeing the most turnover in corporate, management, or in the C-suite (21%). The next highest turnover is being found in customer support teams that are not customer-facing (17.3%) and in operations and logistics (16.3%). Finally, HR leaders are seeing turnover in technical teams (15.5%).


Of those who left, 49% had three years or more experience with the company

HR leaders estimate that the majority of those who left have been there between one and two years (33.3%). The next longest tenure before quitting was three to four years (28.5%), followed by five years or more (20.3%). Employees in their jobs for less than a year were the least likely to have quit (18%).

Overall, 48.8% said those who left had three or more years of experience at the company.


Of those who left, the majority are Millennials

According to HR leaders, Millennials or Gen Y (ages 25-40) represent the largest generational group to leave their jobs in the past year (36.8%), followed by Gen X (ages 41-56) at 24.5%. Boomers (age 57 and older) were the next generational group to leave (20.8%), with Gen Z (24 and under) being the smallest generational group to have left their jobs (18%).


Top Five Reasons Employees are Leaving

When it comes to employees leaving their job as part of the Great Resignation, there’s a curiosity as to why: Has the pandemic changed their values? Do they want more work/life balance? Do they want something else? According to HR leaders surveyed, here are the top reasons why employees are leaving:

The primary reason is that employees found a better offer (28.3%) — they’re leaving for another position that gives them more responsibilities, more benefits, better pay, or other opportunities they aren’t getting in their current work environment.

The second most cited reason is personal responsibilities (17.3%), like tending to their health, caring for a child or other loved one, or other personal reasons.

The third is that they’re changing careers paths (11.5%), and leaving the organization and perhaps the industry.

The next highest reason is that they’re reevaluating their life and their priorities (9.5%), and their current job or workplace doesn’t fit into the picture anymore.

Finally, employees are leaving simply because they want to take time off (9%).

Other reasons include their desire for flexible work arrangements or that work from home accommodations weren't being met (7.3%), safety concerns at work (6.3%), or that they're burned out (4.8%).


73% of HR departments conduct exit interviews

72.5% of our respondents said that their company does conduct exit interviews in order to gain feedback about the employee’s experience, while 27.5% say their company does not.


HR keeps their exit interview notes in a technology platform

HR needs a way to track the feedback employees have given them. The majority of our respondents (42.1%) keep exit interviews notes in an HR technology platform, while 22.8% keep notes in a Word or Google doc. 14.5% keep notes in a spreadsheet, and 13.1% say they use their company’s own internal system. 7.6% replied that while they conduct exit interviews, they don’t keep track of them.


Exit interview information is shared widely

When it comes to sharing notes and feedback from exit interviews, HR leaders are generally sharing across business functions, the most with legal and compliance (51.4%) and managers (51%). They’re also often sharing with the board (48.6%) and with the C-suite (46.9%). They’re sharing those notes with employees, but not as often (29.3%).


Exit interview information is used to inform business operations and approaches

The main reason HR leaders share exit interview notes and insights is to incorporate the feedback they receive, and make future adjustments based upon it (46.2%) — which is the whole purpose of gathering feedback. 

Additionally, HR leaders share exit interview notes so they can investigate negative feedback (16.6%), as well as to highlight positive feedback (14.1%). 11% say they do so simply to “cover our bases” when it comes to follow-up. Finally, 5.9% say they don't do anything with these insights.


HRs that don’t conduct exit interviews don’t do so because employees don’t participate

For those who don’t conduct exit interviews, we wanted to know why not. The biggest reason is that despite HR’s efforts, the employees don't participate (21.3%), followed closely by 20.7% of respondents believing that employees aren’t honest in exit interviews.

17.2% don’t conduct exit interviews because too many people are quitting, and they don't have the manpower to conduct interviews. For 16%, they not only don’t have time, but it’s not a priority. 14.2% actually don't have a process for exit interviews. Finally, 10.7% just don't see the value in exit interviews.


Summary

There truly is a Great Resignation going on, and the HR leaders we surveyed are in the midst of it, as nearly half of respondents have seen 30% or more of their staff quit in the past year.

From their insights, we know that the majority of those leaving are mid-level, customer-facing employees, and Millennials — though employees at all levels, job functions, and generations are departing. Additionally, nearly half of those who left were with the company for three years or more.

Why are they leaving? Better offers are drawing them elsewhere, which could include higher salaries, more responsibilities, better benefits, a more compatible work culture, or the ability to work from home. They’re also leaving due to changing personal responsibilities, and changing careers paths.

We know that employees are leaving, but what are organizations doing to combat the turnover? Are they implementing initiatives to meet employees where they are, increase engagement, and give them options to stay? Or are they watching them walk out the door? 

Part 2: Employee Engagement and Retention

HR leaders and their organizations are looking for ways to combat the Great Resignation by increasing their engagement through a variety of strategies and perks. HR has also seen an uptick in employee requests, the majority of which are focused on financial incentives — not necessarily extra perks.

Key Takeaways:

  • 65% have seen an increase in employee requests, half of which are financial requests for pay raises, stipends, and bonuses.
  • The top engagement strategy is an organization communicating their broader company mission, and the top perks being offered are convenience perks like snacks and drinks, on-site dry cleaning, optometry, and others.
  • The majority cite “overall retention” as the primary KPI they use to evaluate engagement.

Employee engagement should always be a focus of any organization, as high engagement means that employees are motivated, excited about coming to work, more productive, and willing to stay. But in the face of high turnover, or something as massive as the Great Resignation, how are HR leaders thinking — or rethinking — about engagement and retention?

Top Five Engagement Strategies

Engagement is an indicator of how eager employees are to get to work in the morning, how dedicated they feel to their work, and how productive they are — so low engagement is typically a sign that the employee is on their way out. When it comes to engagement strategies, what are companies focusing on to combat the Great Resignation? We asked them to choose all that applied.

The number one strategy companies are taking is communicating their broader company mission (49%). Engagement begins by feeling connected to the company’s mission, values, and goals, so this seems like an effective place to begin.

Next, organizations are hiring more people in HR (42.8%) as part of their strategy, knowing that everything employee-related — from career guidance to wellness initiatives to better pay — originates from the HR team.

Organizations are also implementing new technology (41.5%) as a way to increase engagement, which means that employees will be getting the upgrades and resources they need to do their work more efficiently.

The fourth strategy organizations are adopting is posting salaries publicly (33.5%), which could help uncover salary discrimination in the company, and lead to employees getting paid what they deserve — thus increasing their engagement.

Finally, organizations are utilizing team bonding, or helping the team connect to other employees (31.8%) to help increase engagement and combat turnover.

Other lesser-utilized approaches include regularly surveying employees for their feedback (30.8%), increased top-down communication (27.5%), one-on-one meetings (25.8%), and team meetings (23%). 14.8% replied, however, that they are not focusing on any specific employee engagement strategies.


Top Perks to Improve Retention

In order to increase engagement and retain employees, are organizations adopting any new perks, benefits, or other workplace or workday additions? We asked HR leaders what they’re doing to improve retention (and to choose all that applied).

To promote retention, organizations are primarily turning to convenience perks, or perks that help employees' lives become easier, according to 54.5% of respondents. This could include free food, snacks, and drinks, or on-site services like dry cleaning, optometry, manicures, or other services.

Next, organizations are offering more career perks, or perks that help grow employees’ skills and careers, according to 40.8%. This could include providing employees books, online courses, career coaching, tuition reimbursement, or other career offerings.

Organizations are also offering community perks, or perks that help employees connect and have a greater sense of belonging, according to 37.3% of respondents. This could include game nights, company-sponsored teams, clubs, or other get-to-know-you engagements.

Next, organizations are adopting personal perks, or perks that help employees' lives become better, according to 36%. This could include gym memberships, student loan repayment, travel stipends, pet insurance, day care subsidies, or elder care support.

Further down the list are contribution perks, or perks that help employees give back to others, implemented by 33% of respondents. This could include charity events, volunteer days, or company matching on charitable donations.

Organizations are also offering environmental perks for the office, according to 31.5%. This could include meditation rooms, pet-friendly days, plants, or providing ergonomic desks and chairs.

Finally, organizations are also offering programmatic perks, or perks that are policy-driven advantages to working at a company, according to 30.5%. This could include remote work opportunities, pet-friendly days, Summer Fridays, or other initiatives.

Only 13% replied that they are not focusing on perks.

Top Five KPIs to Measure Employee Engagement

When it comes to measuring employee engagement, the HR leaders we surveyed said these were the top key performance indicators, or KPIs, that they measure:

The KPI they value the most is overall retention (20%), or how the company is doing on keeping its employees. Retaining employees means that employees are engaged in the work they do.

This is followed closely by manager and leadership retention (19.8%), or how the company is doing on keeping its managers and leadership team engaged.

Similarly, they look at overall turnover (12.5%), or the rate of how many employees are leaving — and less-engaged employees tend to be nearest the door.

The fourth KPI they value most is employee happiness (12%), which can give insights into employee engagement and satisfaction.

Finally, they look at voluntary turnover (10.3%) when employees actively leave a company (as opposed to involuntary turnover when employees are asked to leave).

Other KPIs include involuntary turnover (7.5%), turnover rate by department (6%), length of employment (6.8%), and absenteeism (5.3%).


Top Ways to Measure Employee Engagement KPIs

When it comes to measuring employee engagement KPIs, here’s what they utilize to find out how their employees are doing (we asked them to choose all that applied).

The primary way is through employee satisfaction surveys (50.8%), which can give insights into their level of engagement, or flag areas where employees are less enthusiastic about coming to work.

Second, organizations use an employee satisfaction index (ESI) (47.5%), which can help organizations measure a changing score over time.

Next, they use pulse surveys (41.3%), or quick check-ins to measure engagement.

This is followed by employee NPS (33.8%), which assesses engagement by asking if the employee would recommend their company to others.

Finally, organizations measure engagement through one-on-one meetings (30.8%), where employees and their managers or HR leaders can have a conversation about overall experience.

Lesser-used approaches include a suggestion box (29.3%) and a software hub to measure engagement (18%).


65% have seen an uptick in employee requests

Over the past year, 64.5% have seen an uptick in employee requests, like work from home options, negotiations for better pay, and other requests. 20.8% haven’t seen more requests, and say that the requests have stayed the same. 14.8% say they’ve gotten fewer requests.


The majority of employee requests are financial

What kinds of requests are HR leaders seeing? The majority (48.8%) are seeing financial requests the most, including requests for pay raises, stipends, bonuses, and more.

Requests for benefits, like 401(k)s, health insurance, and other benefits, and requests for more flexibility, like remote, hybrid, or work from home options, came in at 20.9% each.

The request HR leaders are seeing least (9.3%) are career-oriented, like promotions and moving departments.


55% of HR leaders thinks their benefits greatly exceed their competitors

In comparing their benefits to competitors, over half of our respondents (54.5%) replied that their company's benefits greatly exceed their competitors. 28.5% believe their company's benefits are on par with their competitors, and 17% admitted that their company's benefits are much less than their competitors.


Summary

In the face of the Great Resignation, organizations are taking a number of steps in order to retain employees, and to keep them engaged and excited to be a part of the workplace. They’re looking at a number of engagement strategies, including communicating their broader company mission, hiring more people in HR, and implementing new technology. They’re also increasing their convenience, career, and community perks.

But are these approaches going to increase engagement? They may: new technologies can help employees do their jobs more effectively, convenience perks can help streamline an employee’s day, and career perks can help them prepare for their next role. However, the top reason for leaving was finding a better offer elsewhere — better pay, more responsibilities, better benefits — and the top employee request made to HR is about financial incentives, followed by requests for better benefits and more flexible work arrangements.

While many of these strategies and perks may increase engagement on a secondary level — and companies should have a number of different ways to engage with the company and others in it — they may not impact engagement at the level employees want it to: better pay, better benefits, and more flexibility.

Part 3: Hiring to Fill the Gaps

HR leaders aren’t just facing the loss of employees due to the Great Resignation, they’re facing the need to fill those positions — and the majority are looking to hire 16 to 20 people over just the next three months. How will they do it? Mostly through LinkedIn and Upwork, and they’ll attract candidates by offering increased salaries, improved benefits, and hybrid work offerings.

Key Takeaways:

  • Across all business sizes, the majority are looking to hire 16 to 20 people to their company — small businesses are looking to hire 1 to 5 people, while major corporations are looking to hire 21 or more people.
  • They’re attracting candidates through salary increases, adding or improving benefits, like 401(k)s, PTO, and insurance, and by offering hybrid work.
  • Top channels through which to find great candidates are LinkedIn, Upwork, referrals, and third-party recruiters.

Losing employees means hiring again, and with great losses comes the need for increased recruiting. What is the outlook for HR when it comes to hiring in the next three months, and what are HR leaders doing to attract qualified candidates? After all, engagement begins in the job interview.

HR leaders will be doing a lot of hiring over the next three months

How many people are our respondents looking to hire in the next three months specifically? Across all business sizes, the majority (29.5%) said they’re looking to hire 16 to 20 people to their company.

Broken down into company size, we still see that there’s massive hiring going on. The majority of those who work for major corporations say they’ll be looking for 21 or more people to hire in the next three months. The majority of those who work for large businesses say they’ll be looking for 16 to 20 people to hire in the next three months. The majority of those who work for medium businesses say they’ll be looking for 16 to 20 people to hire in the next three months. The majority of those who work for small businesses say they’ll be looking for 1 to 5 people to hire in the next three months.


Top Five Ways to Attract Qualified Candidates

What are some of the ways our respondents are attracting new candidates, or drawing in more qualified candidates, in order to keep them engaged and eager from the time they read the job application? 

The primary way our respondents hope to get attention from qualified candidates is through salary increases (50.3%). This is also a good incentive, but could be a result of employees asking for pay raises, as we saw above.

They also want to attract candidates by adding or improving benefits, like 401(k)s, PTO, and insurance (41%), knowing that many candidates are looking for workplaces with a robust and diverse set of benefits.

Another strategy to attract candidates is by offering hybrid work (36.8%), knowing that many candidates will now only be looking for workplaces that offer work from home options.

Organizations also believe that highlighting employee feedback options (34%) can attract good candidates as well, demonstrating that the organization has a commitment to listening to their employees.

Finally, the fifth most implemented way of gaining candidates is by offering fully remote work (30.5%) — not only an appeal to candidates who want to work remotely, but it opens up the candidate pool for the organization as well.

Other approaches include advertising on social media (28.3%), branching out to different job site platforms (26.8%), offering referral bonuses (26%), and working with recruiters (26%). 15% replied that they are not implementing any of these strategies for hiring.


Top Three Avenues Through Which to Attract Candidates

As our respondents look to hire, what avenues have served them best in connecting them with high quality candidates?

For the majority of our respondents LinkedIn (26.5%) is the avenue that has brought the most candidates — and this make sense, as LinkedIn is a tried-and-true tool when it comes to job recruiting.

The second best avenues have been Upwork (16.3%). Upwork being the second largest source may indicate that companies are looking to hire more freelancers and contractors than ever before.

Tied for third, respondents have seen good results with both referrals (13%) and third party recruiters (13%).

Lower on their list of effective avenues include social media that’s not LinkedIn (9.8%), Indeed (9%), direct inbound from the website (7%), and having a hiring sign on the door (5.5%).


Summary

A lot of turnover means a lot of hiring, and HR leaders are looking to do a significant amount over the next three months. The main way they want to attract qualified candidates is through offering competitive salaries, but they also hope to draw candidates by providing them a realm of benefits, and by offering hybrid work options.

These options — higher salaries, more benefits, more options for hybrid work — mirror the employee requests that HR leaders said they’re getting in the previous section. So, if current employees are asking for these things, smart HR leaders know to include those things while creating job descriptions.

Part 4: Financial Costs of the Great Resignation

HR leaders aren’t only having to go through the actions of hiring new people, they’re incurring the costs as well, and for some of them, replacing one employee will cost $101,000 or more. They’re also taking initiatives to raise salaries within their company, meaning that the Great Resignation is significantly impacting the bottom line.

Key Takeaways:

  • For the majority of HR leaders, replacing one employee costs between $61,000 and $80,000.
  • 56% of respondents’ organizations are increasing salaries.
  • For 68% of those increasing salaries, it will be across all employees, and 91% are increasing salaries by 6% or higher.

Replacing employees isn’t necessarily a cheap exercise, as there are costs across departments associated with recruiting, interviewing, training, and other hiring activities. Additionally, in an effort to increase retention or to attract new recruits, organizations are upping their salaries. We wanted to know more about the financial expectations this would all take, and the impact on a company’s bottom line.

For half of respondents, replacing a single employee costs $61,000 or higher

Between recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding, it costs money to replace an employee, and we wanted to know what the cost would be. The majority (20.8%) replied that it would cost between $61,000 and $80,000, while an additional 18.3% said it would cost between $41,000 and $60,000. For 17.3%, replacing one employee would cost over $101,000. Overall, the cost per employee is $61,000 or higher for 54.4% of our respondents.

Since the majority replied that it would cost between $61,000 and $80,000 to replace an employee, and since the majority are looking to hire 16 to 20 people in the next three months, that’s a cost for organizations of $976,000 on the low side, and $1,600,000 on the high side.


56% are increasing salaries as a way to combat turnover

In light of the Great Resignation, are our respondents’ organizations altering salaries for their employees? The majority (56%) replied that they are increasing salaries, which seems in direct reply to the increase in employee requests about more financial benefits. 26.8% said they are keeping salaries the same, and 17.3% are actually decreasing salaries.


Salaries are increasing 16% to 20%

For those increasing salaries, the majority (29%) say they’re increasing salaries by 16% to 20%. Most respondents replied with high numbers, and overall, 91% are increasing salaries by 6% or higher.


68% are implementing salary increases across all employees

When it comes to salary increases, the majority (68.3%) are implementing them across all employees. Only 10.7% replied that the increase will be solely for the C-suite, and only 10.3% said it will just be for leadership and management. 5.8% are increasing pay only to mid- to low-level employees, and 4.9% are increasing pay only for new hires. 


Summary

The Great Resignation hasn’t only had a drain on human resources, it’s had a drain on financial resources as well. Replacing an employee has its costs, and 54% of our respondents say that replacing a single employee will cost their company $61,000 or higher. With the number of employees companies are looking to hire in the next three months, their bottom line will easily be hit with millions of dollars. Additionally, respondents say that their organization is increasing salaries across all employees — and the majority are raising them 16% to 20%. It’s a lot of expenses.

This is why retaining employees is so important, if only to save the costs of replacing them. And with the majority of HR leaders saying that employees are most asking about financial benefits, increasing salaries seems the right first step.

Part 5: HR Leaders, Workload, and Future Outlook

After all of this, it’s no wonder HR leaders are burned out. Yet despite the challenges all-around, HR leaders are excited about their profession, and look forward to improving collaboration, advising, and communication, as well as implementing new technology to make their job easier.

Key Takeaways:

  • 53% of HR leaders are burned out.
  • Top challenging job duties include managing or implementing leadership demands, scheduling, and retaining employees.
  • What excites them the most about the future of their profession is improving collaboration and advising across business units. 

With increased workloads and higher turnover, how are HR leaders themselves faring amidst the Great Resignation? Will they join the Great Resignation too? We wanted to find out more about how HR leaders are doing, and if their sights for the future are set high or low.

53% of HR leaders are burned out

Over half of our respondents (53%) say that they’re burned out in their jobs. 47% are not.


48% of HR leaders are looking for a new job

Nearly half of our respondents (48%) are also looking for a new job. Of those looking for a new job, 72.9% replied that they’re burned out to the question above.


63% feel HR is supported by leadership

We wanted to know if HR leaders feel their department and team is supported by leadership. 62.8% replied that yes, they do feel fully supported by leadership. However, 23% feel somewhat supported, and 14.3% don’t feel supported at all.


Five Most Challenging Job Duties

What are the most demanding or hardest parts of an HR leader’s job? Our respondents were spread out over choosing what the most demanding part of their job is, but the top five are as follows:

The number one hardest part of their job is managing or implementing leadership demands (15.8%). As we saw above, HR leaders generally feel supported by leadership, but there’s often misalignment on objectives and goals.

The second hardest task is scheduling (13.5%). Compared to other, more company-wide and worker-impacting tasks, scheduling flags an administrative task that an efficient, easy system hasn’t been found for.

The third hardest task is retaining employees (11%), meaning that HR leaders are still trying to figure out what best strategies to implement to keep workers around.

They also cite workload or work hours (7%) as a challenge to their job.

Finally, onboarding and training (6.5%) and communication across all business units (6.5%) come in evenly as the fifth most challenging aspect of their job.

Other duties include using data and analytics (6%), upskilling or reskilling employees for career growth (6%), generating collaboration and buy in (5.3%), implementing new technology (5.3%), managing employee requests (5%), hiring the right talent (4.5%), backend and administrative tasks (4%), and adapting to what "work" and "workplaces" look like (3.8%).


Top Things HR Leaders are Excited About

Despite the aforementioned challenging tasks, HR leaders are excited about the impact they can make in their organization and the people they can positively affect. Here are the top things they’re most excited about for the future of their profession.

HR leaders are most excited about improving collaboration and advising across business units (27.3%). They want to see employees thrive, do their best work, and stay engaged, so they’re excited to implement ways to do that, and build relationships across teams as well.

They’re also excited to improve communication across all business units (14.5%), knowing that better communication leads to a more engaged and happier workplace for all.

HR leaders are also excited to implement new technology (12.8%), knowing that they can do their jobs more efficiently and effectively by having the right tools at hand.

Another area they’re excited about is the increasing use of analytics for data driven decision-making (12.3%), which can not only improve HR initiatives, it can lead to a more productive and highly-engaged workplace, too.

Finally, HR leaders are drawn towards the increasing emphasis on hiring the right talent (11%), which is at the root of their purpose: getting the right people into the right roles, doing the things they love.

Lower on the list are the evolution of what "work" and "workplaces" will look like (8.3%), upskilling or reskilling employees for career growth (7.3%), and shaping the future of workplace experiences (6.8%).


Summary

Losing employees, creating initiatives to increase engagement, surveying to see if those initiatives work, recruiting new talent to fill in the vacant spots — HR leaders are doing a lot. And it’s taking its toll, as we found that 53% of the HR leaders we surveyed are burned out, most likely by the biggest challenges to their day-to-day work: managing or implementing leadership demands, scheduling, and retaining employees.

So how do you increase engagement and retention with the very people tasked with increasing engagement and retention? Make sure HR leaders are focusing on what makes them excited to go to work each day. They’re interested in improving collaboration and communication in their organization, implementing new technology so their HR team can do its best work, and finding the best ways to get the right people into the right roles.

Part 6: HR and Leadership’s Biggest Priorities for 2022 

We’ve already examined what 400 HR leaders and survey respondents said about their efforts in the face of the Great Resignation. What follows are ten responses from leaders and HR professionals answering the question “What is your biggest priority in 2022?”

Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding

For previous generations, there was an assumption that you would work with an employer for decades — maybe even your entire career. Over the last few decades, we’ve moved away from that structure, with many employees staying with an organization for a few years and then moving on. Sometimes this change in employment is for very practical reasons, like relocating to a region where the employer isn’t present. However, I also believe there are numerous areas where an employer can make the effort to extend employee tenure. The mindset that I’ve adopted, and that I hope other organizations adopt in 2022 and beyond, is “what decisions would I make if I knew these team members would be with me for 30+ years?” With this framework, you have much more incentive to invest in benefits, training and more. That investment can and should be a priority for all organizations.

Travis Lindemoen, Managing Director of Nexus IT Group

Dive into Deeper Issues — Employee dissatisfaction can be addressed by having managers meet with their employees one-on-one, either with the help of human resources or you. You'll want to figure out if you're dealing with more than one disgruntled employee or a bad manager.

While it is critical for employees to speak up about difficulties, it is also critical for you to encourage them to do so. It's important to emphasize that there will be no retaliation for honesty as long as employees express themselves respectfully. Having employees sign off on their criticism (or praise) allows management to track progress and practice accountability in the future.

Dave Rietsema, Founder and CEO of Matchr.com

Because of the Great Resignation, it’s becoming more difficult to find and hire top talent. This means that employee retention is more important than ever before. My goal for 2022 is to ensure that we can retain the talent that we already have so that we aren’t in a position of having to find employees for difficult-to-fill positions. This means that my company’s focus in 2022 will be on employee engagement and appreciation. Employee recognition and development play important roles in employee retention. Our goal for 2022 will be to ensure that our employees feel valued and that the company is invested in them.

Tina Hawk, SVP Human Resources, GoodHire

As an HR executive in a remote company, my biggest priority in 2022 is the future of work. We've seen a rapid acceleration of technology guiding the very foundations of our workplaces over the past two years. However, it would be naive to think that it is only our tech stack that has been revolutionized.

In addition to improving our tech adaptability, for example, by extension we need to revisit how we recruit new talent. Skillsets are evolving, opportunities to innovate are rife, and our recruitment efforts have to be aware of and informed by this reality. The priorities of many professionals have shifted significantly as a result of the mainstream popularity of remote work, and more businesses than ever before will be aware of the necessity of competent virtual leadership. With the remote office comes a fundamental shift in office culture, and the reality of a more human-centric work design. All of these considerations, and more, are central to how quickly and successfully we can build the future of work.

Steve Anevski, CEO of and Co-Founder of Upshift

As a business owner who still feels the aftermath of COVID, my top priority is to focus on talent retention and acquisition. The tides are changing, and they overwhelmed us initially, but we are coping with it now.

Many of our top employees considered hanging up their coats and retiring as this year left a lot to hope for. We observed a record number of employee turnover this year.

In 2022, we intend to focus on key changes that will benefit employees and retain them as long as we can. We want to create a learning and development ecosystem so that no employee feels out of place.

My top priority is to develop a culture of evolution and enable employees to grow with us ahead of these unprecedented times.

Robyn Tebeau, Senior Vice President of Finance and Human Resources, Facilisgroup

Our biggest priority in 2022 is maintaining our community at Facilisgroup since we are in a period of high growth. We give our staff the flexibility and tools to be happy, healthy and productive, which has been effective both in retention and recruitment.

Little things like free lunches, bagels, and holiday parties help with engagement and camaraderie short-term. Bigger aspects like opportunities for growth, competitive benefits, and work-life balance form the foundation.

To assess employee satisfaction, we use tools like employee engagement surveys and town halls to understand pain points and work to mitigate them. While analytics are helpful, they don't replace the person-to-person connection that ultimately helps us decide how to take care of our employees.

We keep up to date with what employees need and want because we invest in our people. For a company to expect an investment in time and energy from their staff, I believe the company needs to invest back in equal measure. It's that simple.

Joe Coletta, Founder & CEO, 180 Engineering

My biggest priority in 2022 is creating leadership strategies that can be adjusted in order to account for rapidly changing needs. If the last few months of 2021 taught us anything, it's that the pandemic is not over. At the same time, the pandemic as a whole has taught many leaders in my position that sometimes even our best plans can be disrupted by completely unforeseen circumstances. As a result, I think that the best approach for tackling 2022 is to create plans that can frequently be revised and adjusted in response to the challenges that appear throughout the new year.

Mary Mitchell, Human Resources Consultant, strategic HR inc

The biggest priority in 2022 will be retention — otherwise employers will be in an endless state of employee loss and recruiting. To succeed, company leadership needs to move past tactically handling issues and move towards strategically addressing them. Employers should focus on gathering employee opinions through Engagement Surveys, and leadership should be ready to remain open-minded and action-oriented towards the results.  

Over the past five years our society has changed opinions dramatically on what is considered appropriate or professional. Employers should take a hard look at their current internal and external branding to evaluate where revisions are necessary.

  • Are we doing enough for our community?
  • Do we publicly address our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives?
  • Do we offer competitive salaries and benefits?
  • Do we give our employees a valued purpose beyond the financial bottom line?

While making the necessary changes, employers should also maintain awareness of pay compression complications. Hiring new employees during this period has caused starting pay rates to rise, without increasing current employee pay rates. Long term employees will take this as a sign that they are undervalued, and may choose to look for appreciation elsewhere.

Anne deBruin Sample, CEO of Navigate Forward

Our biggest priority for HR leaders in 2022 is retaining top performers and critical talent through transparent two-way communications, authentic leadership and flexibility. We need to be listening and reacting quickly to the needs of these folks. Empathy is the number one skill right now that leaders need.

With all of the change and uncertainty, people want stability at work. Employees need clarity on goals, support and resources to be successful. As employers, we have a unique opportunity in this coming year to provide our people with some stability. Tell your employees what you know when you know it.

We will ensure decision making is happening in the right places. The past few years have required flexibility, and now is the time to ensure the decision making is happening in efficient places and appropriately delegated.

Notably, we will be focused on re-recruiting the folks who are critical to success and celebrating shamelessly when there is something to celebrate. It helps to think about them like we are trying to attract them to our team or get them promoted. This will keep them engaged, interested and effective.  

Jessica Miller-Merrell, Founder of Workology and host of the Workology Podcast

Retention should be everyone’s focus right now and moving into 2022. In order to retain our current workforce, we need to train new and existing managers on how to manage a remote or hybrid workforce so that they can ensure their teams are engaged and that the company is doing everything it can to support them. This training should include the concept of empathy. Employees don’t leave companies; they leave their managers. Employee engagement is imperative for retention, so poorly trained managers can have a direct impact on your company’s bottom line.

Part 7: Top Takeaways for HR Leaders

As we’ve seen, the Great Resignation is having a massive impact on companies: the loss of skilled workers, the financial burden of replacing those workers, the time commitment to recruit, hire and train…and HR leaders are at the center of it, unfortunately burning out from the strain.

But what are some actionable steps HR leaders can take today to improve retention and engagement, both for their employees and for themselves? Let’s look at some of the things from this report that HR leaders and organizations are getting right.

Gather employee feedback and listen to their concerns

When it comes to employee retention, HR needs to know which levers to pull to keep employees engaged, interested in their jobs, and happy to be a part of the workplace. We could certainly point out the misalignments that surfaced in this report around, for instance, why employees are asking for more pay and better benefits, yet organizations are offering free food and manicures to help increase engagement.

However, there are findings here that point to HR putting in the time and effort to listen to their employees, and taking action on what will make their employees more engaged — one example being implemented salary increases, which we’ll look at more next.  

We found that three-quarters of HR leaders say they conduct exit interviews, and share that information broadly across teams so that everyone can benefit from the feedback given. We also found that HR leaders are surveying a lot and in different ways, as top methods to measure engagement KPIs include employee satisfaction surveys, an employee satisfaction index (ESI), pulse surveys, and employee NPS (33.8%). However, high on the list as well are one-on-one meetings, where HR leaders can have a conversation directly with employees.

The key to increasing employee engagement is first knowing what’s working and what isn’t. HR leaders aren’t mind readers, so the next best approach is implementing a comprehensive feedback strategy.

Take action on employee requests, if you can

HR leaders who saw an increase in employee requests said nearly half of them are financial requests for pay raises, stipends, bonuses, and more. Later on in the report we found that 56% said their organizations actually are increasing salaries. They’re not just for leadership, but across all job functions, and they’re not 1% or 2% increases — they’re significant pay bumps. 

Additionally, we saw that the employee requests that HR leaders are getting — higher pay, better benefits, and hybrid work options — are the top offerings that HR is including in job descriptions to draw more qualified candidates.

Increasing salaries is a primary initiative that could significantly impact employee retention — and it all started with HR leaders listening to their employees’ requests, and doing something about it.

Implement new technology and analytics

Many HR departments are plagued with a lack of technological ways to track feedback or employee concerns, which leads to a lack of metrics to provide numbers behind the reality of the workplace, which then leads to HR leaders making decisions based on their gut and not much else. This kind of lack of efficiency can slow down processes and muddle up decision-making, at the very least.

However, we found that 42.1% of our respondents use an internal HR technology platform to track their exit interview notes, which can not only allow for easy sharing across teams in order to implement that feedback, it keeps feedback organized and easily accessible, creating more efficiencies for the HR team.

We also found that the third highest-ranking part of the profession that HR leaders are most excited about is implementing new technology to help their teams become more efficient at gathering feedback, tracking it, and utilizing it to improve business operations. The fourth highest-ranking is their excitement over their increased use of analytics for data driven decision-making.

Therefore, HR teams should prioritize technology implementation through feedback tracking hubs and analytics tools in order to streamline their work and improve their assessment.

Valuing HR throughout the organization

HR teams have a lot on their proverbial plates right now. And while many HR teams may feel discouraged, undervalued, and at odds with others in the organization — the top hardest part about their jobs is managing or implementing leadership demands — it seems like there is an increasing focus on and support of HR.

As we saw above, the second most adopted strategy for engagement is hiring more people in HR, meaning that those organizations understand the direct connection between a fully-staffed and well-working HR team, and the engagement of their employees. After all, HR teams are the ones soliciting and managing feedback, recruiting new hires, and ensuring that the workplace is a healthy and productive one. Additionally, while it’s not as high as it should be, 63% of HR leaders feel fully supported by leadership, with 23% feeling somewhat supported.

The Great Resignation may be one of the most tumultuous times that HR leaders will experience. Yet by continuing to listen to employees, put in place initiatives that help grow their engagement, and by implementing tools in the HR team that provide the ability to more efficiently and effectively serve employees, HR teams and organizations as a whole will find their way through.

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