Great resignation wave: How India's HR can weather the storm

Understanding the talent crisis should revolve around identifying and quantifying the core 'people' problems and its impact on business. Here's how it can be achieved

Updated: Dec 9, 2021 06:11:33 PM UTC
In a hybrid work future, companies that prioritise employee experience are likely to see lower attrition rates and remain sought-after. Image: Shutterstock

As economic activity begins its slow grind towards the post-pandemic ‘normal’, gradual recovery seems to have brought along a few challenges. Dubbed as the ‘great resignation’, a new trend has been observed wherein a large number of employees are quitting. Reports indicate that the top-five IT companies in India hired as many as 1.7 lakh people in the first nine months of the year due to rising attrition and high demand for tech-skilled employees. This movement marks one of the most significant human capital shifts in decades since the great recession, where people held on to their jobs for survival. Skilled employees are today re-evaluating their careers with work-life balance as a key to arrive at decisions.

Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index shows 62 percent of India’s workforce has the intention of switching jobs this year, compared to an average of 41 percent globally. A recent survey from Indeed found that more than half of the global workers experienced burnout, and more than two-thirds stated that it got worse throughout the pandemic. After reeling under the pandemic stress, many are now willing to explore better pay and work conditions. It is clearly time to turn the searchlight inwards and understand how companies can address this phenomenon.

For leaders and human resource folks, this is a crucial time to reflect. However, the real questions for leaders now are: Are leaders talking to their people continuously? Are leaders putting out messages that reinforce the company’s progress and the employee’s purpose in a manner that is easy to consume and understand for people? Are leaders continuing to be innovative and flexible in changing their leadership styles with the times?

So leaders and HR folks, before pressing the panic button you must return to the drawing board and leverage fact-based, data-driven methods to carry out root-cause analysis to check attrition and also hire the right talent. Before undertaking any soul-searching event, understanding the talent crisis should revolve around identifying and quantifying the core ‘people’ problems and their impact on some key business metrics. How do we achieve this?

Analyse the problem quantitatively

It is critical to quantify both the scope of the problem and its impact. First, calculate the retention rate by using a simple formula – Number of separations per year divided by average total number of employees, gives us the turnover rate. A similar formula can be applied to identify the turnover from voluntary resignations versus layoffs.

Second, identify the underlying causes. Ask which factors could be driving higher resignation rates? Exploring metrics such as compensation, the time between promotions, size of pay increases, tenure, performance, and training opportunities can help identify trends and blind spots within your organisation.

Create a tailored retention strategy

In a constantly changing work culture, it is paramount that people are appreciated frequently. The role of employee engagement has become more crucial than ever. Appreciation is shown by the opportunities we provide to take on new projects or being part of some of the company’s special initiatives around the learning charter. The reward mechanism should be instituted on a weekly and monthly basis instead of waiting for a quarter or a year. If you are managing an employee’s performance and career on an ongoing basis, appreciation shouldn’t be left behind since it ties to overall improvement.

It is also important to carry out talent reviews which assess both performance and potential of people. Performance metrics shouldn’t be the only yardstick. By including the aspect of potential, companies can cull out the ‘how’ in addition to the ‘what’. By organising talent via, for example, a 9-box model, organisations gain access to the overall landscape of their talent.

Include the L & D in career conversations

Finally, the significance of learning and development cannot be overstated as it’s a crucial investment in employee retention. It is important to partner with the right learning partners who will be able to upskill employees tailored to the skills required for the business or to stay relevant in a specific industry for the long term. These mentors should act as both functional and domain experts and not just provide learning platforms for employees.

The underlying theme is the trust that working in a pandemic has taught us. Leaders definitely need to show a level of empathy. Today employees seek a job that fits into their lives and doesn’t make them wait until retirement to enjoy life or spend time with family. In a hybrid work future, companies that prioritise employee experience are likely to see lower attrition rates and remain sought-after. HR management strategies need to be re-evaluated regularly with constant employee feedback to ensure every employee feels valued and happy to work.

The overarching message of ‘The Great Resignation’ is not just doling out better pay or promotions in the traditional sense. Just as people are looking to lead a better quality of life, employees experience a heightened sense of accomplishment when companies invest in making them better, smarter, and future-ready. As my favourite superhero, Superman, once said, “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later.”

The author is SVP and head, people and culture, Hero Vired.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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