Retaining Talent During the Great Resignation and Beyond

United States unemployment has remained incredibly low throughout 2023. In April 2023, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. Nearly 6 million people were unemployed, and 2 million were making unemployment insurance claims.

Many of those unemployed individuals are part of what is called the “Great Resignation”. It has also been referred to as the “Big Quit” and the “Great Reshuffle”. No matter what you call it, this trend is disrupting the workplace and impacting the economy. People are either staying unemployed after being let go, not returning to work after being furloughed, quitting their jobs, or retiring early. Those who haven’t retired are reevaluating their priorities and thinking carefully about their next steps.

Employees want a company or position that better meets their needs. They have multiple options to consider and are less willing to tolerate a poor work environment or a position that doesn’t offer the flexibility they need for proper work-life balance. With low unemployment and unlimited opportunities available, employees are confidently and successfully making demands of employers they previously were unable to make. The high demand for a limited number of available workers has created a war for talent. Organizations are struggling to fill roles and retain employees. What do people expect of their employers today? And how can you best meet those expectations? There are several effective retention tactics for organizations and their Human Resource teams we recommend.

Highly Effective Employee Retention Tactics

Focusing on retention and recruitment of talent is your best defense against the Great Resignation. Recruitment and retention should be core strategic initiatives that aren’t just relegated to HR but also championed by senior leadership managers and your entire workforce.

To put it into perspective, consider the importance of these initiatives for the overall health of your organization and for your public reputation. Employees talk about and share their employment experiences — good and bad. People don’t want to do business with or invest in companies that treat their employees poorly and burn them out. The majority of a company’s customers/clients would rather do business with those that treat their people well.

Make Recruitment a Priority

Recruitment is a primary retention tactic, as it must be handled correctly on an on-going basis to avoid challenges. Taking the proper time and effort necessary to hire the right people – people you want to retain – is key.

Recruitment is a process that includes the sharing and collection of information by both the employer and the candidate(s) being considered. A strong recruitment initiative includes planning, preparation, and utilization of the right people in order for an employer to properly sell the organization and position to a candidate and determine if a candidate is the right fit. Each time an organization has a need to hire someone, it is a best practice to take time to do the following:

  1. Identify the need: Determine what the department needs to be more successful.
  2. Create a compelling job posting: Communicate the position in a way that makes a candidate want to perform the responsibilities and showcase your organization’s culture and differentiations.
  3. Find talent within your network: Assess whether existing employees see this new position as an opportunity to grow their skill set.
  4. Spread the word regarding your position: Engage all possible channels, such as social media, all standard job boards, and professional associations.
  5. Keep diversity in mind: Consider sharing the position to diversity-related job boards.
  6. Respond: Time kills all deals. Do not sit on resumes for a week. Your response time should reflect current expectations.
  7. Be consistent: Determine standard interview questions, role-based questions, and information you’ll share with the candidate, such as company goals and benefit information. Determine who will ask which questions to avoid redundancy.
  8. Get the information you need: Pursue clarity in the candidate’s answers to critical questions.
  9. Make a decision: Meet with the interview group right away to determine if the candidate is a potential fit, then get in touch with that individual as soon as possible.
  • Interview tip: Candidates want to connect with people they’ll interact with, work with, and receive direction from. At minimum, involve these key individuals in the interview process:
    • A peer-level employee
    • A supervisor/manager
    • A senior manager/executive

Make Onboarding/Orientation Enjoyable

Onboarding can either make a new hire feel they’ve made the right choice or a terrible mistake. Devote the time to developing a process that inspires new hires while also delivering the most pertinent information.

What basics do new hires need by their first day? Essentials might include:

  • Company contact details (email, address, phone number)
  • Workspace
  • Equipment
  • Software
  • Parking pass
  • Building access card/key fob/keys
  • Email address
  • Branded email signature
  • Business cards
  • Name badge
  • Added to distribution lists and regular department or company meetings
  • Training agenda
  • Company logoed promo gear
  • Onboarding tip: Stay in touch with your new hire from the moment they accept the offer until their first day, and make sure they know you’re looking forward to having them on the team. Communicate first-day expectations and instructions, such as what to bring, where to park, and how to dress.

What should be included in a standard orientation agenda? Depending on your organization, your agenda might include:

  • Explanation of and enrollment in benefits
  • Explanation of policies
  • Building tour and introductions to key individuals
  • Lunch with the team
  • Paperwork, such as necessary legal agreements
  • Workstation set-up and supply gathering
  • Expectation setting
  • Identification of a “go-to person” for questions and assistance
  • Position-specific training, potentially hands-on
  • Company training, including any legally required training
  • Orientation tip: Orientation and onboarding can easily lead to information overload. Make sure you’re available to answer questions and concerns down the road.

Pay Employees Fairly

In determining compensation, it’s important to acknowledge what is at the heart of an employee’s basic needs. For instance, new college graduates are on average earning a minimum of $59,000 per year to start. Part of this is because they need steady and reliable income, as new college graduates average around $37,000 in student debt emerging from college.

You must also consider pay equity laws, which require you to pay employees for the job responsibilities being performed. These require that you do not consider gender, race, or other factors protected by EEO regulations. They also require you do not consider current or former employer compensation. In fact, several states have banned employers from asking candidates what they currently make, as it could perpetuate pay inequity. Further, you must adjust compensation ranges to account for inflation. Current inflation is around 6% and cost of living increases for 2023 are reported by many employers to be between 4% and 5%.

Organizations with employees working remotely may need to consider market wages where the employee resides and works from. It’s important to regularly review compensation to ensure you’re paying fairly for your industry, market, and geographic location, as well as the position itself.

Prioritize Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

No matter the size of your organization, it’s critical to provide an inclusive work environment through DEI initiatives. The current workforce expects such initiatives, and many organizations are putting them in place. Organizations who have not put DEI initiatives in place may feel overwhelmed with regards to how and where to start. It’s important to begin the DEI conversation with an explanation of what DEI entails.

What is DEI?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion can seem very nuanced and complex, but the overall objective is to foster a professional, supportive work environment where everyone can be their authentic self and have their voice heard.

  • Diversity of people and perspectives (gender, race, ethnicity, age, physical/mental abilities, veteran status, sexual preference, etc.)
  • Equity in policy, practice, and position (treating all employees equally)
  • Inclusion via power, voice, and organizational culture (providing opportunities for employees to share their ideas and abilities)

How to Establish a DEI Initiative

  • Gather data on your current employee demographic in relation to the demographics of your city, state, region, and/or industry to determine where your organization is at with regards to diversity. This allows you to see where there are opportunities for growth and change (your “growth opportunity segment”).
  • Design a DEI strategy that matches your business objective. Establish goals around what it will take to grow and change within your growth opportunity segment.
  • Implement your DEI strategy. Focus on recruitment, development, and retention of individuals within your growth opportunity segment.
  • Evaluate and continue to audit your DEI strategy. Are your efforts working? If not, what adjustments or new strategies need to be designed and implemented?
  • DEI tip: Many organizations hire consultants and create a committee to help guide the process. Hiring diverse speakers to present to your organization on the importance of DEI initiatives and unconscious bias can be very impactful.

Provide and Facilitate Growth Opportunities for Employees

A desirable work environment is one that promotes growth. Allow employees to grow from training, mentoring, and/or coaching opportunities. Take the time to ensure they understand what is expected in their current role, listen to their feedback on potential changes to improve the role, and provide them with opportunities to develop.

Employees enjoy working with and for individuals who share their knowledge and expertise. Incorporate opportunities for new hires to learn from others within the organization, and to learn from top performers. This gives top performers their own growth opportunities, with more responsibilities to prepare them for a future management role. It also creates opportunities for employees to interact with one another and build camaraderie.

Also, be on the look-out for employees who are struggling and see if you can coach and/or guide them back on-track. The goal of performance management is to set expectations and work with the employee to make them successful. Employers need to be reminded that while it may take some effort to get an employee to improve performance, it will take more effort and time to recruit, hire, and train someone new.

Choose People Managers Wisely

Typically, top performers are promoted to management-level roles. However, you also want to make sure those individuals you promote have people management skills. If they don’t, provide opportunities for them to develop in a technical or training capacity. For those you do promote to management, be sure to provide them with training to transition from employee to manager. Will they be responsible for performance evaluations? How should they deal with conflict and difficult conversations?

Further, keep your managers up to date on company strategic initiatives, goals and processes and allow them to share those business practices with employees in their area. Employees are often more comfortable receiving information from and providing feedback to someone they work directly with. This also allows the manager to be seen as a leader in the organization.

It’s also critical to let managers make some decisions without having to go to their boss or boss’s boss. Employers should give managers the authority to approve or deny PTO requests, establish and update work processes, identify start dates for new hires, handle day-to-day questions from employees within their area, etc.

Allow Flexibility in the Workplace

Flexibility is now a broader expectation for the modern workforce. Flexibility encompasses a variety of possibilities – but the current primary focus of flexibility is remote work. There are specific roles/jobs and industries that require in-person interaction (patient care, food service, construction, etc.) - and in those circumstances, an employer will need to focus on other ways to be flexible. But when remote work is possible, employers must allow it or risk losing good employees who will find those remote opportunities elsewhere. To ensure employees are successful working remotely, employers must provide technology and resources that are easy to access and create efficiencies. Employers should also set expectations in a remote work agreement, so everyone is on the same page.

Beyond remote work, flexibility also includes being more flexible with how individuals get their work done. Employers should consider:

  • Creating an environment that promotes work/life balance, such as leaving early or taking a day off without fear of repercussions to attend a family event, team sports, performances, or a needed mental health day.
  • Allowing flexibility for employees as they go through various phases of their life (marriage, children, caring for aging parents, etc.)
  • Offering PTO/vacation time and allowing employees to take it – and supporting them in taking it by identifying resources and adjusting schedules.
  • Scheduling work assignments to ensure the fair distribution of projects and responsibilities and to prevent employee burnout. Utilizing a contingency workforce to fill in during busy times of year and/or to provide additional support or coverage for employee vacations or leaves.

Provide Wellness Benefits

Wellness is a combination of mental, physical, spiritual and financial health. Employers should do all they can to address each area of wellness with the benefits and employment practices they offer to reach the ultimate goal of improving health, reducing healthcare costs and improving productivity. Some wellness benefits may be embedded in an organization’s existing benefit offering (see below.)

Examples of wellness actions or activities include:

Mental Wellness

  • Offer an Employee Assistance Program your employees can access (may be part of a health or life insurance plan.)
  • During times of crisis, engage service providers to address your staff and provide counseling services one-on-one.

Physical Wellness

  • Offer healthy snack and meal options for employees to enjoy.
  • Contribute towards gym or fitness memberships or equipment (may be part of a health benefit.)
  • Utilize wellness mobile apps and encourage employees to download and use the apps to stay up to date with their benefits (may be offered by a health, dental, vision, life, and/or flexible benefit provider.)

Spiritual Wellness

  • Schedule on-site trainers for yoga, meditation, and other relaxation exercises.
  • Allow employees to take time off for religious holidays that are important to them and their benefits.


  • Provide a retirement plan for employees to participate in and consider including a company match.
  • Provide options for short-term and long-term disability insurance for employees to elect – these plans could be sponsored by the employer or provided as a voluntary benefit for the employee to pay for.
  • Provide student loan debt payoff options - partner with a student loan financer to provide guidance to employees on paying off their student loans.

Create Community in Your Work Environment

Employees want to stay with an employer who has a work environment (“culture”) they want to be part of. For employees, the culture work environment you create is what differentiates you from your competitors.

Care about your employees – they are your greatest asset:

  • Know who they are – family names, pet names, interests, hobbies
  • Talk with them about their career goals – what do they want to accomplish?
  • Celebrate their accomplishments and life events

Coordinate fun activities for employees to bring them together:

  • Social activities
  • Team-based activities
  • Celebrations

Commit to giving back to the communities you operate in:

  • Create community service days
  • Provide opportunities for employees to give back to the causes they care about

Retention of workplace talent should be a prioritized strategic initiative for any organization that hopes to rise above the Great Resignation. Partnering with Human Resource specialists to develop or strengthen recruitment and retention practices will set them up for success.

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