5 ways to attract, develop and retain top talent amidst uncertainty

By Julia Anas, Qualtrics chief people officer, & Michael Ross, investor and advisor to growth companies in HR technology and former Visa chief human resources officer

Since April 2021, roughly 33 million Americans have left their jobs—that’s over a fifth of the total U.S. workforce.

Companies now have to work even harder and be more mindful of new and different ways to attract and retain top performers–especially with fears of increased inflation and a potential recession brewing.

To deal with high employee turnover, CEOs, boards and CHROs must have an intense focus on what’s most important: employee satisfaction and retention. If high-performing employees feel overworked and underappreciated—and if they aren’t supported enough to find work/life harmony—they can become discouraged and disconnected from their job, peers and employer, and jump ship.

One of the lessons from the pandemic was that employees closely watched how their employers handled unprecedented and challenging times—those that invested and took care of their employees built greater loyalty.

Here are five easy steps senior executives and HR leaders can take to improve employee engagement, reduce employee turnover and keep teams happy, motivated and engaged during times of uncertainty.

1.  Listen, understand and act on employee feedback.

At their core, every human craves to be heard and understood. It’s integral for leaders to be closely attuned to how workers are thinking and feeling so that they may address their unique needs and expectations. Collecting and analyzing regular employee feedback can help management spot trends and problems in overall employee sentiment as they occur and creates an opportunity to address them as needed.

2.  Expand learning and development opportunities for employees.

Amidst the Great Reshuffle, lacking opportunities for career growth was a top reason workers quit. That should not come as a surprise, as 60% of employees say their employer didn’t offer any professional development or training in 2020. Show that your organization believes learning is for everyone and offer inclusive and accessible development opportunities across the entire organization–not just for those in senior management. This creates opportunities for employees to tackle new challenges at work—keeping them engaged in their jobs—and even open doors for them to move into different or expanded roles within the company. If they do transition into a new position, you’ll know you have successfully reattracted them to a new opportunity and they’ve made an intentional decision to stay and make an impact in a new way. The power of choice and autonomy is meaningful and critical to employees’ happiness, motivation and performance.

3.  Prioritize well-being within your company culture.

Recent Qualtrics research found that almost 58% of employees say their job is the main source of their mental health challenges. Job burnout is real, and deeply impacts employees’ productivity, creativity and job performance, as well as overall company culture and morale. Consider flexible options to support people’s mental, physical, emotional and financial well-being—recognizing that each person’s needs are different and that it’s not a one size fits all approach—and train managers to lead with empathy. Research shows that workers want their managers to proactively ask them if there is anything they can do to support their well-being, so encourage open dialogue around personal and professional wellness, and promote a company culture that emphasizes the importance of employees’ well-being.

4.  Invest in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Nurturing a culture where everyone feels they can express their full selves at work is key to attracting and retaining high-performing talent. Not only that, but bringing people together from diverse backgrounds and experiences also encourages innovation and positively impacts the bottom line. A McKinsey study revealed that companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to outperform their peers.

5.  Understand why employees leave.

This goes beyond asking whether employees may be leaving for a bigger paycheck or title. Why did they take the call from a recruiter sharing a new opportunity in the first place? Digging into the series of experiences that lead to someone engaging in the process for a different job and ultimately deciding to resign–potentially through an exit interview or pulse–can help leaders anticipate issues impacting employees’ intent to stay. For instance, Qualtrics research found that 50% of employees feel their physical and mental well-being improved while working remotely. Uncovering and understanding your employees’ pain points can help determine better and more long-term solutions, creating reasons for them to stay.

In the current landscape, millions of Americans have walked away from their jobs, or are still planning to do so. By regularly tapping into the employee experience, companies can understand how to best attract, retain and develop talent as the hyper-competitive job market remains a top concern for companies everywhere.

Discover how Qualtrics can help you retain top talent.