As workforce generations shift in wake of COVID-19, HR leaders need to prioritize retention.
By Marta Chmielowicz
Since March 2020, the size of the retired population in the U.S. expanded beyond its normal trend by an additional 1.7 million people, according to the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. As older workers faced more health risks and disproportionate job loss during the pandemic, many were pushed into unplanned retirement earlier than they would in a typical year. This exodus of workers is creating tension in an already strained labor market.
“We’re certainly seeing some changes in the labor participation rate,” says Marcy Maul, vice president of client services at Korn Ferry. “When you’re looking at the composition of the workforce, the last year has had a big impact on the baby boomers—the generation of workers that are now opting to retire. Even though we’re seeing increased participation rates in millennials, it’s not enough to offset that loss. We’re losing the knowledge and historical experience that they’re taking with them.”
How can companies meet their talent needs in this new reality? To start, retention and turnover need to be top of mind. Achievers’ Employee Engagement and Retention Report suggests that a stunning 52% of workers plan on looking for new jobs in 2021—up from 35% in 2020. This indicates a need for initiatives targeting employee engagement, work-life balance, flexibility, and company culture.
“Employers need to focus on how to reduce turnover,” explains Maul. “It’s not just about talent acquisition and bringing people in the door, but it’s more about self-reflection and making a proactive, intentional effort to increase the engagement of the current workforce. That means listening and understanding how to reward employees, how to help them grow, and how to help them feel engaged. You have to manage the employee lifecycle and think of ways to make the experience fulfilling for the workers you already have.”
To avoid high turnover, Maul recommends several best practices:
- Share the story and values of the organization so that employees feel connected with the mission.
- Educate the workforce about available opportunities so they feel part of something bigger than their role.
- Communicate the company’s position on vaccines and workforce safety to ensure employees feel safe.
- Embrace authenticity in messaging.
Companies that implement these best practices and achieve an authentic, engaged culture will build a workforce that will attract top employees even in the tightest labor markets.