February 7th, 2022 | Alla Schay, General Manager, Sterling - Industrials, Government & Education

5 Actions to Take Today to Cope With the Great Resignation

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the declaration of Covid-19 as a global pandemic, HR teams have seen a fundamental reordering of personal priorities, in turn creating new professional challenges for making sure businesses are adequately staffed to meet critical customer needs.

“The Great Resignation”, also known as “the Big Quit”, refers to the historic uptick in the number of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs, a trend first seen in 2021. When the pandemic first emerged, it initially resulted in a decrease in resignations — presumably more workers were holding on to their jobs in the face of economic uncertainty and the involuntary loss of jobs in many sectors of the economy, like hospitality. After bottoming out in April 2021, the resignation rate quickly rebounded to pre-pandemic levels and then reached new heights (at about 3%) that continue today.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.5 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in November 2021. The decision to leave a job is always a personal one, but certain trends have emerged throughout the Great Resignation, including a desire for work entailing less health risk, a preference for early retirement, and the well-documented population shift to the Sunbelt states.

What is an HR professional to do when over one of every 30 employees is likely to quit during any given month? Successful HR teams will be proactive in both their retention and hiring approaches, as illustrated in these key areas:

1. Foster an Excellent Company Culture

It has never been more critical for businesses to be perceived by their candidates as a highly-desired employer and not as one of last resort. For employers this is the core issue of the Great Resignation: namely, how many of your employees are actively looking for work elsewhere?

While you probably conduct regular employee surveys to get valuable feedback on what’s working, make sure to follow up on your feedback. Actionable responses such as policy changes, trial periods and brainstorming sessions can all go a long way toward creating and continuously improving upon a great company culture.

Naturally, everyone has the same fundamental need to feel safe at home and at work. As we all know, the pandemic introduced a host of new safety requirements, with many employers taking concrete actions to reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus, including training, protective equipment, and emergency preparedness measures. An equally critical step is making sure you are only employing those who meet your desired qualifications after a thorough background screening process. This typically includes criminal records, employment and education verification, and drug screening. Depending on the role, a background screening check may also include fit-for-duty exams, additional health screenings, and job-specific requirements like motor vehicle record checks.

2. Build a Strong Reputation in the Communities You Serve

Brand perception is another major factor related to a strong company culture. Satisfied employees will happily act as your brand ambassadors, proudly telling people where they work, both in their face-to-face interactions and online. For example you’ll see them wearing tee-shirts and hats with your company logo at baseball games and Happy Hour. This positive buzz can lead even more people to want to work for you, attending job fairs, responding to job postings, and proactively reaching out on your website’s “Careers” page. Community relations and targeted sponsorships can also be important to your brand perception.

Safety in the workplace can play a key role here as well. Your ability to help determine that your employees are all properly and thoroughly vetted — and that those who work for you have met your high standards — can help solidify your brand’s strong integrity and reputation. You’ll also be more confident when onboarding new people, and this can prove to be another source of strong rapport among your employee teams.

3. Offer Candidates a Responsive Application Process

Today, the number of unemployed persons per job opening is at a historic low, well under 1.0. As jobs become harder to fill, it also becomes even more important to quickly identify and “lock in” the best applicants, so that they realize and appreciate the high value you place in their application. While the applicant process cannot fix this problem, an efficient and user-friendly approach can certainly help HR teams to avoid making a difficult situation worse.

Transparency and an honest assessment of your onboarding timelines can create a value-added applicant experience. Telling your applicants how many rounds of interviews they can expect, and exactly when they will (or will not) proceed to the next stage, allows them to maintain their high interest and re-prioritize their other job search activities. The ideal bridge between the selection and onboarding process includes conducting a thorough background check. Including information about the timeline and steps typically required can help your applicants see a clear pathway between that first interview and the day they proudly show up on Day One at their new job.

4. Deliver Best-in-Class Onboarding

In a tight labor market, onboarding can either be an area in which to excel or the exact point at which your candidates begin to lose interest. After all, it’s already possible that your prospective employees are also being sought by your direct competitors or others in your job market. Maybe your top candidate’s current employer will “sweeten the pot” with a better offer, meaning you’re left to go back to less-promising applicants (if they are still available) or in the worst-case scenario, start searching for applicants all over again.

That’s why the onboarding phase is so critical to an HR team’s success, and why partnership with the right background screener can pay dividends in the following ways:

  • Easy and intuitive candidate experience: Throughout the time that your applicants are completing all the necessary tasks as part of the background check, they are forming their own opinions of what the employee experience will look like. A valuable background screening partner can help you to create a streamlined onboarding process with a native mobile approach.
  • Focus on automation: We have all seen how severe storms — and now the latest wave in an ongoing global pandemic — can close courthouses and impede access to vital records. The most efficient solution is a digital connection to those critical records that do not require in-person inspection.
  • Meet hiring demand without sacrificing safety: An experienced background screening partner can deliver rapid turnaround times with a high percentage of searches completed within a day.
  • Consistency across your employee population: Many companies rely on contract or contingent workers to perform many business-critical functions. Consistent application of your background screening standards for all your employees can be achieved alongside a knowledgeable service partner.

5. Allow for Continuous Improvement

Now, your HR team may have already taken some or all of these steps, meaning you’re in great shape for coping with the Great Resignation. Congratulations, you’re likely a highly-sought after employer with a strong reputation and who quickly identifies the best applicants, makes offers, and onboards them.

However, the last thing you can do now is to rest on your laurels. As quickly as conditions have changed in the last 12 to 24 months, you can be assured that the hiring environment will continue to evolve just as quickly (or maybe even faster) in 2022. Make sure that you and your HR team keep all these strategies in mind, and on a regular basis ask yourself this critical question — “Am I doing everything I can to stay ahead of the curve?”

Alla Schay is General Manager of the Industrials, Government & Education business at Sterling, a leading provider of background and identity services. Over the last 15 years she has served in several prominent roles at the company including leadership of client services and account management teams, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Human Resources Officer. Alla is an operations management professional with rich experience in business process transformation, Six Sigma analysis as well as software and CRM implementation. Prior to Sterling, Schay held senior and strategic positions at Wolters Kluwer Corporate Legal Services (CLS). In addition, she spent six years as a principal management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.