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The Great Resignation Might Not Be as Great as Expected

New survey reveals 21 percent of organizations experienced voluntary turnover in the past 12 months.

Employee turnover rates are higher than pre-pandemic levels yet lower than expected for a Great Resignation era, according to a new survey published by WorldatWork in partnership with UFlexReward.

The survey, Workforce Planning in the Great Resignation Era, shows that while the voluntary turnover rate is higher in the U.S. than in any other country, it only increased by 3 percentage points since prior to the global pandemic.

“We have heard a lot about the ‘Great Resignation,’ but no one has really quantified the turnover directly from a group of leading organizations,” says Steve Brink, president of uFlexReward. “This new joint research study provides the most recent turnover benchmarks but more importantly feedback from organizations on what has been more effective in addressing turnover. The study also provides benchmarks on remote work, priorities of skills in HR, and other valuable information.”

Top priorities for survey respondents, both employees and job seekers, are remote work and work/life balance. Among the most effective areas of action cited by respondents to reduce turnover were recruitment; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); recognition; and development/performance management.

“We see that the most effective actions employers are taking to reduce turnover relate to remote work and work/life balance. Of organizations who have implemented or are currently implementing action in HR policies, 87 percent are adding remote work options, which shows their recognition of the importance and effectiveness of work/life balance on retention and recruitment,” says Deirdre Macbeth, WorldatWork content director. “In fact, organizations are recruiting more HR staff to address these issues and to redesign the way the workforce works.”

Among the findings:

  • Turnover is higher than pre-pandemic levels yet lower than expected for a Great Resignation era.
    • On average, 21 percent of organizations have experienced voluntary turnover in the past 12 months, a 17 percent increase from prior to the global pandemic (18 percent). Even across organization size, this is consistent.
    • This turnover rate is most emphasized in the U.S. than in any other country.
  • HR policies, compensation, and recruitment are cited as the most effective areas of action to reduce turnover. Other areas of action included DEI, recognition, development/performance management, and benefits, but some of these actions may take longer to achieve desired impact on retention.
    • 47 percent prioritized work-life balance
    • 47 percent modified or added flexible work schedules/alternate schedules
    • 44 percent modified or added a remote work policy
    • 44 percent modified or added new paid leave benefit (including paid holidays)
    • 42 percent increased geographic scope for sourcing qualified candidates
    • 42 percent increased off-cycle pay increase
    • 32 percent modified compensation levels or pay bands for roles
    • 20 percent modified or added a DEI program or initiative
  • Organizations are prioritizing recruitment skills when recruiting new HR talent.
    • 80 percent of organizations say labor shortage/competition for talent is the greatest HR challenge in 2022.
    • On average, the number of full-time HR employees focused on talent acquisition and recruitment in HR has increased by more than one-third since prior to 2020.
  • On average, half of employees are currently working remotely.
    • Prior to the pandemic, 13 percent of employees were remote, with a high of 67 percent during the height of the pandemic, with that number now leveling out at 50 percent. Of those with remote workers, eight percent of organizations have 100 percent of employees working remotely.
    • A quarter of organizations plan to downsize their physical workplace.
    • Over half of organizations using hybrid schedules are doing so on a two or three-day basis.

WorldatWork invited its broader membership and customer base to participate in an electronic survey on pay equity initiatives. A total of 556 responses were received, representing organizations of different sizes and across multiple industries.

Julie Keller Callaghan for Well DefinedJulie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world.