Canadian Underwriter

When the war for talent meets the ‘Great Resignation’

November 17, 2021   by Jason Contant

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Canada’s property and casualty insurance industry was already facing the oft-mentioned ‘war for talent,’ and now it has to contend with a newer talent crunch: The ‘Great Resignation.’

The widespread trend of a large number of workers leaving their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic has made the search for P&C talent that much more difficult. A new blog from Harvard Business Review said one HR strategy employers should embrace is to make themselves “so attractive that employees won’t want to leave.”

There are six measures to help accomplish this feat: (1) add monetary incentives for staying, (2) provide better career opportunities, (3) elevate the company’s purpose, (4) prioritize culture and connection, (5) take better care of employees and their families, and (6) embrace flexibility.

“There is a widening mismatch between the job environment employees want — and now expect — and the one their organizations have,” said the blog, 6 Strategies to Boost Retention Through the Great Resignation, published online Monday.

That was the finding of conversations the blog authors had with top executives of dozens of American companies over the last several months, multiple global surveys they’ve conducted to learn what employees want, and their examination of 20 years of data on the expectations and workplace satisfaction of 800,000 employees from a wide range of industries and job categories.

The blog was written by Frank Breitling, Julia Dhar, Ruth Ebeling, and Deborah Lovich, all from Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Breitling, Dhar and Ebeling are all managing directors and partners with BCG’s offices in New York, Boston, and Dallas, respectively; Lovich is senior partner and managing director in the Boston office.

“The challenge is severe. Some of our clients have told us they’re seeing upwards of 30% attrition in certain job categories,” the authors wrote. “Some industrial clients have told us that some of their plants have had more than 100% employee turnover since March 2020. In other segments, especially technology and data science, employers describe the turnover and churn as ‘unrelenting.’”

This turmoil in the labour market isn’t likely to subside any time soon. “Employers need to recognize that it takes significantly longer to recruit someone than it does for them to give their two-week notice and depart,” the blog said.

The solution is to immediately bolster retention while ramping up recruiting. To do so, companies need to get on the same page as employees by reconceptualizing what it means to be part of their organization. BCG’s research has found workers new and old are looking for value, purpose, certainty and belonging. “But recruitment and training costs and the time it typically takes for new hires to reach the same level of expertise as the people they replaced make it imperative that employers focus immediately on retention,” the authors wrote.

Here are six measures that will have the greatest impact:

Incentivize loyalty

“You have to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table,” the blog said. In addition to updating your overall compensation package, consider offering employees one-time bonuses, helping them pay down their student loans, and providing them with work-from-home stipends.

Some companies are also offering “boomerangs”: bringing back people who have recently departed by offering to immediately vest them in long-term compensation plans.

Provide opportunities to grow

Pretend your best people just handed in their resignation notices. How would you change their minds? Ask them, “If you could shape your dream job here, what would it be?” Then look for ways to make it happen.

Forward-thinking organizations have been doing retention interviews for the past months — asking each employee what it would take for them to stay, the blog said.

Forthcoming BCG research based on employee-engagement-survey data found a significant predictor of whether employees are engaged is how enthusiastically they answer the question, “Does my job make good use of my skills?” In short, show current employees that you value them even more than potential new hires by providing them with new opportunities to grow and advance. “Workers are hungry for this vote of confidence.”

Elevate your purpose

In turbulent times, a belief in what an organization is trying to achieve is even more important than in quieter periods. Prove to employees that there’s more to your organization than the bottom line. And don’t just talk purpose; use it to shape what you do and how you do it.

Prioritize culture and connection

Put your work aside and make time to connect and build relationships with — and among — your people. BCG’s COVID-era survey data show that both blue- and white-collar workers around the world place a higher priority on having a “good relationship with co-workers” than on many other job attributes.

Invest in taking care of employees and their families

Provide mental health resources, acknowledge the personal sacrifices everyone has made during the pandemic, help parents with small children by providing or subsidizing day care, and give more paid time off.

Embrace flexibility

Embrace flexible work environments in terms of place, time, job description, and career paths. Better yet, have employees form teams to create their future of work. “If people help build their dream home, they’ll want to live in it.”

The blog authors also suggest loosening up on “qualifications.” Consider hiring candidates who don’t quite fit your profile. “If they have 75% of what you’re looking for, grab them.

“We don’t have to resign ourselves to the empty chairs and a continuing tide of resignations,” the blog concluded. “Decisive action is what’s needed, and it’s needed now.”


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