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Workplace ‘turnover tsunami’ is brewing as COVID-19 subsides

May 27, 2021   by Jason Contant

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Work conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic have created the perfect storm for a “turnover tsunami,” a Hub International speaker suggested during a webinar last week.

More than 53% of Canadians have received their first dose of vaccine to protect against COVID-19, meaning a return to the office later this year is now on the horizon. But many employees may be looking for work elsewhere as the pandemic subsides, Andrea Goodkin, executive vice president, human resources consulting at Hub International, warned during Hub’s Resilient Summit.

“We are anticipating that most businesses are going to be facing what we’ll fondly refer to as a ‘turnover tsunami,’” Goodkin said during the session, Managing the Seismic Shifts in Today’s Workplace. “Yes, there is pent-up turnover in the workplace.”

What are the root causes of this forecasted turnover wave?

Remote work has opened up opportunities that didn’t previously exist, Goodkin said. Jobs that used to be inaccessible are now accessible.

“A couple of other things are rising to the top that…we anticipate will motivate employees to look elsewhere,” she said. “Compensation and benefits [are] certainly at the top. And this desire to get back to some sort of work-life balance.”

Andrea Goodkin, executive vice president, human resources consulting, and Jeff Faber, chief strategy officer for employee benefits, at Hub’s Resilient Summit.

Jeff Faber, Hub International’s chief strategy officer for employee benefits, added that work stress is also affecting employees’ health. “We’re seeing more pressure on employees than ever before,” he said. “Items like burnout are rising to the surface, total rewards [programs], and all that unspent PTO.”

PTO refers to paid time off or personal time off. This is where an employer pools sick days, personal days, or vacation days for employees to use as the need arises.

“Those are all topics that are really stressing our workforce today,” Faber said. “Never before has there been more of a focus on resiliency, mental health, and treating the human condition within an organization.”

Employers are upping their game when it comes to providing competitive employee benefits plans such as wellness and virtual (health and counselling) services, Hub speakers said during a separate webinar session.

“The investment by employers in wellness and satisfaction for their employees has literally happened overnight,” Joanne Rose, a senior benefits consultant at Hub, said during the session, Work from Anywhere: Creating Inclusive Benefits in a Boundaryless Workplace.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about wellness over the last decade or two,” Rose said. “But employers are really putting their money where their mouth is now.”

For example, there’s been a “big uptake” in employers providing new retirement plans for employees, Rose observed. “For employers that may have resisted providing these plans in the past, we can’t put them in fast enough right now.”

When it comes to employee engagement, it’s a bit of a roller coaster, Goodkin said. Interestingly, when the novel coronavirus was first declared a pandemic in March 2020, employee engagement levels increased slightly. “This was very unexpected, and largely due to the way that businesses, and especially leaders, were responding to the pandemic,” Goodwin said. “Being out in front, visible, vulnerable, and really supporting the workforce.”

Engagement subsequently decreased, and then rose again last fall. “It came up, leveled out again, and today we sit at engagement levels that are slightly above where we were at the start of COVID.”


Feature image by Somsuk

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