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How to Support Employees During High Turnover

Quick Look: 68.9 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in 2021, putting countless former coworkers at risk of becoming overworked, burned out, and more likely to quit, too. Here’s how SMBs – with the help of a PEO – can support employees during times of high turnover and boost their retention rate, productivity, and profitability along the way.

When the Great Resignation is discussed, the conversation often revolves around how to attract and retain talent. But, what about the workers who aren’t quitting?

An astonishing 68.9 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in 2021, compared to just 42.1 million in 2019. We are experiencing the tightest labor market on record, and that can take a toll on the employees that remain. Workloads may increase, morale may drop, and a snowball effect may occur where remaining workers become more stressed and more likely to also quit.

As small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) grapple with the current turnover tidal wave, here’s what employers can do to support their remaining staff.

Create certainty when possible

While change is inevitable, it’s also important to safeguard employee morale during especially tumultuous times.

Employers can encourage management and leadership to, when appropriate, reiterate that they have no plans to leave the organization. This can be as simple as vocalizing to their teams, “I’m here for you, and I don’t have any plans to leave.”

In addition to employees wondering if their leaders will stay or go, times of high turnover are also often associated with feelings of uncertainty about the company’s overall direction. To address this, managers can proactively ask their teams if they have any questions, and either answer them honestly, be transparent about whether or not they can answer them, or provide a specific date when they’ll have more information, if they are unsure of the answer.

These simple – albeit sensitive – conversations can create a solid sense of stability for your vulnerable remaining staff.

Proactively balance workloads

When employees quit, it’s common for their assignments to be distributed among remaining staff, who are at risk of becoming overworked – and potentially leaving themselves. To prevent this, managers can hold regular team meetings to assess each employee’s workload. Consistently checking in gives managers the opportunity to reallocate projects among team members and understand the team’s overall capacity in real-time. These meetings also enable teams to brainstorm solutions together while they wait for open positions to be filled.

Encourage speaking up

During times of high turnover, it may not be feasible for busier-than-ever employees to agree to take on as many new assignments as they previously did.

Management should inform their teams that it’s acceptable to question deadlines and decline or postpone proposed projects, if needed. To make the biggest impact, managers should regularly give explicit permission to speak up – and it’s equally important for them to discuss realistic deadlines and potential obstacles when employees push back on a task. It can also be helpful to provide a list of clearly defined potential requests that team members can say no to until the team is fully staffed again.

Act as a gatekeeper

Unnecessary and low-priority requests almost always cause a bottleneck in business operations, but this is even more apparent when an SMB is experiencing high turnover. Managers should act as gatekeepers, stepping in to shield their teams from tasks that will take away from them completing higher priority projects.

It’s critical to encourage employees to speak up and decline taking on low-value projects, but management should also be prepared to step in and act as spokespeople when needed. For example, if an unrealistic assignment request comes in from senior leadership, an employee may feel uncomfortable declining it and managers can step in to decline on their behalf or postpone the request and provide the reason for doing so.

Prioritize connection

The best way to support employees during a stressful time is through human connection. Here are three ways managers can cultivate connection with their teams:

1. Encourage friendship. Work friendships are proven to increase productivity and employee engagement – both of which are vital during turnover. Managers can remind the team that they’re all in this together and encourage teammates to pitch in and help each other.

2. Have fun. Even if the workdays are more hectic than usual during times of turnover, taking the time to continue hosting team-building activities and happy hours, and celebrating achievements, birthdays, and milestones can provide a much-needed morale boost.

3. Regularly touch base. Managers should consider having weekly check-in meetings with their direct reports where current priorities are discussed, as well as how the manager can help and how is the employee feeling. These check-ins can not only help dissolve any roadblocks an employee is experiencing, but also demonstrate that the manager supports them both professionally and emotionally.

Offer the right resources

When times are tough, the right resources can make a world of difference. When SMBs partner with a professional employer organization (PEO), they can gain access to cost-effective employee benefits like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), meditation and mindfulness mobile apps, and more.

A PEO can also coach leadership on how to navigate certain topics they are not yet familiar with. For example, if an employee approaches their manager and tells them that they are struggling, managers can be coached to give a thoughtful, actionable response like, “I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ll research and share some helpful resources with you by next Friday.”

Focus on the future

When your business is facing a high rate of turnover and you’re busy recruiting new talent, it’s far too easy to forget about current employees’ professional goals.

During one-on-one meetings, managers can ask their staff what they are hoping to achieve in their career, and brainstorm ways to adapt their current role to align more closely with those visions. Additionally, if an employee desires to take on more responsibility, managers can consider delegating some tasks from people who have left the company.

Periods of turnover may also be an ideal time to reskill (teach them how to do a new job) or upskill (teach them new skills to expand their current role) employees. Reskilling and upskilling not only help workers reach their individual goals but can also help SMBs boost retention rates and increase cost and operational efficiency.

Consult with your PEO

As an SMB facing increasing levels of turnover, you have your hands full. On top of your standard day-to-day tasks, you now need to find the time to attract qualified candidates and keep current employees happy. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A PEO can help take additional work off your plate by providing:

  • Recruiting services: A PEO, like ExtensisHR, offers complimentary recruiting services so you can focus on other important business matters.
  • Resource access: PEOs can provide affordable access to EAPs, meditation and mindfulness mobile apps, and more.
  • HR guidance: When you partner with a PEO, you can let them handle your HR – they’ll proactively collaborate with you, build a yearly HR roadmap, and manage day-to-day HR tasks.

Are you doing all you can to support your employees? Contact the experts at ExtensisHR today to find out.

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