How to prevent the post-CNY resignations

Chinese New Year is a tricky time for employees with itchy feet. Can HR overturn the trend?

How to prevent the post-CNY resignations

With Chinese New Year (CNY) right around the corner, some employees may be busy planning more than just a spring cleaning of their homes. The festive tradition involves getting rid of old and unwanted belongings as a symbol of clearing bad luck and welcoming good fortune.

What if the list of “old and unwanted” included their current jobs? The annual exodus of employees after the CNY holidays has become quite a norm that a Google search would reveal articles sharing tips on how to boost your job search post festivities.

Some companies give out their performance bonuses or additional red packets (ang paos) during this period in a bid to show their appreciation for employees’ hard work for the past year.

But this may be too little too late: two in three Singaporeans dread going to work daily, with over half saying they’re unsatisfied in their current roles, based on a Qualtrics survey.

How can HR tackle this worrying trend?

Chee Tung Leong, CEO and co-founder at EngageRocket told HRD that the CNY exodus reflects the transactional nature that many companies have with their employees. He added that with countless reports on low engagement levels in Singapore, the trend “should not be a surprise”.

“When companies do not effectively engage employees, it’s easy for them to do the rational thing: leave for someone who’ll pay them more right after extracting the maximum payoff they can get from their current firm,” he said.

He shared three main reasons for the lack of engagement here:

1. The lack of autonomy
“Singaporean companies can be very process-driven, to the point that we encourage ‘zombie workers’ who ‘just follow lor’,” he said.

2. Not all companies nurture mastery
There is a high cultural emphasis on taking on managerial responsibilities, with pay and incentive systems matching this – managers usually get more pay, respect and prestige than individual contributors.

Workers might feel they need to be “just good enough” at their job to get promoted, rather than enjoying the intrinsic motivation behind the work itself.

3. A weak communication of purpose|
With a “sometimes excessive” focus on doing things right instead of doing the right things, many leaders choose to focus on communicating the “how” of a process, instead of spending time communicating the “why”.

So what can HR do to help turn things around and retain staffers?

“HR cannot do this alone,” Chee said. “The most important task in talent retention is actually getting buy-in from the business heads who lead those employees every day.

“Together, they need to create an environment of trust and respect for each employee, acknowledging that each comes with their unique strengths and paths to achieving the desired outcome.”

He also cautioned against micromanagement. It may achieve results in the short-term, he said, but it has the effect of repelling genuine talent in the long-term.

“HR and business leaders need to also create an environment of open communication and feedback, with leaders who are receptive to feedback about their leadership style and willing to adjust accordingly to get the most out of their teams,” he said.

“This also involves being deliberate at continuously reinforcing the mission and purpose of the company or team and connecting it to the employee’s work.

“Finally, HR needs to implement a system of continuous listening through multiple feedback channels. This would provide a clear map of who needs intervention and when.”

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