Turning the Great Resignation into the Great Retention

Employee satisfaction surveys are common, but how many actually drive a company to listen?

Turning the Great Resignation into the Great Retention

by Jason Poole, Customer Engagement Executive, SAP SuccessFactors Solutions

Over the past two years, companies have witnessed an unprecedentedly high number of employees planning to change jobs or leave their organization entirely. Having learned to work remotely and deal with frustrations while living through the pandemic, people are seeking to take control of the things they can, which includes their careers. This movement labelled the Great Resignation, has made heart-stopping headlines and put many organizations on the defensive to retain their top talent.

Read more: Can HR fire an employee for a Facebook post?

Yet not all is lost. Throughout this period, we have noticed some companies have remained resilient, making adjustments to keep turnover low. The key to their success is investing in a strong corporate culture and employee experience. They are no longer focusing on human capital, but rather on human experience, which reflects a shift in mindset and priorities. While each have taken their own unique approach, they are championing company culture in the areas of well-being, active listening, and continuous learning as the foundation for strong engagement. They are focused on the great retention. Let’s take a look at stories shared by some Canadian CHROs.

A culture of continuous learning and growth

“At Purolator, our competitive advantage comes from our people and service capability. We recognized early that we are a people business and focused our investments accordingly,” Ken Johnston, Senior Vice President People & Culture, at Purolator emphasized.

Purolator’s investments in employee learning includes a Diverse Talent Matters program that provides talent support and networking opportunities for employees who identify as visible minorities. Participants receive individualized learning journeys that include a combination of coaching, training, assessments, memberships, mentoring and experiential learning. There’s also an award-winning leader development program called Evolve designed to transform managers into leaders. The 10-day program involves cohorts of regionally located managers blended across all functional areas of the company in Canada and the United States. This continuous learning initiative has contributed to the company maintaining a low turnover.

Likewise, Innovapost, a Canadian IT company, is continually investing in the development of employees by funding future-focused skills as a strategic priority. Nanette Dean, CHRO for Talent and Transformation at Innovapost, explained, “We know that attracting and retaining the best IT talent at Innovapost during this emerging battle for talent will require a mixture of boldness, imagination, and persistence. We’ve already rolled out ‘Learn21’ and ‘Learn Thursday’ initiatives in which all employees are supported in completing 21 hours of role-based and enterprise-driven learning throughout the year.”

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A culture of listening, empathy, and action

Employee satisfaction surveys are common, but how many actually drive a company to listen, and more importantly, take action? Organizations that have an active employee listening strategy need to be prepared for employees to influence and shift culture toward new or even unproven ways of work, essentially forcing organizations to reinvent themselves. When surveying their employees regarding return-to-work preferences, Jodi Carradice, SVP and Chief People and Culture Officer at the Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, gave careful consideration to the feedback and made sure to act upon it.

“As we follow public health advice and gradually reopen our offices to more employees, we also gave our people the flexibility to choose where they work best. For the vast majority of roles here at Wawanesa Insurance, that can be working from the office, from home, or a hybrid mix of time spent at both. The choice is theirs. Based on the outpouring of positive comments on our announcement, our people seem thrilled!”

A culture of well-being

We do our best work when we are healthy and safe. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that an organization which supports its employees’ well-being is better positioned to retain existing and attract new employees.

In the early days of the pandemic, Purolator quickly evolved its scanner technology and protocols used by its essential workers on the frontline, to enable customers to provide verbal confirmation of signature. These measures were taken to ensure employees’ physical safety while continuing to serve customers.  To support employees’ emotional well-being, Purolator also introduced employee and manager mental health first-aid training. This initiative has helped raise awareness about mental illness and equip employees with the skills necessary to recognize and help someone struggling with mental health, including how to utilize action plans and crisis intervention strategies.

Purolator also credits its hiring of a Corporate Medical Director (CMD) – a timely move made prior to the pandemic - as one of its best investments. In addition to providing support during the pandemic, their CMD has been able to provide accurate, real-time medical guidance around how to deal with micro and macro employee, as well as customer, well-being issues.

Culture as a differentiator

To deliver optimal results, these initiatives work best when cultivated in a culture with well-rounded wellness programs, community building initiatives, as well as innovation and psychological frameworks where it is safe to fail.

Megan Smith, Head of HR at SAP Canada, said it well, “To unleash the potential of a high-performing team, the talent within the team needs to be fed a healthy diet of trust, empowerment, and flexibility.”

Companies that have invested in a culture of employee experience have seen positive results in attracting and retaining the country’s top talents. Evidently, trust, continuous support and active listening provide a great environment for employee growth and development – one of the main reasons employees choose to stay.

Purolator CEO John Ferguson’s vision is, "In the future, the winners of the war on talent will be those who hold a purpose beyond the quarterly balance sheet, showing a genuine care for the well-being and safety of their workforce."

The lesson is clear – to join in the Great Retention, you need to transform your HR department and make your employees your top priority.

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