Keller Augusta Partners

Experts say a 'turnover tsunami' could be on the horizon as pandemic uncertainty subsides

Experts say a 'turnover tsunami' could be on the horizon as pandemic uncertainty subsides

May 17, 2021

As the economic recovery continues and companies craft their return-to-work plans, experts and surveys show businesses need to be prepared for another potential disruption: a potential surge in turnover.

According to a survey by insurance and financial services provider Prudential Financial, 26% of workers plan to look for a job with a different employer once the threat of the pandemic decreases.

Many of those workers have been “sheltering in place” – a term used to describe workers who remained at their job over the past 15 months due to the uncertainty created by Covid-19. 

Kate Keller has seen the changing workplace dynamics first-hand.

Keller is principal of Keller Augusta, a Boston-based national boutique search firm focused on the commercial real estate industry that has seen a 50% increase in demand for its services in the past year. 

“Many companies are preparing for a potential ‘turnover tsunami’ in the wake [of the pandemic],” Keller said.

Keller said a variety of factors are responsible for the expected increase in turnover, including pandemic burnout, unhealthy work environments and pent-up demand for vacations. 

As things return to a sense of normalcy and the economic recovery continues, many of those employees are expected to start looking. 

Considering the circumstances, they are likely to have plenty of options. Labor shortages are gripping numerous industries, a trend experts say is likely to lead companies to offer lucrative pay increases to lure talent. A survey by Chicago-based Elements Global Services found it would take just a 15% raise for 49% of workers to change jobs.

With those factors at play, experts say companies need to be proactive about defending against turnover in the months to come, and they offer several best practices to consider.

1. Reimagine your workplace

Ron Mitchell, CEO at Humanity Health — a startup that focuses on career acceleration and talent sourcing for underrepresented leaders in the health care field — said the pandemic has changed the hiring and retention equation for many companies and industries.

Heading into pandemic, the labor market was tight, but Mitchell said most of the focus at that time was on finding workers with the right skills. 

The work-from-home environment that took hold over the past 15 months has added a new wrinkle.

“Post-pandemic, organizations have another thing to think about it. It’s not just, ‘Can I find talent with the right skills?” Mitchell said. “It’s [now], ’Is my organization set up to be attractive to people with the right skills?’”

If companies haven’t already done so, Keller said they need to be determining what the future of their workplace looks like.

Many businesses are choosing a hybrid model that includes work-from-home options. Many experts say that is becoming the expectation for jobseekers and existing employees, so companies that choose to deviate from that model could be putting themselves at risk for higher turnover.

Keller encourages companies to have an outlined workplace strategy with clear expectations about how the flexible schedules will work. 

Prudential’s survey found 73% of workers believe companies should offer and expand remote-work opportunities after the pandemic is over. 

2. Reassess your benefits

Based on the feedback Keller’s company’s has received, she said now is a good time for employers to assess their benefits packages. 

“We advise firms to identify their shortcomings and opportunities to improve their offerings,” Keller said. 

Points of attention could include increased vacation, compensation and wellness packages. 

Keller said making tangible progress on those steps can boost morale, ultimately reducing turnover. 

Prudential’s survey found about 75% of respondents will factor benefits into their decision to seek a new job, with flexible schedules (31%) and career mobility opportunities (25%) being the most coveted benefits.

3. Rethink your processes

The past year has been a chaotic one for many companies and employees. 

That means many processes that have been consistent for a long time might need to be reconfigured to maximize effectiveness. 

With that in mind, Keller said companies may want to reconsider their existing retention surveys and exit interviews.

“This will allow them to understand any potential underlying issues within the team and noting opportunities to invest in outside resources for additional support and mentorship,” she said.

There could be new questions or job factors to ask about in the wake of the pandemic that might not have been on employees' radars prior to 2020.
One area that companies should probe is around workplace culture.

According to Prudential’s survey, 42% of workers who plan to leave their current employer would give their employer a ‘C’ or lower for efforts to maintain culture during the pandemic.