Happy New Year! Recruiting and retaining employees in 2022 won’t get any easier

2022 may be another year of workers squinting at recruiters and asking, “Why should we choose you?” Experts weigh in on how HR can successfully attract and retain talent.
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· 5 min read

A tight labor market and grueling pandemic made 2021 a uniquely difficult year for recruiters scrambling to hire workers and HR professionals responsible for retaining them. Will 2022 be any easier? We spoke with several hiring experts and HR leaders to get a sense of what might lie ahead.

To get the bad news out of the way: The Great Resignation wasn’t a one-season wonder à la The Queen’s Gambit—by all accounts, it’s coming back for season two in 2022. We can offer you a chaser. Demystifying retention doesn’t require consulting a ouija board.

First, where are we? If you’re crawling out of a post–Christmas cookie binge and seeing the sun for the first time in a few days, and are unable to recall what the world looked like when you last checked Slack, let us remind you: Millions of Americans quit their jobs in the back half of 2021.

Liz Wilke, principal economist at Gusto, a firm that tracks hiring data throughout the US, said the quit rates “blew right past” previously reported numbers. According to Wilke, turnover was led by women, workers in retail services, and employees in areas with low vaccination rates. So long as Covid remains a threat, Wilke expects these trends to continue.

“People are not only workers. They are people with families and with children. They care about their health,” Wilke told HR Brew. “There is a study that suggests that for every one Covid death in this country, there are nine bereaved close family members—not counting close friends or people you knew—which at 800,000 deaths means that we have as many as 5.6 million bereaved people in this country who have seen firsthand the loss associated with Covid. And I think it would be misguided to think that those people are not incorporating that information into their work decisions, particularly with a new variant.”

Wilke said that “women in particular” have led the Great Resignation. A third of mothers left the workforce or scaled back as Covid-19 forced them to reshuffle home and work responsibilities.

“There were 4.3 million new small businesses created [in 2020], primarily by women and people of color as they sort of rebalance and reorganize to make sense of work and life in the wake of Covid,” Wilke said. “We really expect this to continue into 2022.”

Holding on for dear talent. Though some employees may leave their roles no matter what, employers can implement policies to persuade on-the-fence employees to stay.

“As the social contract of work continues to be rewritten thanks to the pandemic, employees will stay in the driver’s seat,” Mark Lobosco, VP of talent solutions at LinkedIn, told HR Brew. To retain workers, Lobosco says employers must identify which benefits are essential to employees and work expediently to offer them.

“A clear example of this is employers’ response to the growing appetite for remote work,” Lobosco said. “In March 2020 only one in 67 paid US jobs on LinkedIn offered remote work, but now that number has exploded and is up to nearly one in 6.”

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From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.

The flexibility that remote work allows has been heralded as critical to retaining women and caregivers, but can also allow all workers much needed time to unplug.

Beth Monaghan, CEO of PR firm InkHouse, is a fan of remote work and refining asynchronous communication. She recently announced a firm-wide policy of closing the office every other Friday and introduced an elaborate Slack emoji system to signal to coworkers when someone was stepping away from their machines.

“I don’t want you at your computer all day,” Monaghan told HR Brew. “When I started my career, there was this expectation that you didn’t sign off until your boss did, or you worked until midnight. That’s when people burn out. When I started my own firm, I realized there was a better way. We could be good at our jobs and not have people leave just because they were exhausted.”

InkHouse could be on to something. A study from the Maven Clinic found burnout made people 2.4 times more likely to quit. A separate study from Limeade, an employee well-being company, found 40% of employees who quit blamed burnout as the leading motivator for leaving.

Deloitte is another major company boosting its benefits in the new year. The consulting giant announced $1 billion in additional investments in compensation and benefits for workers, including expanded paid time off, mental health and wellbeing benefits, and remote-work subsidies.

How will we find new talent? If the Great Resignation stays great, Lobosco told HR Brew hiring managers will be under “more pressure than ever to attract qualified candidates and fill positions quickly.”

According to Lobosco, the fields that are likely to be hiring the most are in tech; he also noted “nurses remain among the most in-demand jobs in the world.”

Recruiters will need to roll up their sleeves and get creative to attract talent. Lobosco believes the way forward is nixing degree requirements where possible to attract a more diverse talent pool.

“This is already a trend,” Lobosco said. “And it’s one we think will continue for many reasons. First, it lets companies be more inclusive. But even more exciting for employers, these people stay longer. Employees without a four-year-degree tend to stay 34% longer than employees with a degree.”

Lobosco says another essential ingredient in retention is upskilling: “Younger generations especially are hungry for opportunities to learn.” Given that career investment is associated with feeling valued at work (which is associated with retention), why not start your applicant search with the people already on payroll?—SV

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Contact Susanna Vogel via the encrypted messaging app Telegram (@SusannaVogel) or simply email [email protected].

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.