Employee Recognition

Employee recognition’s role in overcoming the The Great Resignation of 2021

Whether you’re researching ideas for a return to work plan or Googling strategies for your hybrid workforce, you’ve probably noticed the phrase “The Great Resignation of 2021” increasing in articles and across social media.

What exactly is this trend that everyone is talking about, and—more importantly—how does it affect your organization? In this post, we’ll explore what The Great Resignation is and ways you can mitigate its impact on your own workforce through meaningful employee recognition programs and efforts. 

Additionally, we hosted a webinar on July 28th outlining some of the awesome research below (and continued in our new eBook, "Retaining Top Talent is Your Top Priority"). In the webinar, we'll share more context around The Great Resignation of 2021 research and must-know stats, and check in with Blueboard client Elizabeth Fierman, VP of People at Robin Powered. She'll share how Blueboard powers her employee recognition platform and is a critical tool for building a more positive company culture and improved employee retention rates.


What is The Great Resignation of 2021, and why does it matter? 

The Great Resignation of 2021 refers to the post-pandemic trend of employees leaving their current companies. In short, it’s a massive and unprecedented disruption in our labor market caused by significant employee turnover rates.

The pandemic spurred the sharpest economic contraction in US history, millions lost their jobs and are still out of work, and yet businesses have been unable to fill their open positions or improved employee retention. 

A recent study from Microsoft found that 41% of employees are considering resigning from their jobs in 2021—compared to 15% voluntary turnover rates pre-pandemic—and the actual “quit rate” is four million people per month, which is the highest we’ve ever seen. Many factors are leading to this wave of employee resignations

Employee Retention and Turnover Statistics

1) A desire for flexibility and autonomy. 

During COVID-19, employees had a taste for what it was like to be 100% remote. Many loved this newfound autonomy, which is why 65% of employees want to stay remote post-pandemic, while 33% would prefer a hybrid workplace

Given this, it makes sense why some employees may leave in search of a more flexible setup if their current employer decides to make a full return to the office.

2) More job options for employees. 

The pandemic accelerated retirement plans for an unexpected number of people, with 2.5 million retirements happening in the last 15 months—leaving companies with heightened employee turnover and 1.2 million fewer workers over the age of 55 than originally anticipated. 

There are also 1.8 million fewer women in the workforce due to the burden of child care, inflexible workplaces, and various other factors. These gaps have created a candidate-driven job market, giving employees more options to choose from than ever before.

Couple this with an increased number of companies (concentrated in the tech space) moving to fully remote or hybrid models after finding success through the pandemic, and it's no surprise that maintaining or improving employee retention is becoming difficult. As employers relax their expectations for employees to all reside at HQ, job seekers have more and more opportunities to explore beyond their backyard.

3) Higher standards for work. 

Let’s be honest: Many organizations still aren’t great places to work. Before the pandemic, employees were OK with this—as long as they received a paycheck every two weeks. But now, after having more than a year to reflect on what they want from their lives, many people have concluded they don’t want to waste time at an unfulfilling job and are setting their sights higher.

So what exactly does all of this mean for your company? It means that, without the right culture, benefits, and retention strategies in place, you’re at risk of losing your top talent during The Great Resignation of 2021 as well—and this increase in employee turnover is likely to cost you in more ways than one.

A study estimates it can cost up to nine months of an employee’s salary to replace them. Employee turnover can also negatively impact your culture and engagement levels—not to mention it can increase burnout for employees who have to take on more work until the open role is filled. 

Exhausted, disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year in lost productivity every year. 

How recognition programs can improve employee retention.

So what can you do to make sure you’re an organization improving employee retention, and not one of the many employers losing their best talent? While there are many ways to address this question, there’s one answer for reducing employee turnover that’s easily accessible for almost every organization—and that’s employee recognition. 

Here’s why 69% of employees would be more likely to stay at a company if they received more recognition:

Recognition = truly caring about your people. 

Employee recognition is a direct demonstration that you care about your employees in a holistic way—which is one of the factors driving people into new roles during The Great Resignation of 2021. This is especially true when you choose meaningful forms of employee recognition, like experiential rewards

With this approach, you’re not just throwing money at employees—you’re enhancing their lives by offering meaningful experiences they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. By celebrating experiences, you show that your company truly cares about building a culture of recognition that makes employees want to stay. 

Recognition programs strengthen manager-employee relationships.

We’ve all heard the common refrain regarding employee retention that people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. But the other side is just as true: People stay when they have good managers. So when you make your managers the drivers of employee appreciation and recognition, this promotes positive feelings in their direct reports. 

Research from SHRM shows that favorable treatment from a manager is synonymous with support from the organization. So when employees feel that they’re appreciated by their company, their motivation to stay, continue receiving recognition, and produce their best work increases accordingly - significantly reducing your employee turnover rate.

Employee recognition is shareable.

We’re not talking about cash bonuses here. While monetary rewards might give employees a small burst of excitement, it can feel awkward bragging about a cash bonus in front of coworkers. 

But a recognition program, such as spot awards, that offers experiential rewards for employees—whether that’s watching an epic sunrise on a hot air balloon ride or catching that first wave during a surf lesson—provide organic opportunities for conversations (and even sharing a photo or two!).

You can even bring these stories to life to your entire company by sharing photos through internal social channels (we've got you covered, check out our integrations with Slack or Microsoft Teams), announcing them at your company all-hands, or turning Steve’s skydiving adventure into an Instagram-friendly sizzle reel. This demonstrates that your company values retaining great talent and shows the world how you reward your top performers. 

You don’t have to be part of The Great Resignation. 

While there are many trends that you want to be part of, The Great Resignation 2021 isn’t one of them. With the right employee recognition program, you can improve employee retention, save money, and build a company culture that your employees—and other potential candidates—want to be part of. 

If you’re curious to learn more about the role of recognition in improving your retention rates, along with best practices, case studies, and the latest research, download our new eBook, “Retaining Top Talent is your Top Priority.”

Join our community and receive must-have recognition tips straight to your inbox.

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