Response to the Great Resignation

Response to the Great Resignation

Covid has changed a lot of things, especially how some people view their relationship with work. While the search for work-life balance is not new, the pandemic and a heightened focus on workplace equity is at the forefront of many people’s minds, and they are starting to take action.

In what some are calling “the Great Resignation,” employees are leaving their jobs in higher than usual numbers to pursue better opportunities. What defines better opportunities is not necessarily the same now as it was pre-pandemic, when pay scales and benefits packages often served as driving forces. Now, what motivates a significant portion of workers, especially in younger generations, is a more holistic approach to life that includes addressing personal and important societal needs.

In this article, we discuss the following:

Data Reflecting Job Market Trends

During the pandemic, millions lost their jobs and many more struggled with underemployment. As our country begins to open up again and returning to work is on everyone’s mind, one would think that employers should easily be able to meet their staffing needs. However, when it comes to post-pandemic recruiting and retention, workers find themselves in the driver’s seat.

Recent survey data shows some interesting trends. Most importantly, people are not jumping to get back into the workforce, and for those fortunate enough to remain employed through the pandemic, they do not feel compelled to stay in their current jobs.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) cites several surveys indicating that employee departures will rise as the pandemic subsides. Such predictions are supported by the recent U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) which reported that the combined number of people who voluntarily left their jobs in April and May 2021 totaled more than 7 million.

The Pandemic Changed Attitudes About Working From Home

As employers begin to roll out return to work plans, the ability to work remotely is of particular importance for employees and prospective job applicants. Eighty percent of Americans working from home during the pandemic enjoyed the arrangement according to 2020 research by McKinsey & Company. Over half of respondents reported that they were as or more productive than working in an office.

Workers Weigh in on Remote, Hybrid, or In-Person Strategies

study by the Becker Freidman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago, published in July 2021, reveals that only a little over half of respondents (58 percent) would willingly follow their employer’s requirement to report to a business location five days a week. More than one-third (36 percent) would comply but start looking for a new position, and six percent would quit immediately.

Some workers might even give up a pay raise to remain fully remote. A recent Forbes article revealed that 64 percent of employees at prominent employers, such as Amazon, Goldman Sachs, and QualComm, would forgo a $30,000 salary bump to continue working from home.

These research results are compelling, but do not tell the whole story, as this sea change is not based solely on remote work opportunities. There are a variety of reasons coming together in a perfect storm to create this great exodus.

Factors Contributing to the Increase in Turnover

Since March 2020, a number of forces have refocused societal priorities and challenged people to rethink how they approach work and their lives. These various factors create an environment of escalating quit rates and labor shortages, forcing many employers to scramble as they try to address these concerns.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Covid response demanded many employers adopt work from home scenarios. This arrangement was a positive development for some employers and employees. For many workers, this autonomy was crucial as Covid-19 closed schools, daycare centers, and other avenues that provided family member care before the lockdown. As family demands continue, people are turning to their employers for support and seeking accommodations that proved workable over the past year and a half plus.

Additionally, there is a set of workers (Millennials & Gen Z) who do not define their lives by work. They see their career trajectories as having multiple employers, varying opportunities, and the ability to live wherever they feel at home, but still have viable employment prospects. They envision their careers as supporting their personal as well as professional goals as they seek to harness the best work-life balance.

Discrimination and Equity Concerns

The events of Summer 2020, focused our attention on the broad issue of discrimination (i.e., race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.) in a way that has not happened since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Today, disparities in hiring, compensation, advancement opportunities, access to childcare, and many other work-related issues rank highly on workers’ checklists when evaluating if a company is a right fit. While many companies feel they have addressed these issues with appropriate policies and procedures, employees now expect more than lip service. Actions demonstrate a company’s commitment.

Employees are demanding more transparency and open communication from employers in all areas of the work relationship. They seek a comfort level that the company they work for sees them as individuals, values their contributions, and compensates them fairly. Additionally, being associated with an organization that supports equity in our communities and is motivated to play a role in resolving societal injustices also resonates with many of today’s job seekers.

A Meaningful Life

Living through a pandemic has given many people a new perspective. They desire to contribute more to society than simply completing their assigned tasks and bringing home paychecks. They want the work they perform and the goods and services they provide to improve the world in some way.

This desire to make the world a better place ties into the focus on eliminating societal inequities, but most people recognize that they may not be able to affect groundbreaking change or touch millions. So, for them, impacting their corner of the world — the people they interact with on a daily basis — is a starting point, and they expect their work environment to support that goal.

Covid-19 Related Issues

Employer return to work plans also play a direct role in creating the Great Resignation. Employers want to bring their employees back into the workplace safely, and employees wish to feel safe while there. However, how each employer and individual reaches that comfort level is different and such distinctions often cause friction, even polarizing coworkers, supervisors, and leadership.

Corporate vaccination policies are such an issue. Some employers are encouraging their workforces to take the vaccine; others have mandated it. For a certain population of employees, mandatory vaccination is untenable, and they will refuse, instead opting to resign or be fired. This situation is unfolding in the healthcare sector and spreading to others.

Even without mandatory vaccination policies, masking, social distancing, and testing protocols may also prove to be divisive, driving employees to leave organizations that impose policies with which they do not agree.

The Implications of High Resignation Rates

Rapid and extensive turnover is disruptive and expensive. The cost is both in hard dollars spent to recruit and train new hires and also in loss of institutional knowledge.

Productivity is likely to be impacted as those hired ramp up and learn their new responsibilities. Existing employees may feel overworked and underappreciated as they shoulder the burden of a reduced and green workforce. If open positions remain unfilled, companies may struggle to fulfill organizational goals, serve customers, and prosper.

Preventing an Employee Exodus

As worker expectations shift, employers must adjust, reevaluating how to attract and retain talent. This process is not confined to examining HR functions alone but involves assessing corporate culture. Core business needs must be met, but they must be balanced against emerging employee interests.

Some areas of consideration to solidify employee retention and recruitment include:

  • Opening lines of communication to not only hear employee concerns but also share insight into leadership decisions
    • If leadership agrees to transparency, fulfill that promise
  • Offering employees flexibility in structuring their workweek to the extent it aligns with the organization’s business plan and operations
  • Furnishing avenues for emotional and mental support
  • Updating job descriptions so they accurately represent each position
    • Avoid hiding the less desirable aspects of jobs, so candidates have appropriate expectations before accepting positions
  • Providing training and other pathways to upskill existing employees
  • Establishing onboarding, mentoring, and job opportunity processes to make people want to stay longer
    • These steps may foster a sense of accomplishment, engagement and commitment to the company
  • Conducting “stay interviews” to uncover employee needs, concerns, and complaints
    • Waiting until exit interviews does little to fortify retention
  • Training managers & supervisors to understand and support these initiatives

By reviewing some or all of these areas, leadership may discover that the policies and procedures relied upon for years no longer provide the company with protection against a talent drain.

How RealHR May Help You Address the Great Resignation

Every company is unique in what they add to the marketplace and the culture they adopt internally, so addressing the causes of the Great Resignation will differ from company to company. However, what every assessment has in common is the need for significant evaluation and realistic recommendations that align with organizational goals.

At RealHR, we have the knowledge and years of experience to help point you in the right direction. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you as you consider your options and examine your hiring and talent retention concerns.

The blog should not be construed as legal advice

Performance Reviews: Overview & Tips from HR Experts

Let's start with these frequently asked questions about performance reviews.

Performance Reviews: Overview & Tips from HR Experts

Performance reviews are a complex but essential tool in managing a productive and engaged workforce.

However, for performance reviews to deliver maximum value, they should adhere to standardized processes backed up by best practices. A process that is not well developed, regardless of how simple or complex, can actually become a liability, creating unnecessary confusion and frustration that leads to disengagement or even turnover. It definitely pays to think carefully about what your organization is currently doing and how it can improve.

If your organization is developing a standardized performance review process for the first time or looking to strengthen its existing practices, this complete guide can help. Here are the topics we will cover:

Need help with your performance management strategy? We can help.

At RealHR Solutions, we help organizations create and improve their HR systems and practices, including those related to performance management. We know firsthand the impact that effective performance reviews can have on the underlying health of an organization. This guide will give you a solid foundation on which to build.

Performance Review Basics

1. What is a performance review?

A performance review is a regularly scheduled, structured meeting between an employee and their manager. Its core purpose is for the manager and employee to evaluate the employee’s work performance, the manager to provide feedback, and both to discuss the employee’s strengths and weaknesses that can be capitalized on or addressed.

This touchpoint gives the employee a clear sense of what they are currently doing well, how they can improve, and their progress towards achieving professional goals.

2. What is performance management?

Performance management is the broader process of how an organization manages its employees and evaluates work performance on an ongoing basis. Performance reviews are one part of performance management systems as a whole.

Organizations are increasingly shifting towards performance management models focused on continuous feedback, goal-setting, and course correction rather than relying on review meetings alone. However, performance reviews still serve a valuable purpose as standardized checkpoints for managers and employees to formally discuss performance.

3. Why are performance reviews important for employees?

Simply put, employees need to understand how they are performing to succeed and grow in their roles and within an organization. Performance reviews provide employees with the context and feedback they need to improve, develop, and feel invested.

Without performance feedback, employees can easily feel left adrift with no idea of where they can improve or how their contributions impact the organization as a whole.

4. Why are they important for organizations?

Effective reviews create a structured time and space for discussing performance in which both parties have clearly set expectations. They drive employee productivity, growth, and engagement—all of which are critical factors of long-term organizational success.

In addition, performance reviews reveal how the organization can improve its management and engagement strategies. They can also be used as an opportunity to discuss compensation changes in ways that are  tied to performance.

5. How often should performance reviews occur?

Organizations typically conduct performance reviews annually, biannually, or quarterly. The right timeframe will depend on a number of contextual factors, but the most important point is that performance reviews should occur on a regular basis that is clearly communicated to employees in advance.

6. How do you prepare for performance reviews?

Effective performance reviews require plenty of preparation. The exact process will look different for managers and employees. We cover how both parties should prepare for reviews in a section below.

Follow these recommended performance review steps.

Recommended Performance Review Steps

Depending on your organization’s exact needs and circumstances, you may adjust some elements or logistical details of the performance review process, for instance when conducting performance reviews remotely. However, there are standard steps that you should keep in mind as you develop your organization’s own process.

At RealHR Solutions, we recommend these core steps and best practices for performance reviews:

This is the performance review process that we recommend at RealHR Solutions.
  1. Organization presents performance review goals, plans, and processes.
    • Start by nailing down a few essentials. What will your organization accomplish with this round of performance reviews? How exactly will the process work? When should employees and managers finish preparing, and when will the reviews occur? Will performance reviews be tied to compensation changes? Clearly communicate these objectives and details to the organization’s management teams and employees.
  2. Manager shares instructions and self-assessment with the employee.
    • Managers should provide clean instructions and timeframes to employees who will be taking part in the performance review process. Self-assessments are an important component of effective reviews, so give employees plenty of time to complete them thoughtfully. Provide guidance on which types of input will be helpful as well as regular reminders leading up to the review meetings.
  3. Employee completes and shares their self-assessment.
    • Self-assessments give managers more insight into their employees’ performance and allow employees to help actively guide the conversation. Performance review self-assessments typically ask employees to provide input on elements like:
      • Their biggest accomplishments over the past performance period and why
      • Their most notable shortcomings over the past performance period and why
      • What they feel to be their biggest role-related strengths and weaknesses
      • Areas where they would like to develop their skills or explore new responsibilities
      • Feedback, both positive and constructive, on the organization’s management and/or their peers
      • Questions about organizational decisions and goals
  4. Manager solicits feedback from employee’s peers, clients, and/or direct reports.
    • Gathering feedback from a range of perspectives gives managers a clearer sense of their directs’ performance and how it impacts the organization as a whole. You may ask employees to provide feedback on their peers and managers as part of the self-assessment or follow-up separately. Clearly explain the types or scope of feedback that will be most helpful to keep this process focused and productive.
  5. Manager reviews employee self-assessment and completes the performance review form.
    • The manager should next review the self-assessments, their own notes or records, past performance reviews, and feedback from other sources to then distill them into key takeaways. Focus on specificity, impact, and concrete examples. Organizations should use standardized forms (like the example below) to compile these takeaways and examples in a way that is truly helpful for both the manager and employee.
  6. Performance review meetings occur.
    • The manager will walk through the completed form with the employee, pausing to discuss key points and answer questions throughout. The meeting should conclude by restating, realigning, or adjusting expectations and goals with the employee for the coming performance period.
  7. Compensation changes are reviewed (if applicable).
    • If your organization has tied compensation changes to the performance review process, take time during the meeting or in a separate follow-up meeting to present and discuss salary decisions with the employee.
  8. Manager and employee regularly return to performance goals and discuss progress on an ongoing basis.
    • The performance review process is most effective when backed up by ongoing feedback and conversations about goals. The manager and employee should refer to the employee’s performance goals throughout the year to check for alignment and progress. This reinforces strengths, addresses areas for development, and prevents unnecessary surprises for both parties.
Use this performance review template form to create one for your own organization.

Performance Review Template

During the performance review process, managers should review employee self-assessments, records from past reviews, peer feedback, and other notes to complete standardized performance review forms. No two performance review forms are exactly the same since every organization has unique contexts and objectives for the review process, but there are a few essentials that we recommend including.

This performance review template includes all of the most important elements to keep in mind:

This performance review template includes all of the most important elements needed for effective reviews.
  • Employee Information: Include basic information needed for accurate record-keeping, like names, employee position, and the performance period.
  • Core Values & Objectives: List out the role’s stated core values and objectives, each with clear definitions and/or criteria.
    • For each value or objective, rate the employee on a scale from “exceeds expectations” to “unacceptable,” and include relevant notes and specific examples that back up the rating.
    • The exact rating process that you use may vary. However, the main idea is to give this section a standardized, objective structure that clearly ties performance to your organization’s definition of success for that role.
  • Performance Goals: Use this section to determine whether or not past performance goals were met during the previous period and to present new goals for the upcoming period.
  • Overall Rating: Sum up the employee’s performance with an overall rating, again tying it to specific examples and what constitutes success for that role.
  • Employee Comments: Leave space for noting questions, comments, and feedback provided by the employee during the meeting, and then act on them later as needed.
  • Acknowledgment & Signature: Include a brief acknowledgment statement to be signed and dated by both the employee and manager.
Keep these performance review best practices in mind while preparing for your organization's reviews.

Performance Review Best Practices

In addition to following the core steps listed above and using standardized review forms, there are additional performance review best practices that your organization should emphasize throughout the process:

1. Give everyone advance notice and clear explanations.

Performance reviews can be a stressful or tense experience for even your organization’s top performers. Give your entire team, both employees and managers, plenty of advance notice that performance reviews are coming up so that they will have time to prepare.

Additionally, your leadership and/or HR team should clearly explain to managers and employees how the process will work, what is expected of them, and when they should be ready. Make it easy to access the resources they will need, and set specific deadlines for completing self-assessments and performance review forms.

2. Ensure managers know how to properly prepare.

Performance reviews can have major impacts on employees’ experiences with your organization, so managers must properly and thoughtfully prepare ahead of time.

However, if managers feel ill-equipped or left in the dark about exactly how they should prepare, the process is already off to a rocky start. A poorly run performance review with inaccurate ratings or muddled takeaways can open up a variety of engagement and retention risks, both for the employee and the manager who needed more support.

A clearly defined performance review process with expectations, objectives, timeframes, and resources (like standardized forms) will be essential. Host one or more meetings leading up to the performance reviews dedicated specifically to answering managers’ questions and reviewing expectations.

3. Ensure job descriptions are up-to-date and accurately reflect the employee’s position.

Your organization’s job descriptions should accurately define each role’s core responsibilities, values, and objectives. These elements are used to measure success in each role, so outdated job descriptions can potentially become a source of frustration during the performance review process.

For instance, if a key responsibility has drifted from one role or department to another, but that change is not reflected in the current job descriptions, unnecessary confusion may arise about why employees did or did not spend time tackling that task over the previous performance period.

As managers prepare for performance reviews, they should review the organization’s job descriptions to see if they still accurately reflect employees’ work. If not, they should work with your HR team to develop updated job descriptions that reflect the current day-to-day responsibilities of the role. During or after the performance reviews, present the updated job descriptions to employees as needed, and have them sign to acknowledge their updated expectations.

4. Use clear language and focus on measurables, specific actions, and their impacts.

For performance reviews, clarity is key. Avoid over- or underexplaining important points. Reread your performance review forms multiple times prior to conducting meetings to ensure their points are clear, precise, and leave no room for misinterpretation. Tie these specific actions and examples to the real impacts that they had on the team or entire organization. 

Pay extra attention to growth and development that employees have demonstrated, and emphasize continued growth during the conversation and in the next goals that you lay out for the coming performance period. A focus on development, forward momentum, and increased impact will foster engagement and retention over time, helping employees feel more invested in the organization’s success.

5. Provide truly actionable and honest feedback.

Performance reviews should give employees more insight into how well they are performing, the impacts they have, and how they can improve. Without honest feedback that can be concretely acted upon, employees can easily leave the conversation with more questions than answers.

One useful framework for providing actionable feedback is the Start, Stop, Continue model. This involves breaking feedback down into three categories:

  • Tasks the employee should start doing
  • Tasks the employee should stop doing
  • Tasks the employee should continue doing

Sorting specific tasks or responsibilities into these categories gives the feedback a more tangible sense of direction and makes it clear to the employee where their time and attention is best spent. Just be sure to back up each individual task or piece of feedback with its impact or underlying reasoning. You may also ask employees to provide feedback about their manager or the organization as a whole using this same model.

When giving constructive or negative feedback, be tactful and sensitive but never avoid telling hard truths because it may be uncomfortable. If an employee is underperforming, they need to know. Starting an open conversation can show employees areas of improvement that they were perhaps unaware of. It can also reveal critical engagement and retention risks that the organization needs to address but would not have otherwise known about.

6. Establish clear, measurable goals for the next review period.

End performance reviews by outlining employee goals for the upcoming performance period. To be effective and truly useful for employees, these goals should be specific and measurable. Keep clear records of them, and regularly return to them throughout the next period, not just when preparing for performance reviews again.

When possible, create cascading goals for your organization. What are your organization’s big-picture strategic goals? What goals can you set at the departmental level and down to the individual level that will support those strategic initiatives? Setting interconnected goals in this way can show employees how their individual contributions directly tie into broader organizational success.

culture of continuous improvement is a major asset for any organization. You can help foster that culture by using performance reviews as touchpoints for ongoing coaching, development, and improvement.

Let's explore how managers and employees should prepare for performance reviews.

How to Prepare for Performance Reviews

Finally, here are some key steps that both managers and employees should follow when preparing for performance reviews.

How Managers Should Prepare

  1. Have consistent performance conversations with direct reports outside of the formal performance review process, and give both positive and construction feedback more frequently.
  2. Provide direct reports with clear timelines and instructions for performance reviews.
  3. Review all relevant notes, reports, emails, previous performance reviews, and more pertaining to the individual’s performance over the past period.
  4. Anchor the reviews with concrete measurables and specific impacts. Avoid generalized or overly subjective feedback.
  5. Give direct reports the opportunity to ask questions and to provide feedback on their peers and management, but keep the conversation focused on performance and impact. Note any tangential items for later follow-up.

How Employees Should Prepare

  1. Review all relevant notes, reports, previous performance reviews, and other resources pertaining to your performance over the past period.
  2. Get started on your self-assessment early to give the process careful thought.
  3. Choose a handful of concrete examples that illustrate key wins over the previous performance period. Compile any documentation or reports on impact that can back up your claims.
  4. Be prepared to receive feedback by realistically self-evaluating before review.
  5. Come with any questions directly relating to the performance conversation, the past performance period, and goals for the next period.

Wrapping Up

Performance reviews are just one part of the broader performance management process. They can be complex, but they are also a critical part of leading an organization that meets its goals, retains employees, and fosters growth.

Whether preparing to create or improve your organization’s performance review practices, there is always more to learn and changes to consider as your organization grows. Resources like this guide and the template above can give you a solid foundation on which to build. But remember that the most effective performance management processes will be tailored to your organization’s unique needs. 

This is why many organizations choose to work with HR experts when considering performance management practices. Specialized HR consultants can provide guidance whether you are looking to build management systems from scratch, improve current practices, or simply provide better training to managers based on industry best practices.

RealHR Solutions is a leading provider of HR consultation services, including performance management guidance, employee assessments, job descriptions, and more. Contact us to discuss your needs, and be sure to keep learning with these additional resources:

Looking for performance review support? We can help.