Being laid off can take both a financial and emotional toll. For many people, the work they do provides not just a means of paying their bills, it gives structure to their days, and adds meaning to their lives. Having that taken away is destabilizing, even traumatic.
But what is less well understood is how much of an adverse effect layoffs can have on those people who survive a cull. In fact, our research suggests that job-cutting measures can have a negative impact on both those who lose their jobs and those who are spared.
When we surveyed over 7,000 white-collar workers in Australia, Canada, France, the UK and the United States, 72% said their team has been burned out in the past year due to uncertainty and increased workloads. One-fifth (18%) of workers reported that this has caused them to become less engaged at work.
As a result, many are looking to head off to new pastures. One third (33%) of those respondents said they are hoping to change jobs in the next 12 months; a further 24% said they were considering it with a longer timeframe. That means the majority of workers – 57% – are open to the idea of leaving their current employer.
A concerning trend
For HR managers, this trend is a concerning one. Of the 2,500+ HR leaders we surveyed as part of our research, 34% said they were worried people they wanted to retain would resign.
So, what can HR leaders do to prepare? Understanding what workers value in a job – and what factors might push them out of the door – is a good starting point. When we asked workers why they might want to leave their current job, 25% said it was simply that they had a desire for change. Another 32% said it was for financial reasons, something which may fall outside of HR leaders’ scope.
HR can influence many of these factors – with the right policies in place. Companies looking to retain talent looking for greener pastures should turn inwards and reflect on how they can offer better career mobility, new opportunities, and new skills. In addition, 26% of respondents said the reason they would quit their job was to improve their work-life balance. Conversely, when asked to explain why they might stay with their existing company, 49% said it’s because they valued their flexible working options, and 42% said they had a reasonable commute or no commute at all.
Many workers (22%) also pointed the finger at company culture as a source of dissatisfaction that might drive them to look elsewhere. But when organizations manage to get this right – something HR leaders can play a direct role in making happen – it can encourage employees to stick at it. Indeed, 32% of workers said a company culture that values career and skills development would make them more likely to stay in a job; 29% said a company culture where employees can advance their careers would have a similar effect.
Today, most retention strategies are out of sync with what employees say they value in a job. When we asked HR leaders about the retention strategies they have in place, the three least common answers were leadership development (12%), reward and recognition (11%), and more flexible work options (6%). HR leaders seeking to retain key people amid layoffs should adjust their strategies to focus more strongly on these factors.
To learn more about layoff trends, and how business leaders should respond, download the full research.