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Employee Retention Strategies—Part 4: Flexibility

“Start the retention process when the person is still open to staying and not after they’ve already told you they’re leaving.” – Jeff Weiner

In 2021 as the “Great Resignation” raged across the country, stunned employers faced gaping holes in their workforce, and the job market posted record numbers in the employees-quitting-their-jobs category. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs last November, posting the highest “number of quits” in one month for 2021.

January’s numbers edged down to 4.3 million American workers bidding their jobs farewell, marking the eighth consecutive month with more than 4 million workers walking out the door. With such a lengthy and intense streak of quitting, it’s no wonder industry after industry continues to struggle to maintain a roster sufficient to ramp up production and services following the lockdown/shutdown challenges of 2020.

While even tiny improvement is welcome, the “Great Resignation” continues to wreak havoc across the job market. As more attention and energy shifts—out of necessity—to retention, one word rises to the top again and again: flexibility. Clearly, the demand and expectation for flexibility are here to stay. But what does flexibility really mean? What makes it the “real deal” in the mind of today’s employees?

Flexibility must be consistent

First-shift manager Jim allows those in his department to have flexibility when taking breaks and lunch hours because it enables his workers to run errands, make telephone calls, pick up children, etc., throughout the workday. But second-shift manager Tom insists his department stick with the traditional regimented break and lunch hour times that have been in place for decades. What’s wrong with this picture?

Flexibility must be more than merely a token gesture   

In the mind of some employers, “You can work 8 – 4 or 9 – 5 oozes a flexible mindset. But in the mind of the employees, that’s still pretty old school. If someone is there to cover the open hours of 8 – 5, why can’t Cindy work from 6 – 2 two days a week to accommodate childcare needs? On the other hand, if noon to 8 is a better fit all week for Mark, whose experience and skill set meet every box on the job description, why not make a few adjustments to make that setup work?

Flexible options must be sincere and not held against the employee

Grudgingly offering flexible options with an “if we absolutely must” attitude or chalking up strikes—either mentally or on paper—against those workers who opt in is a big no-no. You are sadly mistaken if you think that insincere gestures to get folks in the door will do the trick. Today’s job candidates are ever-so savvy. The employees already holding a spot on your company roster are also aware of how the workplace has changed.

Flexibility at its best offers a win-win scenario. Happier, satisfied employees translate into less absenteeism, more engagement, and increased productivity. Furthermore, in today’s job market, flexibility that includes multiple, ever-expanding, willingly offered options across the board can be a crucial weapon in the battle to improve retention rates.

At A.R. Mazzotta, we understand that the name of the game in staffing is flexibility. We have decades of experience in making right-fit connections between talented candidates and quality employers. So let us be the “middleman.” It’s what we do best.