Two years into Covid, the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ shows no signs of slowing – and with it comes the challenge of recruiting and retaining top talent. The stakes are high when you consider the cost to replace an employee is up to two times their salary.

As Workhuman® iQ’s (WHiQ) most recent report, ‘Two Years into Covid: State of Human Connection at Work’ reveals, more than one-third of workers (36%) surveyed said they plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months. In order to overcome this trend, organisations will need to understand why employees are looking to leave and act fast to implement positive change.  

Flight risks and ‘boomerangs’

When asked if they perceived an increase in people leaving their organisation in the last year, 50% of workers said “yes.” When an employee chooses to leave, there are costs associated with recruiting and retraining – but what people may not think of is the impact on the employees left behind. People who see turnover around them are more than 2x as likely to be looking for a new job themselves (48% vs. 24%).

The stats are even more alarming for COVID new hires, with 50% saying they plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months. However, 69% of COVID new hires say they would return to a former employer. This ‘boomerang’ trend – employees being willing to return to their previous organisation – is another facet of the ‘Great Resignation’ that employers can’t afford to overlook when implementing employee retention efforts. Top reasons cited for being willing to ‘boomerang’ include pay (38%), benefits and perks (23%), and meaningful work (16%).

It’s worth noting here that the experience of workers hired during the pandemic was more difficult overall than those hired pre-COVID. COVID new hires report feeling more overworked, burned-out, and stressed, and less psychologically safe than other employees.

The human workplace

At a time when people are reassessing their priorities and seeking greater work-life balance, HR and business leaders should prioritise ways to make work more human. Focusing on connection, community, and belonging makes the most sense financially, mitigates employee turnover, and it’s also what employees expect.

An often-untapped area of opportunity to humanise work comes in the form of life events. Whether they’re buying a house, getting married, running a marathon, or having a baby – 66% of workers say they would appreciate more opportunities to celebrate personal life events at work. And yet, more than half of organisations don’t currently do so.  

Employees feel valued as individuals when their organisation acknowledges and celebrates a personal life event, so this is an easy first step in creating a positive culture of connection, and improving employee retention. This is especially effective for those employees still working remotely, who may otherwise feel overlooked and therefore be a flight risk. Remote workers employed at companies that celebrate life events feel more respected (78% vs. 58%) and appreciated (75% vs. 44%) overall than remote workers at companies that do not.

Another focus area highlighted by Workhuman’s research is wellbeing. A shocking 54% of workers surveyed said they feel mentally exhausted and drained after every workday; 44% said they struggle to stay focused at work; and 58% said they do not think much about what they’re doing at work, and function on autopilot. This can also bleed into people’s home lives, including their sleep and eating habits, which inevitably leads to further issues when it comes to productivity and performance at work.

Start with thanks

Overall, Workhuman’s survey reveals a workforce that’s burned-out, stressed, and yearning for a sense of connection. So how can business and HR leaders mitigate the detrimental side effects from two years of upheaval?

An easy place to start is to give praise when you see someone doing something right. We’re all human and feel seen when we’re shown appreciation. Moreover, people who were thanked in the last month are:

Giving thanks more frequently also fosters the culture of connection organisations need to recruit and retain top talent. The more recently someone has been thanked by a manager or peer, the greater their sense of connection to the company culture and their colleagues. Meanwhile, people who’ve never been thanked at work are 2 times as likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

Human-centred workplaces are grounded in respect, appreciation, and gratitude – and they’re the places where people want to do their best work. Just having a peer-to-peer recognition programme alone leads to employees being two times less likely to be planning to leave. By strengthening their “thank you” muscle – empowering everyone to share praise in the moment as work happens – organisations take a critical step towards building a culture where people are treated as human first and foremost. And this is the best way to retain employees – no matter the external circumstances.  


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