Operation Exodus: Employers need a better way to hire and retain talent

In October 2021, the number of people who quit their jobs decreased slightly bringing the current total to 4.2 million. Though the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent, the number of job openings increased 4 percent to 11 million from September to October.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

That’s likely because employees are voluntarily quitting their jobs in unprecedented numbers. More than one year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to lay off employees, employers around the country are struggling to fill open positions. 


According to a recent report, one in four people quit their jobs this year without another job offer. The report indicates though voluntary turnover in the form of resignations is common, data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals the nation’s quit rate has been increasing since June 2020. As a result, this year’s resignation rates are well above 2019 and 2020 levels.


This mass exodus is part of a growing national trend that has left companies around the country drowning in open positions. Let’s take a look at why employees are leaving and what employers can do to attract and retain top talent. 


Why people are leaving

According to a recent Visier report, employees are leaving their jobs across all tenures. Data suggests the mass exodus is made up of both young people looking to accelerate their careers and more experienced professionals rethinking their approach to work. 


The industries with the highest resignation rate are tech and healthcare, two industries that have traditionally high turnover rates. According to one report, the tech industry has an 18.3 percent turnover rate globally. Similarly, the average hospital turnover rate in 2019 was 17.8 percent. Unironically, healthcare workers are in high demand because of the pandemic and separately, the tech industry is typically the catalyst for economic and commercial real estate recovery.


The healthcare industry has been incredibly strained over the last two years, which has greatly contributed to employee burnout. As a result, 3.6 percent more healthcare employees quit their jobs than in the previous year. In the tech industry, resignations increased by 4.5 percent and burnout appears to be the culprit here as well. According to one report looking at job and career satisfaction among tech professionals, 36 percent said they were really burned out in the second quarter of 2021, up from 32 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. Over the same period, those reporting they weren’t all that burned out declined from 38 percent to 31 percent.


Looking beyond resignations by industry, a more startling trend emerges. Reports throughout the pandemic indicate that the workforce has lost more than 2 million women since the pandemic began. According to a recent report, 5.5 percent of women quit their jobs in August 2021, compared with 4.4 percent of men. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 300,000 women left the labor force last month. 


Reasons for the mass exodus of women are clear. According to one report, on average, more working women have a great deal of disruption in their lives from the pandemic than men. Another report found that 28 percent of out-of-work mothers with a child in school say they stopped working to provide childcare for children out of school. That figure was only 12 percent among out-of-work fathers.


Turning the tide

According to a recent report, Operation Exodus isn’t over. In a recent survey, 40 percent of employees said they were “at least somewhat likely” to quit in the next three to six months. That survey found that more than half of those employees who had already left their jobs said they did so because they didn’t feel valued by their bosses or organizations or because they didn’t feel “a sense of belonging at work.”


In order to address this issue, employers need to be intentional about crafting a workplace that better supports their employees. This starts with taking the time to listen to employees about what they need. Regular employee satisfaction surveys, with true transparency, ensure employers have their finger on the pulse of their workforce and can take appropriate action to address employee concerns. Leadership should be educated on how to be inclusive, create a culture of feedback, and provide support.


Whether employees are struggling with gender inequities or burnout, the problems prompting employees to resign can be solved by creating a workplace where employees feel valued and heard. Action is key. Once employers have a clear picture of what employees need they must act on this information. Employers should invest in initiatives that prioritize their employees’ physical and mental health, which can include health and wellness programs, childcare, flexible work options, and innovative amenities. 


Next employers need to look at their hiring process. According to a recent report, common company recruiting practices are actually contributing to hiring issues by preventing employers from filling open positions. Assessing bottlenecks and streamlining processes can help ensure that candidates aren’t left wondering if they’ve been ghosted by a potential employer or lost in an abyss of approval chains. Moving quickly on top candidates speaks to a well-organized company and helps minimize downtime from open positions.


The report also indicates that though more than 90 percent of employers use recruiting management or marketing systems to initially filter or rank candidates, these systems are erroneously excluding viable candidates from consideration. According to the report, 88 percent of employers say qualified, highly skilled candidates are vetted out of the hiring process because they do not match the exact criteria established by job descriptions. Outdated metrics and software systems also contribute to passing over qualified candidates, resulting in approximately 27 million “hidden” workers in the U.S. 


In order to address this issue, companies should start by refreshing job descriptions. This can help to widen applicant pools to include those candidates who might not possess every desired qualification, but who do possess the skills necessary for fulfilling core job requirements. Employers should also establish new metrics for evaluating talent acquisition to uncover other barriers in the process. 


The pandemic shifted priorities for many employees who were no longer inclined to stay in unfulfilling, static, overworked, and underappreciated positions. Employers can retain their valuable top talent by recognizing their employees are a competitive advantage. By embracing a flexible workplace, providing growth opportunities, supporting working parents, and revising hiring practices to find the best talent quickly, employers can avoid burnout and an exodus of valuable talent.


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