More than four in 10 professionals around the world (41%) are considering leaving their current jobs, according to a new Microsoft report.
More than one-third of professionals (37%) say their employers are asking too much of them “at a time like this.” Forty-two percent lack office essentials at home, and 10% say they don’t have an adequate internet connection to do their job. Fed up and burned out, workers are seeking opportunities elsewhere.
To prevent a mass exodus, business leaders must develop new ways to attract and retain a diverse workforce, write the authors of the Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index, a 31-country study analyzing trillions of productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. The survey – conducted in January by research firm Edelman Data & Intelligence – reflects the views of nearly 32,000 employees.
“Last year’s move to remote work boosted feelings of inclusion with everyone working in the same virtual room,” the report states. “The move to hybrid will break that model and there will be a new and important objective to a) ensure that employees are given the flexibility to work when and where they want, and b) to give everyone the tools they need to equally contribute from anywhere.”
Fortunately, those tools needn’t break the corporate bank.
Kristin Graham, a former Amazon communications executive now working as a culture and employee engagement consultant at Ragan Consulting Group, recommends a variety of strategies.
“For so many years, employee benefits have been an annual exercise for the HR team,” Graham says. “How and what companies offer as employees return to work or shift to hybrid will be just as important as compensation.”
At the same time, recruiters and employee communications professionals must understand how the pandemic has affected different groups, she says. For instance, nearly 3 million women left the workforce last year. And according to the Microsoft study, Gen Z workers are struggling to feel engaged and excited more than any other age cohort. Meanwhile, Black, Hispanic and women workers are more likely than their white male counterparts to say they prefer remote work.
“In addition to better, broader support for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, companies need to build sustainable, scalable mentoring programs,” Graham says. “Employees are hungry for connection. Most corporate mentoring programs are superficial and/or reliant on volunteers. If companies don’t have budget (yet), a lot can be constructed through channels like Slack.”
Now is the time to reimagine benefits, says Graham, offering her list of top ideas:
- Select your ergonomic tech. Create flexible spending accounts for equipment that will make daily life easier and more comfortable. From multiple monitors to webcams or wi-fi services, “a lot of engagement can come when someone doesn’t have to ask permission to spend $100,” Graham says.
- Double-down on training. Online classes had record attendee levels last year. Investing in skill development is especially important now, after a year of isolation.
- Pursue and promote culture carriers. Create community via corporate-sponsored mastermind groups, known in entrepreneurial circles for fostering brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support.
Vulnerability is strength
Of the people surveyed for the Microsoft study, 17% said they had cried with a co-worker in the last year. The numbers were higher in hard-hit sectors such as education (20%), travel and tourism (21%) and health care (23%).
As society rebounds from a profound collective trauma, it is essential to value each employee as a unique human being with complex emotional needs.
“Before the pandemic, we encouraged people to ‘bring their whole self to work,’ but it was tough to truly empower them to do that,” says Jared Spataro, corporate vice president at Microsoft 365. “The shared vulnerability of this time has given us a huge opportunity to bring real authenticity to company culture and transform work for the better.”