Competing for Talent During The Great Reassessment

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Nurses looking at a clipboard in hospital ward

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By Lauren Winans

Millions of employees have waved goodbye to jobs that offered insufficient pay, demanded too much, or required returning to the office while the Delta COVID variant surges in many areas. The so-called Great Resignation has already seen five million Americans exit the workforce, maybe permanently. The labor force has now moved on to a new phase, which I call The Great Reassessment. 

As of this month, there are about nine million jobs open across the United States and just over 100 million people out of the workforce. Politicians will soon be bragging about jobs filled rather than jobs created(!) But the onus is on employers to do the heavy lifting, meaning progressive changes to company cultures, employee benefits, and working arrangements. 

The competition for talent is especially intense today because millions of Americans are reassessing how they think about work in particular and how they spend their time in general. They want more money, naturally, but even more so they’re seeking flexibility and overall happiness. And it’s not just in the United States. Microsoft Research has found that 41 percent of the global workforce is considering leaving their current employment. Recruiting site Monster reports that as many as 95 percent of employees are considering changing jobs.

As HR consultants, we’ve had to break some unwelcome news to our clients: their employees have more power than they do right now. Yet many employers find it challenging to even think of changing their suddenly antiquated approach to the employer-employee dynamic. The bad news is that The Great Reassessment has left them with no choice but to adapt. The good news is that most employers can make strategic changes that will retain talent, even amid the sea changes wrought by COVID.

So here’s what employees want: jobs that offer flexibility, an inclusive and diverse culture, and plenty of professional development and support. A caveat: thanks to job sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, the Great Reassessment’s great migration is happening at warp speed and with unstoppable momentum. Companies that refuse to change, and fast, face a stark choice: lose talent today or lose it tomorrow.

Everyone else should be reevaluating their current talent strategy, as well as pay scales, benefits programs, and flexible working arrangements. It’s the old “change or die” maxim. The changes that should be implemented right now include hybrid working environments, meaningful pay increases–especially for hourly workers–and benefits that address the individual’s total wellbeing: physical, financial, emotional, and lifestyle.

Of course, many employers sincerely believe that they cannot afford to provide all of this stuff, even if they wanted to, which many do not. They’d rather wait out the COVID storm. Surely, they assume, the balance of power will swing back in their favor; the status quo will be restored and expectations reigned in. But as someone with decades of HR experience, I’d advise any employer against such wishful thinking. Adapting to the Great Reassessment won’t be cheap, but the price of inaction will be much higher.

Lauren Winans is founder and CEO of Next Level Benefits, an HR consulting and outsourcing firm. She is also a member of the Forbes Business Council, Business Journals Leadership Trust, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).