This year’s record-breaking rise in job vacancies is forcing organizations to work even harder to provide appealing opportunities to attract and retain employees.
With labor shortages impacting brands across industries, we wanted to get a better understanding of what matters most to today’s job seekers. Leveraging our most recent study with feedback from more than 27,000 people, this blog digs into why the employee experience is a make-or-break deal and what brands can do to stand out in a crowded labor market and win the loyalty of top talent.
What matters most to job seekers
Many organizations anticipated an improvement to the labor shortage when increased unemployment benefits ended, but this has not been the case. A record number of workers in the United States have quit their jobs in 2021—a pace that is still climbing and disrupting businesses everywhere.
The first step to addressing this issue is understanding what truly matters to prospective employees. Here is what our research found.
Health insurance and benefits for family are most important
The pandemic forced a shift in personal priorities—and those changes are here for the long haul. Our data shows caring for family is a top reason those currently unemployed are not looking for a job. This was especially true for women, who are 3x more likely than men to not be seeking employment right now.
By providing employee benefits like family healthcare, free childcare, remote work, and flexible schedules that promote work-life balance, employers can attract women back to the workforce and help ease some labor shortages.
Additionally, when we look at what matters most to respondents in different age groups, healthcare and benefits come out on top at every age. Pay schedule and PTO carry more weight in the younger demographics, while retirement/401K and pay transparency matter more to older applicants.
It’s also important to note respondents across all age groups said flexibility of schedule and workload balance were the most important scheduling components. Additionally, having enough staff in their work environment and PTO/vacation policies were listed as important factors.
Pay is the top reason someone will consider new employment
When asked the primary reason they wouldn’t stay at their job, most current employees cited pay. 70% also said salary is the top priority when considering switching jobs. And though this rings true across industries, it’s important to note grocery, c-store, and entertainment had the highest mentions of insufficient wages.
Beyond base pay, bonuses and raises can have an impact on prospective employees.
Not only do job position postings need to be transparent about base pay, they need to highlight the “extras” like raise opportunities, bonus programs, and paycheck schedules.
Fulfilling work is the top reason someone will stay at their job
Yes, money matters. But higher wages aren't the only way to keep employees happy. To attract and retain employees, brands have to ensure they’re offering employees meaningful work.
One of our previous studies over the summer showed a fulfilling job is the key reason people stay at their current employer. This is important information, but the definition of meaningful work can vary from person to person.
Not surprisingly, salary and benefits are one of the top three elements of fulfilling employment. But it’s not the most important. More than half of respondents said liking the people they work with makes their job more fulfilling. And 42% want their work to be interesting.
Workers want jobs with a purpose. Whether that’s making customers happy or moving up in the company, rewarding work matters most. Brands have to understand their company culture and know what their employees want—really want—to align opportunities with expectations.
5 steps brands should take now to attract and retain employees
The new challenge of this labor shortage crisis won’t be resolved overnight. And the residual effects will likely be felt for the foreseeable future. For both short- and long-term action, brands should prioritize these 5 steps:
Why brands must prioritize the employee experience
The current labor shortage has created an acute crisis, but this isn’t about a quick recruitment fix. While it’s important for brands to prioritize efforts to draw in new candidates to their workplace, they also need to evaluate employee engagement efforts at a systemic level and uncover any gaps leading to dissatisfaction and turnover.
Let’s take a look at the some of the key aspects of a strong employee engagement strategy to attract and retain employees.
Engaged employees drive financial performance
Engaged employees are more loyal, helping create highly satisfied and loyal customers. And highly satisfied, loyal customers lead directly to growth in sales and profits.
That progression is called The Service Profit Chain. It’s a concept that was developed at Harvard Business School by a group including one of SMG’s founders, Len Schlesinger, and is the principle our company was founded on. But The Service Profit Chain isn’t just an academic theory. When put into practice, it has a significant impact on financial performance.
For example, locations with high engagement have higher employee retention than less-engaged locations in the same company. That means those stores don’t have to spend as much time and money hiring and training new staff. It has a big impact—sometimes netting out to millions of dollars in savings.
And it doesn’t stop there. Locations with highly engaged employees have more highly satisfied customers, and those customers are more likely to recommend the business to others—10% more likely.
More highly satisfied customers making more recommendations leads to increased sales. Locations with highly engaged employees average comp sales 8% higher than their less-engaged counterparts. That’s what sound theory looks like in practice.
Employee engagement improves when employers take action
It’s crucial to know how engaged your front-line employees are and take steps to creating a happier workplace. That’s why you should gather feedback from them—and often. Gone are the days of just the annual employee survey. Companies need more frequent solicited and unsolicited feedback from employees on a regular basis.
But if you stop there, you’re not going to make things much better. In fact, you’ll likely make them worse.
Our data shows employees recognize and respond to follow-through. When managers and organizational leaders act on the results of engagement surveys, employees become more engaged. Substantially more engaged.
Workplaces with the highest level of follow-through after an employee engagement survey show an 18% increase in engagement on the next survey. Want to guess what happens when there is little follow-through? In that case, there’s actually a decrease in engagement—a 21% drop.
That’s why you need more than a survey—you need a holistic approach to drive engagement. That means several things:
Employees have told us what drives their engagement. So, if increasing employee engagement is a worthy goal, and there’s financial proof that it is, then it’s important to know how to follow through on achieving it. Really important.
It bears repeating: Don’t ask if you don’t intend to act.
A good employee experience leads to a strong customer experience
Happy employees mean happy customers. Customers come back more often and spend more money at locations where employees are engaged.
Without tying engagement to important key performance indicators like customer experience performance, it’s easy for employee experience programs to get siloed and quickly lose internal traction.
Understanding the overlap between when your employees and customers interact—and whether or not those interactions are positive or negative—is critical. You need an employee experience strategy to measure these experiences. And the more synchronized your experience management strategy is, the easier it will be to find meaningful correlations in the data.
You’ll also receive critical insights about the customer experience from the unique perspective of your front-line employees. Being able to identify and address employee-customer disconnects around your service culture will make it easier to commit teams to improving the customer experience and focusing efforts where they’ll have the biggest impact.
Reduce turnover + demonstrate the ROI of your employee engagement efforts
As mentioned above, SMG was founded on The Service Profit Chain, a model demonstrating that engaged employees are more loyal, helping create highly satisfied and loyal customers.
Today we use that foundational principle to inspire experiences that improve people’s lives—helping brands get smarter about their customers, patients, and employees, so it’s easier to deliver actionable insights across their enterprise.
We do this by providing a best-in-class experience management program that:
To learn more about how to attract and retain employees and demonstrate the ROI of your employee engagement efforts, download the best practice guide: Why customer-centric organizations prioritize the employee experience.