Engagement Remains High While Retention Concerns Emerge

by Doug Claffey

Gallup recently released research citing the largest drop in employee engagement since they began tracking it 20 years ago. But interestingly, Energage research tells a slightly different story. Here’s what we found.

Engagement scores up overall April through July 2020

To better understand how the events of recent months have impacted engagement levels at Top Workplaces, we took a look at survey results for the key drivers of workplace culture. We also studied the three metrics that make up our definition of employee engagement:

  1. Intent to stay:  I have not considered searching for a better job in the past month.
  2. Motivation: This company motivates me to give my very best at work.
  3. Referral:  I would highly recommend working at this company to others.

Our research revealed that Top Workplaces survey scores were consistently higher in April, May, June, and July compared to the same period last year. In other words, these award-winning organizations are doing a great job of engaging their employees while under extreme duress – perhaps even more so than they did in times that were less stressful overall for the economy.

Motivation and Referral rebound but Intent to Stay causes retention concerns

When we took a closer look at engagement to see if we could identify a similar movement to what Gallup reported in June, we did find a temporary dip in engagement from the prior month:  

Despite this shift, engagement overall remains higher than last year. Scores on two of the three engagement metrics – Motivation and Referral – improved in July and are once again consistent with what we saw in April and May.

However, scores for Intent to Stay (an indicator of employee retention) fell in May-June timeframe and it has not rebounded in the same way the other two engagement metrics did. So while there was less interest in looking for a new job in April and May – at the height of the pandemic – more recent data shows employees are now more likely to look for new opportunities. As a result, employee retention concerns have emerged.

And that makes sense. At the onset of the pandemic, there was much uncertainty about employment and the economy. Employees were less interested in looking for another job. By June, however, parts of the economy started to ramp up again, and so did the energy around job searching.

Now’s not the time to take your people for granted

What we’ve realized through our survey data is that maintaining a great workplace culture where engagement can thrive is important – or even more important – during turbulent times. After many, many discussions with Top Workplaces leaders, we know they have doubled down on listening to their employees. From town halls and virtual breakout rooms to team check-ins, engagement surveys, and pulse surveys, they continue to lean in and connect with their employees. And these companies are reaping the rewards of their efforts.

Still, the data shows that employees are increasingly interested in considering new positions. With these retention concerns, now’s not the time to take your best employees for granted or assume they are content to stay. Don’t use the pandemic to say, “Well, we don’t need to worry about retaining our employees.”

In the new war for talent, employer recognition is more important than ever

The war for talent has entered a new phase. With the pandemic and remote working, many companies have opened the aperture on recruiting. Now, they can hire from just about anywhere. This increases the fluidity of the job market and it gives job candidates more options than ever before. As a local example, we’re seeing West Coast employers like Facebook hiring aggressively in Philadelphia. That hasn’t happened before.

But this also means companies have an opportunity to expand their reach to attract recruits from a broader base. According to HBR, CEOs of the top organizations operating remotely cite access to distributed talent as a key competitive advantage.

While we’re in the early days of this new phase, companies that don’t get out ahead of it are likely to get run over. Strengthening your employer brand with credible recognition can help. Research shows companies with a strong employer brand, including third-party recognition, attract more qualified candidates, and experience reduced employee turnover. And that’s important employee retention concerns now on the rise.

“The legitimacy that regional Top Workplaces brings helps us recruit the right talent for our organization and attracts new customers to our restaurants. By adding national recognition with Top Workplaces USA, all of our locations can now benefit from this recognition too – and that’s exciting.”  Kayo Asakura-Mendoza, Program Manager, Human Resources, Panda Restaurant Group

But not all employer recognition is created equal

Employees want to know what it’s like to work for your organization before they ever choose to apply. In fact, after pay and benefits, it’s number one, two, or three amongst those three topics. Many go to Glassdoor to do their homework. But sites like these offer a poor reflection of companies. Oftentimes, the feedback is dominated by disgruntled employees or those who have been coached to post positive reviews.

That’s why it’s critical to gain credible, authentic, third-party employer recognition based solely on employee feedback. Top Workplaces offers just that.

Earn credible employer recognition. Nominate your organization for a Top Workplaces award.

The October 2021 Top Workplaces National Awards are now live! Go here to see the online, virtual reveal.

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