The Great Resignation Update: Limeade Employee Care Report
Those who switched jobs during the Great Resignation say the grass really is greener with improved flexibility and organizational care.
Amid the throes of the pandemic, many employees stayed put even if they weren’t satisfied, as evidenced by the 6 million fewer resignations in 2020 than in 2019.
Fast-forward to 2021 and we’re in the midst of the “Great Resignation” — a mass exodus of employees looking for new work opportunities. Job openings surged to an all-time high of 10.1 million at the end of June, with 19 million workers quitting their jobs between March 2021 and July 2021 (a surplus of 7 million compared with the same time last year).
As a leader in employee well-being, Limeade investigated why job changers left their previous roles and what attracted them to their new ones. “The Great Resignation Update” polled 1,000 U.S.-based full-time employees, at companies with 500 or more employees, about burnout, well-being and organizational care. All respondents started a new job in 2021 and have been there for at least three months.
We found the vast majority of employees left their previous jobs feeling burned out and underappreciated, and sought new positions with organizations that invest in their well-being. To avoid further turnover and business disruption, employers need to make some serious changes to the way they support and care for their employees.
Here are a few key takeaways from the newest Limeade report:
40% of employees cited burnout as a top reason for leaving. Employees were so dissatisfied with their situation that more than one-quarter (28%) of all respondents left their jobs without another job lined up.
Employees were primarily attracted to their current job based on the ability to work remotely (40%) and other forms of flexibility. An additional 24% reported not being restricted to complete job responsibilities during set working hours as a top attraction.
Job changers are generally happy they made the switch to a new role. On average, respondents reported a 22% boost in feeling cared for as an individual by their new employer and a 22% improvement in comfort regarding disclosing a mental health condition compared with how they felt at their previous employer.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the findings.
Why employees left
Employees were so dissatisfied with their current situations that more than one-quarter (28%) of respondents left their company without another job lined up — which jumps to 56% when looking exclusively at those working in the food service/hospitality industries.
Survey respondents cited burnout, organizational changes and lack of flexibility as catalysts for their departures.
Top reasons employees left their jobs:
Company going through organizational changes: 34%
Lack of flexibility: 20%, Instances of discrimination: 20%, Contributions and ideas not being valued: 20% (three-way tie)
Insufficient benefits: 19%
Well-being not supported by the company: 16%
The main reason employees left — which four out of 10 employees cited as a top factor — was burnout. Employees are at high risk for burnout when they have been engaged at work for a long time, but have very low well-being due to a lack of organizational support and care.
Additionally, over half of respondents in healthcare (54%) and food service/hospitality (52%) indicated that burnout was their primary motivation for leaving their previous job.
Burnout negatively affects employees’ quality of work, commitment toward employers and can cause a ripple effect on the rest of your workforce through increased interpersonal conflict and task disruption. Additionally, when employers don’t have the proper care in place to deal with chronic burnout, those who end up resigning may encourage coworkers to leave with them.
Those who left without another job lined up were 1.7x more likely to cite workplace mental health impact as their top reason for leaving, showing that employees won’t put up with just any job situation.
What job changers looked for
Employees were attracted to their current job based on the ability to work remotely (40%) and other forms of flexibility (24%), like not being restricted to complete job responsibilities during set working hours.
Top reasons job changers were attracted to their new position:
Ability to work remotely according to personal preference: 40%
Better compensation: 37%
Better management: 31%
Better company reputation: 29%
Better work-life balance: 26%
Flexible work schedule: 24%
In our April 2021 Employee Care Report (ECR), when asked what aspects of their pandemic work-life employees wanted to keep moving forward, the top responses were flexibility (68%) and working from home (54%). Incorporating flexibility into one’s work culture is proven to result in better outcomes for employees, like better sleep and less stress.
In addition to flexibility, job changers were attracted to their new positions due to better compensation, management and work-life balance. Better compensation was the number one reason that attracted respondents in healthcare (42%) and food service/hospitality (41%) to their current job.
How much “better” is the compensation job changers are receiving? 29% of job changers — the largest single category of respondents — received a 10%-19% salary increase. However, more than one in 10 workers (13%) took a pay cut for their new positionand 23% are paid the same amount, indicating better compensation isn’t an absolute requirement for job changers.
“We have to do better. We have to take care of ourselves and others — and that means caring more for employees,” says Dr. Laura Hamill, PhD, Chief Science Advisor at Limeade. “Listen to employees. Ask them what they need. The Great Resignation is a great opportunity for employers to evolve, learn and do better. The companies that learn and grow from this feedback will succeed.”
How they are now
When asked how they’re doing in their new role, employees said they’re generally happy they made the switch. On average, respondents reported a 22% boost in feeling cared for as an individual by their new employer compared with their previous employer.
Limeade defines care as an investment in employee well-being through organizational support. Previous Limeade Institute research has found that when organizations care, employees feel more committed, included, engaged, have lower stress and better well-being.
When given the statement: “My employer genuinely cared/cares about my overall well-being,” employees gave the following sentiments:
64% of employees strongly agree their current employer cares about their overall well-being compared with 42% of employees feeling this way about their previous employer
26% of employees disagree that their previous employer cared, while only a small number of employees disagree that their current employer cares (5%) about their overall well-being
Additionally, job changers reported a 22% boost, on average, to how comfortable they feel disclosing a mental health condition to their new employer compared with their previous one. When employees are empowered to speak up about mental health issues, they’re more likely to find the support they need to thrive in the workplace.
As a reminder, respondents have been in their current role sometime between three and six months, and it’s likely some workers may still be experiencing a “honeymoon effect.” To keep employees engaged and supported, employers need to regularly measure how employees are doing and take action if well-being starts to wane.
When given the statement: “I felt/feel comfortable disclosing a mental health condition with my employer,” employees gave the following sentiments:
56% of employees strongly agree they feel comfortable disclosing a mental health condition to their new employer compared with 35% at their previous employer.
8% of employees disagree that they feel comfortable disclosing a mental health condition to their new employer, compared with 29% at their previous employer.
While well-being and mental health support have increased, work hours haven’t budged. Only 9% of total respondents saw a decrease in the number of hours they’re currently working.
The hours an employee works aren’t necessarily a determining factor in whether they’ll get chronically burned out. Rather, it’s the combination of several cultural factors that determine work-life balance — notably, things like flexibility, support and thoughtful management. For example, a caring manager will understand and accommodate an employee who needs a lighter work week due to personal circumstances.
How to keep employees
The good (and bad) news for employers is that employees predominantly left their jobs for reasons that were within the organization’s control. These findings should serve as a wake-up call for investing in employee care — sooner rather than later — to promote employee well-being and support retention.
The following are a few best practices to help you become the employer that employees are flocking to (instead of not running from):
Face burnout: Burnout is solvable. Tackling burnout requires you to identify problem areas, work to resolve issues, develop the resources to help employees recover and consistently track overtime. It also involves training HR and people managers to identify the signs of burnout and create a safe environment where employees feel empowered to speak up and be more vulnerable at work.
Rethink return to office: While many organizations are eager to return to the office, our April 2021 ECR found 100% of employees to have at least some anxiety about returning to their worksite. Now is an opportunity to rethink your return-to-office strategy through the lens of employee well-being. While this will look different for every workforce, it’s clear that employees now highly value some form of flexibility in their work life.
Invest in a culture rooted in care: By intentionally cultivating a culture that cares, you can give your employees a better experience at work and achieve greater commitment, higher engagement and improved well-being. However, be aware that transforming your culture to become more caring will require continuous effort and long-term dedication from your organization’s leaders.
Measure sentiment to take action: Consider using two-way anonymized survey technology to gather employee feedback, share findings with the workforce and take action based on results. A robust survey strategy not only helps you identify signs of a struggling culture, but also helps create two-way communication and trust with your employees.
As the Great Resignation continues, employers across industries face a choice: Rethink the employee experience or prepare for additional turnover.
To support retention, renew your commitment to employee care. When you understand employees’ needs, have two-way communication and take action based on what best supports employee well-being, the efforts pay off. Employees are more likely to stay at the company longer and recommend it as a great place to work — and it makes you a more attractive employer to potential talent.
The Great Resignation doesn’t have to be ongoing. You have the power to transform your culture into the greener pastures employees are looking for. The question now is: How will you answer the call?
Laurie Ruettimann, career adviser and author of Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career, teamed up with Limeade to share her list of 10 Books to Help Employees Take Control of Their Careers, plus tips for being an effective leader in the age of hybrid work.