5 Ways to Improve Employee Morale and Keep People Longer During the Great Resignation

Published on March 1, 2022

The Great Resignation is still going strong.

In November 2021 alone, 4.53 million Americans quit their jobs. At that time, the number of people voluntarily leaving their job exceeded pre-pandemic highs for eight straight months.

Early on, many business owners believed that as federal pandemic assistance ended, people would quickly return to the jobs they had so recently left. As 2022 rolls on, research continues to show that’s not the case. There are several reasons:

  • Many older Americans have retired permanently and do not plan to rejoin the workforce.
  • Millions of mothers are responding to a lack of childcare availability by staying home in 2022.
  • After resigning, employees are actively looking for more pay and better conditions.

The pandemic has put unprecedented strain on workers, particularly those whose work requires them to interact with the public. Resignations have been highest in sectors like accommodations and food service, which accounted for 6.9% of the total in November.

While studies show women are quitting their jobs at higher rates than men, just about anyone could join the Great Resignation – it is all about whether they feel valued and if the working conditions are meeting their needs.

Here are some great ways to maintain morale during the Great Resignation:

1. If You Have Rules, Help Your People Enforce Them

One of the biggest issues that has driven so many people to the breaking point with their jobs is how they are treated by the public. While this has always been an issue in some industries, never before have ordinary folks just doing their job had to worry about a violent response.

If you’re in an industry where social distancing and mask requirements are still important, one of the best things you can do to raise morale is to make sure anyone who is expected to enforce the rules has appropriate support while doing it.

Sadly, many people are already under the impression that waitstaff and retail workers are there to absorb abuse. These frontline employees are at a major disadvantage when it comes to enforcing big rules because some in the public already don’t respect them.

Unless your employees have been trained in conflict resolution and self-defense, they are really not fully prepared to deal with someone who might be belligerent. Make sure a manager is on hand to back them up whenever possible and security, if available, is empowered to take action fast.

This is by far one of the biggest reasons why lower-paid frontline workers have been looking elsewhere during the pandemic. Even as the public health situation improves, they are sure to run into situations where members of the public have expectations that differ from your own – so side with your people.

Not only will this help employees manage the effects of dangerous encounters on their well-being, but they will see you are in their corner when it matters. A customer’s future business simply isn’t worth if it that person has proven they will be aggressive to staff just trying to ensure safety for everyone.

If you notice that someone seems shaken after an encounter, do what you can to create an appropriate environment for them. Let them talk about what happened in a secure and private place where they can speak honestly. Remember that it might be necessary for someone to take a break, get fresh air, and put things into perspective before going back to interacting with the public as normal.

Plan ahead for the possibility that some of your “front of the house” workers may need reduced contact with the public to recover a few days after bad incidents. Consider how they might continue to be useful and productive in meaningful ways for a week outside of the public eye, even if it requires creativity.

Ultimately, your personnel will appreciate you and come back stronger than they were before.

2. Show Appreciation for Your People and Offer Grace Where Needed

You may or may not have the budget to offer hazard pay, but you can still show appreciation in ways that matter. That starts by understanding each one of your team members and how they prefer to be recognized for their efforts – in public? In private? Email? In-person?

When you understand someone’s preferences and communication style, you have powerful ways to tap into what deeply motivates them. A gift card, some paid time off, or a small token of appreciation can go a long way. Look for personalized approaches that you can deploy at the right moment.

Likewise, remember that everyone is fighting a hard battle outside of work.

No matter their living situation, everyone you employ has friends and loved ones who are dealing with the burden of COVID. They may suddenly find themselves responsible for the care of an older relative or a child whose caregivers must isolate as a result of the virus.

In situations like this, a true show of compassion from a supervisor can make a tremendous difference  Often, the gesture seems like a small one, but it has a significant impact – for example, making it easier to execute a shift change when it’s necessary to pick up or drop off a child.

You’ve worked hard to keep your business afloat over the last few years, but your employees have also had to roll with the punches. Recognize that they are doing the best they can, but circumstances beyond their control can also leave them feeling overwhelmed. You just might be able to help.

Naturally, it might not be possible to shift on a dime when an employee needs something. Consider different ways you can help them reach their goals without sacrificing your own. If you work together, you can usually come up with a handful of options. One of them is bound to work.

Finally, keep an eye on implicit feedback and lookout for signs of burnout.

If someone is showing up late when they never did before, or snapping at colleagues and customers, resist the urge to respond with aggravation. There’s always a deeper driver underneath the behavior you see, and it will often have something to do with the still-unfolding events of the pandemic.

If something isn’t right, a one-on-one meeting may be the best solution for getting to the bottom of it. Don’t call someone out in public, and don’t be tempted to let a one-time situation go. When problems arise, communicating about them is the best thing you can do to stop them from festering.

This brings us to the next point.

3. Open Up Opportunities for Employee Feedback and Camaraderie

No matter how well you run your business, many of your employees will be used to a workplace where their feedback isn’t welcome. Some bosses may say they value an “open door” policy, but the difference between what someone says and how they act can speak volumes.

In this case, you want to show you value and trust your employees. There’s no better way to do that than to accept wisdom can come from them at any time, no matter how things have been done in the past. Of course, they shouldn’t change things on a whim. They must communicate.

When employees know they can offer constructive feedback, it makes a world of good:

  • They feel empowered to take risks and be creative in ways that can lead to better results
  • They have a stronger sense of “ownership” over their work and care about the outcomes
  • They can alert you to information and situations you might not have been aware of before

If you are doing an annual employee evaluation, consider this only the beginning.

After all, employees who really want to develop their skills will need more than one set of feedback to go on. They need fresh, actionable insights focused on projects they’ve dealt with recently. Otherwise, they will always be adapting to the previous year, not planning for the future.

Feedback mechanisms should take a variety of forms.

Some feedback on especially sensitive topics will need to be anonymous. In most situations, however, a regular meeting with each direct report is enough – as long as you create the right environment for it.

Set the expectation that all feedback is welcome and will be considered. There may be times when an employee has completely misinterpreted a situation, but it is better to know these as soon as possible. That way, you can intervene and prevent misunderstandings that lead to conflict.

Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask your employees how YOU’RE doing.

It’s said that people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. The Great Resignation suggests it may be a bit of both. When you ask for feedback on your performance, you are modeling a commitment to improvement your employees will take to heart. And few things give them a sense of being valued more than being trusted to be a part of that process.

4. Look for Ways to Reduce Ambiguity and Uncertainty at the Workplace

The pandemic confronted all of us with an uncertain world that seemed to change every day. Danger was ever-present, and it was hard to sort through all the information and understand how it affected daily life. Even when involved in work or other tasks, this uncertainty had a profound effect.

There’s little you can do about the public health situation in Central Florida, but you can look for ways to reduce the uncertainty your employees need to navigate. One of the biggest ways to improve your team morale practically overnight is to straighten out any scheduling issues or conflicts you may have.

Ask yourself:

  • Do employees have a regular schedule where they can plan their week in advance?
  • Can employees expect a full weekend (two consecutive days) every week they work?
  • Are employees expected to “call around” and get others to cover their shifts if needed?

To give their best effort at work, employees need a consistent environment. When businesses rely on intentional short-staffing, then shift all the consequences of that staffing to employees, it is a recipe for burnout. They will leave as soon as they can find something better … and that’s what many have done.

It may be impossible to completely change the way you manage staffing over the course of a week, a month, or even a whole quarter. But if you are moving toward sunsetting any of these practices, make an announcement: It will have an immediate impact on your employee morale.

It might even cause some of them to reconsider their plans to leave.

Likewise, remember your employee benefits and compensation package is a powerful way to reduce ambiguity for your team. There is never a wrong time to review what you offer and make certain your package is competitive. Now is the ideal moment to boost your employee health insurance.

Younger employees who would not have given health insurance a second thought in past generations now realize it may protect them when they need it most. Older employees are reviewing the details of their plans and are more likely to move on if they can get a better policy elsewhere.

When the level of compensation an employer offers helps them reach their goals in life, employees feel truly valued. If they cannot go where they wish to go from where they are, they might feel “trapped” for a while – but sooner or later, they will leave. For your benefit and theirs, plan accordingly.

5. Make Sure Your Job Descriptions Are Aligned with Duties

As employees leave and companies shuffle their rosters around, you’d think those who stick with it the longest would have their loyalty rewarded. In all too many cases, however, the “reward” is doing all of the work others left behind at the same rate of pay as before. And don’t think they don’t notice.

Scope creep in job duties is nothing new, and it can happen under even the best conditions. But now is an opportune time to bring your team members in to consult. Find out, directly from their own mouths, exactly what they’re doing that doesn’t seem to be a part of their regular duties – and when it started.

When situations like these develop, employees are tempted to think their leaders know but don’t care. By making it a topic of discussion, you help prevent resentment from building. They’ll see you in a new light.

Plus, it is the best plan from a strategic perspective. Someone who has been able to deliver on expanded duties deserves the chance to compete for a raise or a promotion.

That’s the secret “flip side” of aligning job descriptions and duties: You suddenly have the power to create a talent development path for each of your employees. Instead of giving them ad hoc feedback every once in a while, you can align feedback to how they will take the next career step.

That helps you take a scenario that could easily be making your employees miserable and turn it into one that gives them an opportunity and hope for the future. They will thank you (literally!) and you will end up with a better return on the time and money you invest in their growth.

New York Ave Helps Your Team Achieve More by Doing Less

Things may be looking up for the pandemic, but it’s no surprise people are still stressed out.

Over the last two years, we’ve all faced a situation that nobody could have prepared for.

If you’re dealing with scope creep in your enterprise, it’s time to look for ways you can take digital marketing off your team’s plate. Having someone who posts to social media every once in a while just isn’t enough to move your business in the right direction, after all.

Consistency is key, and you need dedicated help from professionals to really be in the game.

When it comes to the Great Resignation, no one has all the answers. But achieving more by doing less will always be best for morale in the end.

Contact us to find out more. We look forward to helping you soon.

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