It was supposed to be a trend that wouldn’t have legs: in huge numbers in the early post-pandemic era, workers left jobs in waves and quickly moved to the next role. Then came the down economy late last year, and most HR officials assumed the short-termism that was disrupting their radar would fade. But somehow, the gig economy has persisted, and employee retention is still an issue.

Rethinking employee retention tactics

According to our latest research on the future of work, 44% of employees are still ready to change jobs within months as opposed to years. Our experts pinpoint a host of factors, from burnout to a lack of opportunity to develop new skills. But they also say many firms are still struggling to effectively address the wellbeing and purpose-driven needs that matter to employees. “Underpinning all of this is the issue of wellness, and this short-termism is really born of employee apathy,” says Andy Holmes, a Korn Ferry client partner who consults with executives using a new, human-centric approach to sustainable high performance.

Practicing what you preach is key

Some workers are job hopping in order to find higher pay in these times of high inflation. Our research shows that 58% of people will take a less satisfying job for higher pay – well-being is a hard sell when things like housing and childcare are threatened. But without a sustained focus on the psychological and biological factors that form the basis of contentment, our experts say a quick fix pay raise has little chance of working out in the long term.

One issue in particular is an employee disconnect between expectation and experience. “Leaders are making very noble and bold pledges that are creating an expectation in candidates. And in a lot of cases, it’s just not measuring up,” says Holmes. This lack of congruence in messaging leads employees to look elsewhere for somewhere over the rainbow that lives up to the hype. It’s a problem compounded by a modern era of social media and digital hiring campaigns preaching endlessly that job seekers “can do better” and the grass is greener on their side.

“One thing that we lost through the pandemic was control and now people want it back – they want to have control and influence over what they do.”

Andy Holmes, Client Partner, Wellbeing & High Performance, Korn Ferry

In response, smart firms are quickly turning to internal engagement surveys to determine whether people feel aligned with the purpose of their organization. It’s a good thought, according to our experts, since encouraging communication is key to fostering a sense of purpose. However, Holmes says this works best when leadership goes beyond surface-level efforts to create a safe space that replaces the pre-pandemic top-down style of talking at people. Employees need two-way conversations that enable them to express their real thoughts and know that they’ll have an impact. “One thing that we lost through the pandemic was control and now people want it back – they want to have control and influence over what they do,” says Holmes.

Short-term career goals alone don’t work

Experts say mindfulness is another practice that firms should consider employing to give people a longer-term view. Mindfulness entails building greater self-awareness, which Korn Ferry’s Vice President of Global Benefits and Mobility Operations, Brian Bloom, says is best accomplished by encouraging people to take time out of their days to focus on themselves. “Part of it is about waking up each day and reflecting on the conversations you had yesterday and the productivity: ‘What worked, what didn’t, and how can I do it better?’” says Bloom.

Self-awareness may also be an antidote to the current paycheck paranoia plaguing the workforce. “You might keep jumping firms for higher pay, but what have you really accomplished?” asks Bloom. Mindfulness offers people the chance to link up short-term career goals with personal goals to form a holistic picture of what they truly want from life in the long run. “This self-assessment can lead individuals down a meaningful path,” says Bloom.

Our time to take control

The future of work in 2023

Start focusing on the future of work today

To learn more about how to attract and engage talent in the future of work, download the eBook and watch our webinar to gain further insight into the three key areas our research has identified.