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Companies share what they’re doing to retain employees during the Great Resignation

Employees want to know they are valued, that the work they do is appreciated, and that there is opportunity to grow. They need good pay and benefits for themselves and their families. They want to know that staying for the long-term is not a burden but a blessing, and they want a healthy work-life balance.

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Perhaps like never before employers in the upper Midwest are reevaluating their human resources programs to find new approaches to attracting and retaining talented workers.

The need is great – thanks, in part, to what has been called the Great Resignation, in which people are willingly leaving their jobs to find more fulfilling experiences.

The American Labor Department said a record 4.4 million employees resigned in September 2021. The majority were millennials and Gen-Z workers, the latter born between the late 1990s and early 2010s.

“It's a pertinent indicator that employers must rethink their employee retention campaigns for 2022 and beyond,” reads a Feb. 22, 2022, article by Forbes , especially since millennials are projected to make up about 75% of the global workforce by 2025, and by 2030, Gen-Z will make an estimated 30%.

But the Great Resignation – sometimes also called the Great Reshuffle – may be more appropriately titled the Great Discontent, according to Gallup , which said “it's less an industry, role or pay issue than it is a workplace issue. The highest quit rate is among not engaged and actively disengaged workers.”

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Companies Prairie Business reached out to over the past couple of months have shared some of the things their businesses are doing to help retain employees. In a nutshell they have said that attracting employees is one thing, but keeping them around is something else.

Employees want to know they are valued, that the work they do is appreciated, and that there is opportunity to grow. They need good pay and benefits for themselves and their families. They want to know that staying for the long-term is not a burden but a blessing, that their time spent with the company is more than just a job; it is part of their own culture. And part of the equation of all of the above is that they want a healthy work-life balance.

Dan Oakland, founder, CEO and senior HR consultant of Alternative HR in Sioux Falls, writes in a column in this issue that 50% of a company’s turnover happens within the first six months of employment.

“That means you need to take a hard look at both your hiring and onboarding processes to see how you can improve,” he writes.

However, he noted that many other people, fed up with the routine of their jobs, have asked themselves if they want to be doing the same thing for the next 20 years. Obviously, many have said no and have exited on their own.

Joni Smith, human resource manager at Moore Holding Co. in West Fargo, said work-life balance is an important part of company culture.

“We recognize the importance of work-life balance and have implemented flexible working hours and working remote policies,” she said. “We give our employee owners autonomy to do their jobs, which establishes trust and raises motivation. Our company is also as transparent as we can be regarding financial performance and strategic goals.”

Smith said it helps that Moore has an employee stock ownership plan. “The ownership culture is a motivator as it helps instill the importance of doing the best job you can because you know you are making a difference and directly impacting the bottom line,” she said.

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Laura Werk, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Noridian Healthcare Solutions based in Fargo, said employees appreciate the company’s culture of team collaboration and a flexible work environment. It also encourages community volunteerism.

“Our work makes a difference for countless people accessing health care services and employees understand the critical nature of the complex, but meaningful, work they do,” she said.

There is something else that is different on the workforce scene these days: Positions are changing; employees, in some instances, are taking on different or multiple roles. This can be a good thing, because it allows employees to learn new skills. However, caution must be taken to make sure talent doesn’t feel overburdened, prompting an unintended exit.

Digi-Key Electronics, based in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, but with locations in other parts of the region and around the globe, is slowly merging employees back to the office in a hybrid format. It also is taking a careful approach as it ramps up production at its new Product Distribution Center. Shane Zutz, the company’s vice president of human resources, said Digi-Key is not looking for new talent as much as it is reshuffling positions in the face of new technology.

“Our work is different than it used to be and some of the inefficiencies we have currently, they'll go away and different roles will be needed to take their place,” he said in an article in the June issue of Prairie Business. He mentioned automation and the kinds of jobs needed to oversee that. For now, the company is working on “reprogramming” the office space at its headquarters in Thief River Falls.

“It’s not so much about social distancing and more about reprogramming our facility to meet the needs of our future ways of working,” he said. “We’re looking at more collaborative space, more open spaces that allow for fewer (in-person employee) collisions, fewer cubicles, because people aren't going to be here all of the time.”

Andrew Weeks is an award-winning journalist who has reported for a number of newspapers and magazines. He currently is the editor of Prairie Business, the premier business magazine of the northern plains. The magazine covers various industries and business topics in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.
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