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Expert tips: How to retain talent during ‘The Great Resignation’

Increase employee retention at your organization with these six strategies from HR experts.

Watch full ‘The Great Resignation’ webinar now

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job openings in the U.S. have reached a high. This correlates with a recent study we conducted that revealed half of leaders and employees plan to look for a new job in the next year. And that it’s happening because employees feel burnt out, stressed, and want more growth opportunities.

So the question on every leader’s mind: How do you evolve your employee experience – quickly and efficiently – to limit unwanted attrition?

We asked people leaders from The Hershey Company, Lumen Technologies, and Qualtrics for their advice about how they’re informing and shaping their return-to-workplace plans, how they will continue to iterate, and what new employee initiatives they’ve introduced – all with the intent of limiting the impacts of ‘The Great Resignation’ at their organizations.

Understand how and when your employees can confidently return to the workplace with our Return to Work Pulse.

Here’s what they had to say.

1. Give employees the opportunity to have their voices heard

To inform their back-to-workplace plans, Hershey pulsed leaders and employees throughout the planning process to gauge employee sentiment around items like well-being and productivity – and identify any areas of support that were needed.

This not only gave employees a chance to have their voices heard but also informed senior leadership that different employee populations were in different circumstances.

At Qualtrics, we took a similar approach. Back in May, we announced plans to adopt a hybrid work model – a completely new way of working for everyone.

How did we arrive at that decision?

“It was a great partnership where we used our own employee experience products to pulse all employees and gauge how they felt around a variety of topics, including remote versus in-office work, and what helps them feel connected,” shares Julia Anas, Chief People Officer at Qualtrics.

“Those key employee insights are what sparked rich conversations on the leadership team about what employees are thinking and feeling – and how do we take action on those insights.”

Use the voice of your employees as a compass to inform how you think about decisions, what plans look like, and their diverse needs. Create an opportunity for every voice to be heard.

Julia Anas, Chief People Officer at Qualtrics

2. Take a phased approach

At the start of the pandemic, about 75% of the workforce at Lumen Technologies pivoted to working from home, with 25% remaining on the front lines and in the office due to the nature of Lumen’s business.

Now, as Lumen enters its Phase 1 for bringing (more) employees back to the workplace, HR and leadership are gleaning the lessons learned from that frontline employee population to bring people back safely.

“Phase 1 is for those employees who have volunteered to come back; those that want to come back to the office because they don’t prefer working from home, “ says Lindy Puttkammer, Vice President, Human Resources at Lumen Technologies. “Our one caveat is that we require those employees coming back to be vaccinated.

“Again, it’s self-initiated for them to return. And we felt that, for the 25% that don’t have an option but to work in the office, that we want to keep them (and everyone) as safe as possible.”

Read more: Workplace safety experts: 4 steps every office needs to take right now

Phase 1 also includes:

  • Surveying on-site employees about what’s working (and what’s not)
  • Hosting leadership discussions
  • Launching “Navigate Together” – a content program focused on sharing information, from health and fitness tips to financial well-being resources

And what about Phase 2 and beyond? Lumen plans to use the learnings from Phase 1, as well as pulse survey and engagement survey findings, to decide how they’ll continue bringing back more employees.

We plan to become very intentional about how and when work is done. We’ll use survey findings to inform leaders about what we’ve learned and what they can do to provide support to employees, no matter the type.

Lindy Puttkammer, Vice President, Human Resources at Lumen Technologies

3. Address employee well-being with swift action

During the pandemic, Hershey saw that, while productivity levels were usually up, levels of well-being were down. This signaled to HR and senior leaders that they needed to take action, at the enterprise level as well as the local level, to invest in well-being initiatives.

Hershey rolled out well-being initiatives such as:

  • Mental health resources for all employees
  • Blocked Monday mornings and Friday afternoons for focus work
  • Creating resources for leaders on how to have conversations with employees about heading back to the workplace
  • Leveraging employee resource groups (ERGs) to support employees and managers, e.g., the women’s group at Hershey hosts monthly small group meetings to discuss challenges

HR and leaders at Lumen Technologies have also taken swift action to support employee well-being both during their initial transition to remote/hybrid work and once again as they bring more employees back to the workplace.

Here’s what that will look like:

  • Evolving “Navigate Together” to become “Navigate Forward” in an effort to be more intentional about creating a sustainable working environment
  • Refreshing leader expectations about what’s required to support employees in a new world of work
  • Launching a well-being ERG
  • Fostering a sense of belonging through mentoring circles

4. Provide structure around what “flexible work” means

One of the biggest themes Hershey heard from leadership about return-to-workplace planning and evolving the workplace experience was the need to structure what “flexible work” should look like.

Leaders weren’t sure how to define flexible work. Did it mean coming to the office on certain days? Was it rotating staff on a weekly basis?

Ultimately, leaders needed guidance on how to operate in this new world of work. HR and senior leadership realized that they needed to go beyond a one size fits all approach and empower leaders to make the best choices for their teams and focus on what employees need to be successful.

Set expectations for folks who are in the room and on the phone, as well as guidelines for what meetings have to take place in the office and what meetings can happen in that hybrid model.

Jacquie Zygmund, Sr. Manager HR Process Delivery & Optimization at The Hershey Company

5. Focus on the hybrid employee technology experience

From collaboration tools to communication platforms, remote employees needed to be enabled with a seamless technology experience in order to be productive during the pandemic.


Okay now (some) employees are headed back to the office. So, what does that mean for collaboration and communication? How can HR and leaders support their teams with the transition to a hybrid model?

“We sat down and came up with guidelines for hybrid meetings,” says Jacquie Zygmund, Sr. Manager HR Process Delivery & Optimization at The Hershey Company. “We set expectations for folks who are in the room and on the phone, as well as guidelines for what meetings have to take place in the office and what meetings can happen in that hybrid model.”

As companies everywhere announce hybrid work and remote-first environments, it’s also critical for IT and HR teams to work together and holistically empower employees to be successful and satisfied.

Going forward, the technology experience will be synonymous with the employee experience – not only playing an important role when it comes to attracting new talent, but also when it comes to retaining existing talent.

6. Leverage continuous listening to iterate and evolve

As it continues to evolve its hybrid work model, Hershey plans to take a two-pronged approach to listening.

First, they plan to solicit leader, manager, and employee feedback with a variety of listening tools, such as pulses, 360, continuous employee listening, small group discussions, and so on.

Then, they’ll take action by giving leaders and managers the tools they need to address employees’ needs and concerns in an ever-changing world of work.

We’re doubling down on the candidate experience to get proactive on how to create success at Lumen.

Paige Blackhurst, Director, Talent Management at Lumen Technologies

The same can be said for Lumen.

“What we think to be true now may very well change in six to eight months as employee sentiments change,” said Paige Blackhurst, Director, Talent Management at Lumen. “We’re doubling down with a focus on the candidate experience to get proactive on how to create success at Lumen. We want to equip people leaders with the insights they need.”

Julia echoes that sentiment, as well.

“As part of our hybrid work plan, we set expectations with employees that we’re going to continue to iterate as we go,” says Julia. “We’re in uncharted waters, so we’re going to continue to listen, learn, and evolve along the way.”

Listen to the webinar to glean more expert tips for employee retention

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software platform that empowers organizations to deliver exceptional experiences and build deep relationships with their customers and employees.

With insights from Qualtrics, organizations can identify and resolve the greatest friction points in their business, retain and engage top talent, and bring the right products and services to market. Nearly 20,000 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’ advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle.

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