Flexibility, Higher Pay Are ‘New Normal’ for US Workplace

Post-pandemic American workplaces must cope with higher-than-average turnover and high levels of employee burnout, according to the latest collaborative survey from MindEdge Learning and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).

The online survey, HR and the Changing Workplace, received responses from more than 1,000 HRCI-certified Human Resources professionals. Two of three (67 percent) respondents indicated their workplaces are at least “mostly back to normal” – with those who work in manufacturing (80 percent) and education (76 percent) most likely to say that normalcy has returned.

The survey results indicated that for most organizations, “normal” does not necessarily mean “the same.” Only 22 percent of respondents said that “almost everything is like it was before the pandemic,” while 33 percent reported that conditions at their organizations are “fairly different” or “extremely different” from the pre-pandemic norm.

For many organizations, this new normal entails a hybrid work schedule: 78 percent of respondents said their organization allows employees to work remotely at least part of the time. And a majority (52 percent) of these HR professionals indicated their organization is conducting HR functions remotely all or most of the time.

Respondents seem “fairly happy” with their post-pandemic work arrangements. Two of five (42 percent) shared that conditions at their organization are better than they were before the pandemic, while only 20 percent noted that conditions are worse. Another 38 percent said that conditions are basically the same as they were before the pandemic.

The perception that conditions are better than before is higher among those who work remotely at least some of the time (49 percent) than among those who do not work remotely (24 percent).

What is not back to normal is employee retention. Fully 67 percent of these HR professionals noted that turnover at their organization is higher than before the pandemic, including 25 percent who indicated that turnover rates are “much higher.” In the 2021 MindEdge/HRCI survey, 54 percent of respondents reported that turnover was higher than before the pandemic.

Turnover is particularly high in the education (76 percent) and health care (74 percent) sectors.

Coping with this turnover is not easy: fully 82 percent of HR professionals shared that finding replacements for departing workers is difficult, including 26 percent who said that finding new workers is “very difficult.”

High turnover is being driven primarily by the large number of employees who are accepting better offers from other organizations: 68 percent of respondents identify the stiff competition for talent as a serious problem for their organization. Other significant problems contributing to high turnover include employee burnout (48 percent) and the departure of younger workers who are dissatisfied with traditional work arrangements (41 percent).

Competition from other organizations is a particular problem in the technology sector (76 percent). Burnout is an especially acute problem in the retail (71 percent) and health care (70 percent) sectors.

Overall, more than four-of-five (82 percent) respondents indicated they have seen an increase in employee burnout at their organization, including 28 percent who reported a major increase. These figures are consistent with the results of our 2021 survey, which found 80 percent of respondents reported an increase in employee burnout.

The combination of high turnover and employee burnout is forcing many organizations to institute policies to adapt to the changing workplace. Foremost among these is the introduction of more flexible working arrangements: fully 66 percent of respondents said their organization has already introduced more flexibility to the workplace, and another 4 percent are planning to do so.

Other workplace changes include:

  • Benefits to help employees cope with stress: 51 percent of organizations have already introduced such benefits, and 11 percent plan to do so
  • Higher pay: 49 percent of organizations have increased compensation in the wake of the pandemic, and 14 percent plan to do so
  • Providing job-skills training as an employee benefit: 39 percent of organizations have already done so, and 11 percent plan to offer these benefits in the future.

At the same time, most organizations have not embraced the idea of training their employees in how to work remotely. Only 40 percent of respondents said their organization offers remote-work training, and only 24 percent provided such training to all employees. “With so many organizations adopting fully remote or hybrid work arrangements, training employees for remote work seems like simple common sense,” said Frank Connolly, director of communications and research for MindEdge Learning. “But the majority of organizations have yet to recognize the wisdom of this simple idea.”

Almost all respondents reported their organizations are hiring: 97 percent noted their organization is taking on new employees, including 54 percent who said they were hiring at a faster rate than before the pandemic.

Based on the survey results regarding hiring, HRCI Chief Learning and Revenue Officer David Meginley, GPHR, observed “this combination of hybrid workforce realities and increased hiring demand for new talent underscores the value for well-prepared, skilled professionals. HRCI’s eight certification programs along with our catalog of specialized certificates and individual courses allow HR practitioners to strengthen their knowledge and competencies that have an immediate impact on business outcomes.”

Learn more at https://www.hrci.org/.