Worried About Employee Turnover? Ask These 6 Questions to Size Your Risk

November 24, 2021

Contributor: Jackie Wiles

The answers will help you respond effectively.

Gartner research indicates that one in five employees, on average, is actively looking for a new job. Some industries and functions are feeling even more acute pain: 31% of IT workers, for example, actively sought out a new job in Q3 2021.

Is turnover coming at your organization? It’s critical to know how big the risk is so you can mitigate the impact on business continuity and results.

“While pundits debate the causes — and even the reality — of the mass employee exodus, seismic shifts in employee expectations and preferences are undeniable,” says Ned Feuer, Senior Principal at Gartner. “You can mitigate the risks with tailored retention strategies, but only if you know whether key people are primed to leave and what they expect to gain by moving.” 

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Considering the answers to these six questions will help. 

Question 1: How many of your employees are looking for a new job?

Among industries, the number of active job seekers is highest (25% to 36%) in telecommunications, technology, oil & gas, and financial services, and lower in education, healthcare, real estate and government (14% to 15%). 

Our research also shows that functions like IT, HR, security and manufacturing pose a higher attrition risk, with an above-average percentage of active job seekers, while the number is lower in legal, social services and education.

To gauge where the business impact of attrition could be greatest, identify critical functions that are directly responsible for generating revenue, contribute to critical workflows, or involve employees with company- or role-specific knowledge. Focus on ensuring critical functions are adequately staffed and those employees’ needs are met. 

Multinational organizations may also face different job-seeking tendencies across geographies. Our research indicates that Latin America has the highest percentage of active job seekers (24%), on average, while Europe and North America are lowest (16%). Use regional data to take corrective action and/or shore up your talent pipeline.

For more insights on workplace change, visit the Future of Work Reinvented Resource Center.

Gartner Global Labor Market Survey from Q3 2021 shows job seeking activity is high in many industries and functions globally.

Question 2: How in demand are your employees?

A key component of sizing your turnover risk is assessing the “pull” on your employees from other organizations. Analyze internal recruiting data and metrics such as time-to-fill to gauge demand. Also track the hiring patterns of your competitors.

Then determine whether in-demand employees have skills that are temporarily in high demand or will be increasingly needed both internally and externally. This can help you decide how best to source the requisite skills. You might, for example, consider insourcing freelance talent for certain projects where the needs aren’t long term.

Question 3: How confident are your employees that they can find a new job?

Active job seekers don’t necessarily find jobs, but some employees today can be pretty confident they can switch employers if they want to. Knowing where confidence is high helps you target your retention strategies or preempt churn by recruiting. 

Gartner data shows that employees in technology, healthcare, financial services and construction are most confident about job availability. Employees in medical, IT and executive management functions are more confident than average.

Optimism varies by region, though. Right now, employees in North America are most sure that another job is obtainable.

Question 4: How much additional compensation will prompt your employees to move?

Compensation remains the single most important factor employees consider when deciding whether to switch jobs. That hasn’t changed for 20 years and isn’t likely to, so it’s important to know the premium employees expect to jump ship.

Gartner research performed in Q3 2021 indicates the average employee expects a 10% increase in total compensation when switching jobs. Employees in industries such as telecommunications, technology and professional services expect more (13% to 17%). Those in functions like IT, legal, engineering/quality assurance and maintenance have higher-than-average expectations for what they will get if they switch jobs. 

Employees also factor in what kind of pay raise they might receive if they remain in their current role. On average, employees expect a 4% increase in base pay from their current employers in the coming year — though that number is significantly higher (7% to 12%) for employees in the telecommunications, technology and financial services spaces.

Question 5: How will your employees react to a vaccine mandate?

As vaccine mandates spread, organizations face the risk of mass turnover — either because employees quit in protest or earn dismissal by refusing. Gartner data gathered in late October shows that organizations anticipate a 6.4% turnover rate, on average, due to vaccine mandates. 

The data also shows that 34% of employers see termination as the only option if an employee refuses to be vaccinated. So both voluntary and involuntary turnover could spike in a short span of time. 

Managing that attrition requires you to assess the risk by employee segment rather than at an organizational level. Again, identify first those roles that are critical to the organization so you can anticipate where and how to reengineer workflows and expedite knowledge sharing to minimize disruption. This also helps identify roles to prioritize for recruiting.

Question 6: How closely does your hybrid work strategy match employee preferences?

Elements of the employee value proposition (EVP) beyond pay are becoming increasingly important. Eighty-two percent of workers who can work remotely now prefer to do so more than half of the time. Fifty-one percent say their decision to stay with an employer is determined, in part, by whether or not they can work flexibly.

Assess industry trends as they relate to future-of-work models so you can make sure you’re developing a win-win for employees and the organization. Track how — and how successfully — competitors are evolving their work models.

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