Top HR Concern in the New Normal is the Same as the Old Normal: Retaining Talent

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With the public health emergency receding in New Jersey, employers are grappling with different models and strategies to ensure health, safety and productivity.  What many are being faced with, however, are more dire problems than ever before.

According to John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ), many pre-pandemic employers reported their businesses were suffering from the malaise of low morale and low employee engagement.  Surveys and interviews cited a lack of meaningful strategies to address these issues even as bottom lines were being negatively impacted.

“Now more than a year after the pandemic disrupted most workplaces, these same employees are trying to remain focused and productive,” says Sarno.

However, before the pandemic, the World Health Organization reported that high levels of stress at work were causing unprecedented occupational illnesses.

One in three employees stated that they had left a job because of mental health-related issues and 89% believed that the work culture should support employee mental health.

“Health concerns at work are real, physical and mental health.  Many employers were ill-prepared before the pandemic and are just now realizing that the employer-employee relationship has probably changed permanently,” says Sarno.

As the economy recovers, job vacancies now outnumber people looking for work, the first time since 2018. Evidence suggests that low income workers receiving enhanced unemployment insurance earn more money not working.  That boost ends September 6th.

At the same time, people quitting their jobs is at the highest number in two decades.

Job dissatisfaction and low morale had been building before the pandemic but crested during the emergency. In interviews during the pandemic, EANJ member-employers described experiencing day-to-day challenges related to maintaining employee morale. Telecommuting had a negative impact on morale in some cases.

“Employees with skills, who are now in demand, are not going back to jobs where their employer did little to retain them before the pandemic and did not support them when they were demoralized,” says Sarno.

EANJ surveys before the pandemic, throughout the pandemic and currently say the same thing: a positive workplace is the primary tool for retaining top talent.