The Role of Sustainability in Resignation-Era Recruitment and Onboarding

A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September of 2021, setting off an era termed “The Great Resignation.” Quit rates and turnovers surged particularly high among frontline workers, low-wage sectors, and manufacturing. 30 to 45 year olds had the greatest hike in resignation; averaging an increase of 20% from 2020 to 2021.

While turnover was highest for younger employees, most actual resignations occurred at the mid-level. Notably, those who left their jobs haven’t permanently left the workforce, but are instead actively searching for positions with other companies and across other industries. This is an important cue to employers at this time-employees aren’t finished working, they’re finished working this way.

A sustainable company culture is the only offering that will attract and keep talent in the next phase of the corporate recovery. Sustainability as it relates to people is comprised of employee engagement and recognition, mental and physical support, and the symbiosis of work and personal life.

‘Employers need solutions in those areas to keep their talent,’ says Tara Milburn, Founder of Ethical Swag, a sustainable branding company that helps business leaders embody their corporate culture through their actions and their products. ‘They also need to be able to communicate those solutions in order to attract and win the right candidates in the current job seeker’s market.’

Following is an argument for the role of employee-centric sustainability in recruitment and onboarding, including concrete strategies to help employers make their commitments in that area clear.

Transparent Recruitment

‘A job is always more than a job,’ says Milburn. ‘When an active job seeker considers a position, they’re considering their financial security, their ability to grow in the role, their ability to contribute and be rewarded for those contributions, the intellectual and social atmosphere in which they’ll spend most of their day, and the availability they’ll still have for other parts of their personal and familial life. The weight of the job search is hard to overstate.’

Employers can demonstrate an understanding of that job seeking burden by tailoring their recruitment process to prioritize those areas of candidate consideration. Often, the interview process is focused on whether or not the candidate is right for the company’s needs. But in workplace 2.0, employers should be equally engaged in what the candidate is looking for, how their corporate culture, their available resources, and their technological infrastructure will either answer to or fall short of the candidate’s needs.

In order to be more candidate focused, other parts of the recruitment process need to be streamlined. An applicant tracking system (ATS) can compile complex data on potential hires, and streamline candidate targeting to prioritize those with an optimal fit for a role.

Not only does this accelerate the vetting process, it’s a crucial prerequisite for committing to a bias-free recruitment process. Diverse and inclusive teams are 36% more likely to outperform their market peers financially. But far more importantly, employees working with teams that prioritize diversity are 20% more likely to stay, which speaks to the power of inclusion as it relates to employee fulfilment and workplace happiness.

Other courtesies can be extended within the job listing. Offering an accurate and specific salary helps candidates manage their financial considerations, and including transparent expectations regarding remote or in-person work, vacation time, and scheduling is equally important.

According to a survey by Bankrate, 56% of working Americans would prefer remote work and adjustable hours. Kinwork and familial care responsibilities have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Often, flexible offerings aren’t just nice to have, they’re necessary for candidates who are balancing other responsibilities.

Understandably, employers won’t know exactly what candidates are looking for, or how their process stacks up to a job seeker’s needs. In a turbulent job economy, the best thing employers can do is audit their process, and then re-audit it, and consider auditing it again. Ask new hires and existing employees about their recruitment experience, and work to fix anything that was below their expectations. An engaged team is a valuable resource, and a company’s existing talent can be really helpful in attracting like-minded applicants.

Personal Development, Resignation-Era Recruitment and Onboarding
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

On the Matter of Onboarding

Following recruitment, the onboarding phase is the first time the new hire comes into contact with the company culture. ‘First impressions take a long time to fade,’ says Milburn. ‘This is the part of the process during which employees will be most attuned to the priorities of the company as it relates to the people within it.’

According to research by Glassdoor, retention rates can be improved by as much as 82% by an effective onboard process. But Gallup found that only 1 of 10 employees felt they received a satisfactory onboard experience.

Successful onboarding is formal, intentional, and employee-first. When the cost of finding and training a new employee can be one and a half to two times his/her salary, implementing a strategic and tailored onboard makes fiscal sense. But more importantly, working at a new company is a big transition, and onboarding is the time for the candidate to make connections, feel supported, buy into the larger mission and start to imagine the impact they could have within the company.

Pacing is one of the key aspects of bringing a new hire onboard successfully, and a well-paced onboard can be effective in boosting employee retention. 90% of new hires make the decision to stay or go within the first 6 months; an overwhelming and compressed process can lead to negative outcomes.

Having a too-short onboard is a common mistake, and firms reduce costs in the short term to their long-term detriment. Organizations should also schedule a clear conclusion to the process. Providing a formal conclusion to the onboard gives new employees a sense of accomplishment, crossing of a rite of passage.

Cultural integration also works best when intentional. Employee Ambassador programs were found to be highly effective in 87% of programs in a study conducted by The Human Capital Institute. When a cultural fit is left to its own devices, it can sometimes produce the ‘eating alone at lunch situation’ that can kill a new-hire enthusiasm and eventually, the probability of retention.

The need for intentional solutions applied in this direction is all the more acute with remote or hybrid teams. For new hires who are onboarding remotely, the screen represents one more barrier to feeling like they’re truly part of the team. Non-verbal cues are hard to read across the wires, and the solitude of joining the conference call from the living room diffuses much-needed team morale. Intentional solutions might include virtual social hours, arranged one-on-ones, and time built into the schedule for team bonding and leisure.

Personalizing the onboarding experience to each new candidate ensures their unique needs are addressed. Each role and hire involves a new set of complex variables, tasks, and expectations. By personalizing the process, an organization encourages a tailored approach. Employees, eager to excel in their transition, find greater satisfaction, meaning, and success in a process built for them.

With transparent and employee-first recruiting, top talent will recognize the company’s commitment to creating a sustainable working reality within the roles they’ve offered. Paired with an on-boarding experience that’s paced, personalized, and intentional, employees will know that their experience matters, and that they’re set up for long-term success. The task of recovery in 2022 requires a team that’s cohesive, fulfilled, and full speed ahead. Employers who are able to take these steps will be in the best position to face the future with teams that have their back.

Anne Lawson
Anne Lawson is a British writer who keeps her eye on business and trending issues that affect us all. She loves to delve into the real story and give us interesting tidbits we might otherwise miss.