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Businesses, Employees Disconnected on Post-COVID Perks

Industry Trends and Research

The Great Resignation is showing signs of slowing, but there is a significant disconnect between management and employees on what it takes to retain workers in the post-COVID work environment.

Nationwide’s latest Agency Forward survey suggests the Great Resignation trend may be cooling, as few business owners reported increased resignations over the past six months and only 4% of employees say they started a new full-time job during that period.

However, employee retention challenges are still weighing on business owners after ballooning during the pandemic. In addition, many owners appear out of touch with why their employees are leaving. 

According to the findings, 3 in 10 owners say resignations are due to employees wanting to pursue a passion and 28% believe employees were just burnt out or didn’t have enough work flexibility. Similarly, only 20% of business owners cited employee benefits as not being adequate.

But the main drivers that would attract employees to new job opportunities include:

  • better job security (87%); 
  • stronger cultural fit (84%);
  • greater financial incentives (e.g., higher pay, sign-on bonus, performance bonus) (84%); and
  • access to good employee medical or retirement benefits (84%). 

Return-to-Work Plans

The survey also finds that as in-office work rebounds across the country, employees want continued flexibility with where and when they work. The good news for business owners, according to Nationwide, is that most employees (62%) wouldn’t consider leaving based solely on their employer’s return-to-work plans. Flexibility is particularly important to younger workers, though, as 62% of Gen Z employees and 51% of Millennial employees would consider leaving based solely on their employer’s plans.  

Preferences aside, employers and employees are generally aligned that in-person work provides the most productivity and company value, the survey found. Still, with most business owners expecting to be working in person full-time a year from now—leaving one in three owners nervous about announcing their company’s return-to-office decisions and the impact it could have on retention.

Nationwide suggests that emphasizing flexibility could be the key to retaining and attracting top talent to their companies. Only 36% of businesses are currently offering flexibility for employees to choose where they work or when they work. Another 31% have no plans to consider offering flexibility, including 43% of small business owners. Meanwhile, 68% of employees consider flexibility with how or when they work as an important factor when evaluating jobs.

“Three-quarters of U.S. workers received flexibility with how and when they worked during the pandemic, and of those who didn’t have flexibility, 42% considered leaving their jobs as a result,” said Linda Stueber, Senior Vice President for Commercial Lines at Nationwide. “Employers who are able to demonstrate continued flexibility and personalization for employees in their work will be most successful in today’s competitive labor market.”

Nationwide’s survey was conducted by Edelman Data & Intelligence among 1,000 U.S. employees in an office setting, 400 independent insurance agents, 400 middle market business owners and 399 small business owners to understand what employment and workplace shifts are happening in this new work environment. The study was fielded from Feb. 1–20, 2022.