Burnout, broken hiring and employees in a rut: No wonder workers are looking to quit

From talent shortages to disgruntled workers and ineffective hiring and performance processes, employers face a long road to fixing a thoroughly fractured workforce.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor
Developer working on computer at night

Developer working on computer at night

Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to research by Personio, 46% of employees are considering a job move in the next 12 months. Even if these employees don't make the jump, that's still a significant proportion of the workforce that feels disengaged and unmotivated to work.

Employee apathy is nothing new – there have been unhappy employees as long as there have been employers to work for. However, the unique set of circumstances staff have been working under for the past two years has created a catalyst for more workers to question whether there are better, more fulfilling opportunities to be had elsewhere.

This is particularly true of remote workers. According to Personio's survey, which quizzed 1,205 senior HR decision makers and 5,000 employees in the UK and Ireland, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, workers who have primarily worked remotely over the past 12 months are more likely to be looking for new jobs.

SEE: It's not just a talent shortage - employers admit they're hiring the wrong people

There is a danger that remote working could be fostering higher levels of dissatisfaction and feelings of disconnection among staff. At the same time, return-to-office mandates by employers could frustrate workers who have enjoyed more freedom in recent months.

Hiring managers appear to be aware of the scale of the problem, although many feel that leadership teams might not be so concerned – or otherwise aware – of their company's own skill shortages. Almost two fifths (38%) of HR decision-makers surveyed said they expected to see more staff than usual leaving their company in the next 6-12 months, and yet 48% felt that their leadership teams weren't giving enough urgency to the matter.

Indeed, employers face an uphill battle when it comes to trying to tie down key staff amid a significant reshuffle of the workforce.

Stressful working environments, a lack of appreciation for the work they do and limited career progression opportunities have sent a ripple of dissatisfaction throughout the workforce, all of which companies will have to tackle if they hope to keep headcounts from dwindling.

And yet, the strain on hiring managers themselves threatens to make a bad situation even worse.

According to data from Greenhouse, 69% of hiring managers in the UK and Europe are experiencing burnout because of the current job market, with the same proportion feeling that hiring is only going to become more challenging for the remainder of 2022.

Not helping matters is evidence that current processes for hiring and onboarding staff aren't fit for purpose, particularly now that many candidates are being interviewed and onboarded remotely. In Greenhouse's survey of 1,500 c-suite executives and hiring managers, 20% cited unstructured and ineffective hiring processes as their primary cause of frustration.

SEE: Hiring developers? Your interview process is probably doing more harm than good

The survey also indicated that the highest source of talent for companies is internal promotions and transfers (59%). And yet, performance reviews and evaluation processes are also being put to scrutiny.

In the most high-profile recent case, Google revealed that it was overhauling its employee review system following criticism from employees, who from now on will only be subjected to one annual performance assessment instead of two. The move is intended to take the stress off of employees and give them time back that would otherwise be spent preparing their assessments, as well as making it easier for workers to get promoted. 

But even annual review processes are being called into question. Employees surveyed by Personio, for example, said that performance reviews were "neither fair nor frequent". Specifically, workers expressed frustration at managers for not offering regular feedback about their performance in the two years since the pandemic began – something that has been even more important as employees lost their regular touchpoints while working remotely.

As such, only 51% of employees surveyed by Personio felt that performance reviews at their organization were fair, and just 39% said they had received regular feedback on their performance since 2020. Worryingly, 18% of respondents said their performance was never regularly reviewed by their manager.

All this is to say nothing of soaring inflation and wallet-busting price rises, which will no doubt send even more employees seeking out new, higher-paying roles if employers can't offer additional support for higher costs of living. After more than two years of living and working through a pandemic, business leaders are finally glimpsing light at the end of the tunnel – but the multiple cultural, operational and financial challenges now dogging the workforce will take far longer to fix.

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