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Employers Respond to Great Resignation by Raising Pay, Improving Benefits

New SHRM research findings show businesses are responding to employee flight


A group of people standing in front of an exit door.


Business leaders are taking steps to combat the so-called Great Resignation afflicting U.S. organizations by offering higher pay and more competitive benefits for new recruits and remaining employees, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

In July, SHRM surveyed 200 U.S. executives at organizations with 50 or more employees, 1,150 U.S. workers and 1,187 HR professionals who are SHRM members. (An additional 1,034 HR professionals were surveyed in early September.) Among the findings in SHRM's report, released Oct. 25, were the following:

  • More departures. Nearly half (49 percent) of U.S. executives surveyed reported that their organization had experienced much higher turnover than usual in the past six months.
  • Positions open longer. Most (84 percent) said openings were going unfilled for longer periods than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following their former colleagues' exits, more than half (52 percent) of employees who chose to stay said they've had to take on more work, and 55 percent now wonder if their pay is high enough. The latter is especially true for Millennial and Generation Z employees, who make up the majority of the current U.S. workforce; since their colleagues left, 63 percent of employees from these generations have wondered if their pay is enough.


Source: SHRM, October 2021.

Employers are responding by adjusting pay and benefits to attract new hires and keep current employees on board, SHRM's researchers found. For instance, more than half of organizations (58 percent) report that beyond normal yearly increases, they are offering higher starting salaries and wages than last year.

Among HR professionals who said their organization had seen higher or much higher turnover in the past six months, 42 percent have implemented new or additional remote-work or flexibility options to reduce turnover, 32 percent have implemented new or additional employee referral bonuses, and 28 percent have introduced new or additional merit increases.

"Employees are leaving their jobs to pursue new opportunities in record numbers, making hiring and retaining talent a significant challenge for employers across the country," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM's president and chief executive officer. "It's a candidate's market, and organizations must respond by recognizing the need to think differently in how to recruit and retain talent, revisiting benefits and flexible work schedules, along with broadening the talent pool for open positions."

Why They're Leaving

SHRM's research found a divide between what employees believe are the most important rewards to make them stay versus what executives believe.


Source: SHRM, October 2021.

Half of younger Millennials and Generation Z employees said they thought about leaving their job more often following a colleague's resignation.

A New Reality

Gene Marks, founder of the Marks Group PC in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., which provides technology and financial management services to small and midsize businesses, recently wrote in The Guardian that he sees employers "still operating as if it's pre-COVID. When they're looking for employees, they're offering compensation similar to the rates they paid before. It hasn't dawned on them that times have changed and the basic principles of economics are playing out in front of them: When demand exceeds supply, prices go up."

Marks added, "Those businesses that accept this reality will adapt and continue to profit. They will hire good people and succeed. Those business owners that refuse to understand this simple concept simply won't."

Related SHRM Article:

Employers Use Benefits and Perks to Counter Great Resignation, SHRM Online, November 2021

Employers Choose Carrots over Sticks as Employees Return Onsite, SHRM Online, September 2021

SHRM Benefits Survey Finds Renewed Focus on Employee Well-Being, SHRM Online, September 2021

Rethinking Employee Benefits for Permanently Remote Workers, SHRM Online, May 2021


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Turnover and Retention

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