52% of Employees looking for a new job in 2021

Welcome to the fourth annual Engagement and 
Retention Report from Achievers Workforce Institute.

With COVID-19 still in full swing, we didn’t know what to expect 
from the 2021 survey. Most years we see incremental changes, 
but in 2021 a surprising 52% of employees said they intended 
to look for a new job. Everyone we interviewed was employed, 
so this isn’t a reflection of the increasing unemployment rate. 
Instead, we suspect that going through a crisis has highlighted 
company values and culture, causing employees to become more 
discerning about the type of organization they want to work for. 
A crucial area of concern is work-life balance. One in four (25%) 
named work-life balance as the reason they would job hunt, with 
almost as many (23%) saying it was the main reason they would 
stay at their company. This shows that organizations must focus 
on balance to attract and retain employees. Knowing whether 
your employees are satisfied with their current balance should 
be your first stop. Introduce work-life balance questions into 
your pulse survey and encourage managers to discuss the issue 
in their one-to-one meetings.

While you may think that working from home has alleviated some 
work-life balance concerns, fear of being seen as unproductive 
is motivating many to work longer hours. More than half (51%) 
of employees who are currently working from home said they 
worried that their manager had doubts about their productivity 
during remote work. When asked what they were doing about 
these concerns, nearly half (44%) reported either starting earlier 
or working later, and more than a third (37%) are skipping lunch 
breaks. Managers who previously managed based on time in office need to be given guidance and training on results-oriented 
management, focusing on outcome not input.

Another area of concern that is COVID-19 related is the 46% of 
employees who say they feel less connected to their company 
now than they did before the pandemic. When employees were 
asked what had impacted company culture during COVID-19, 
one in four said there had not been enough effort to keep 
remote workers connected. Three-quarters of respondents 
(78%) reported working from home during COVID-19, so this 
should be an area of concern for HR leaders trying to maintain 
engagement during the pandemic. From virtual social events 
to online team building, finding ways to build and maintain 
connection during the COVID-19 crisis is critical. The easiest 
way to identify the supports that employees need is to ask them 
directly through a survey or continuous listening tool.
Looking at the results beyond COVID trends, recognition again 
stands out as a protective factor for turnover, with employees 
who more recently received recognition reporting lower levels 
of intention to job seek. The simple power of consistently saying 
“thank you” is often underestimated, yet creating a culture 
of recognition will not only reduce turnover but will increase 
engagement and productivity.

Finally, we see that many organizations are failing to take action 
based on employee feedback. While almost two-thirds (60%) 
say their employer has sought their feedback on improving 
the employee experience, just 16% say their employer always 
takes action on their feedback. Without consistent action, you 
are likely to see an increase in what we call “inaction fatigue” 
whereby people are less likely to answer surveys or contribute 
to continual listening tools if they believe nothing will come of 
their feedback. The common concern of survey fatigue is usually 
driven by inaction fatigue.

HR leaders are facing unique challenges right now and need to 
prioritize the top factors to improve engagement, retention, 
and employee satisfaction. This report is intended to help HR 
and business leaders connect the dots on engagement and 
retention to reduce turnover and improve results thanks to a 
more enthusiastic and committed team. I hope you find it helpful 
for your annual and strategic planning and as you navigate these 
challenging times ensuring your organization can thrive.

Natalie Baumgartner, PhD
Chief Workforce Scientist,
Achievers Workforce Institute