Employers have been dealing with multiple crises lately, from the coronavirus pandemic to high levels of burnout among their employees and many Canadians considering leaving their current job.

Despite these challenges, several strategies can help employers turn the “Great Resignation” tide, says Allison Griffiths, a principal at Mercer Canada. “Obviously, the factors driving the ‘Great Resignation’ are pretty complex and I think they’re different for every person’s personal situation — it’s different by gender, it’s different by caregiver status, it’s different whether you’re an hourly frontline worker.”

Mercer prefers to refer to it as the “Great Reckoning,” she adds, because the consultancy is seeing a real shift in what employees value and what they’re looking for from their employer. In part, this includes higher pay, according a December 2021 survey by Hays Specialist Recruitment Canada Inc., which found about 40 per cent of employers reported staff have left for higher pay elsewhere.

Read: 65% of employees looking to change jobs due to compensation, well-being: survey

Since then, the annual inflation rate has continued to tick upwards, hitting 5.1 per cent in January 2022 compared with a gain of 4.8 per cent in December 2021, according to Statistics Canada. While ensuring salaries keep pace with inflation is one lever employers can pull to keep employees from quitting, other factors such as benefits offerings, company culture and growth opportunities also play key roles in retaining top talent, says Griffiths.

Matthias Spitzmuller, an associate professor of organizational behaviour at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, agrees. “Salary is one factor, but more important than salary, is usually growth and development opportunities within the organization. So creating and understanding what [employers] can do to create lateral and vertical mobility that satisfies opportunities for personal and professional growth [and] benefits are becoming increasingly important.”

The second year of the coronavirus pandemic coming to a close is a great time for employers to do a deep dive into current benefits to ensure those offerings are still relevant to their employees during these trying times, says Griffiths.

Read: Canadian workers describing burnout as high, extreme: survey

Digging into utilization data, as well as employee demographics, will help guide the way for any changes needed as businesses prepare for life after the pandemic, she adds, noting employers should look at “benefits intentionally. It’s not just looking at what the competition is doing and it’s not just looking at benchmarking.”

In addition, she suggests that employers tailor benefits changes to the current and post-pandemic world with a focus on supporting employees. Indeed, many employees need support these days, with 84 per cent of Canadian workers saying they’ve felt burned out amid the pandemic, causing at least 20 per cent to seek new jobs, according to a December 2021 survey by Ceridian HCM Inc.

Burnout, mental health and emotional wellness struggles are playing a part in the stream of employees choosing to leave their current organization, said Tiana Field-Ridley, senior program manager of workplace mental health at the Mental Health Commission of Canada, in an email interview with Benefits Canada.

Read: Expert panel: How employers can help employees struggling with burnout

“We have been hearing from employers and employees that there is burnout from workload, wellness priorities have changed tremendously and the overall need to change the workforce has been put into perspective. There seems to be a movement that is coming from the workforce that they want to have more balance, they no longer want to work the long hours and sacrifice time with loved ones or themselves.”

Since March 2020, things have changed tremendously for many employers and employees. And with the third year of the pandemic looming, leaders can — and should — learn from the many crises they’ve had to handle, says Spitzmuller.

Many employers have just been trying to keep their heads above water and haven’t put as much focus on retaining top talent as they needed to, he says, adding the high number of employees considering quitting their jobs in Canada “shows the need for organizations, even in crisis times, [to not] stop listening to the evolving needs of their employees — to me, this is really the key insight to be learned from this pandemic.”

Read: North American employees switching employers for better pay, benefits: survey