Employees are staying put — but how long will that last?

Dive Brief:

  • In what’s being dubbed “the big stay,” employees are staying put for now, a seeming reversal of the great reshuffling (the recent talent migration trend also known as the great resignation), according to a May 16 report from LinkedIn.
  • The big stay — the current sustained period of low attrition — has been marked by a significant drop in attrition rates over the past year, a 26% decrease year over year since April 2023, LinkedIn data shows. Although experienced by most industries, the decline has been more pronounced in certain sectors, including hospitals and healthcare (down 31%); retail, accommodation and food services (down 30%); and consumer services and manufacturing (down 27%), according to the report.
  • This could simply be a return to business as usual, with quit rates in the U.S. back at levels seen in the late 2010s, Greg Lewis, LinkedIn’s senior content marketing manager, writes, citing Kory Kantenga, LinkedIn’s head of economics for the Americas. However, “it’s still unclear whether attrition will continue to fall to truly historic lows, plateau around the prepandemic baseline, or reverse course and rise as quickly as it fell,” Lewis wrote.

Dive Insight:

Employers should put this current trend to good use, experts say. The slowdown in attrition offers them a great opportunity to strengthen their retention practices, and that may be critical, Lewis emphasized — especially since attrition could bounce back “very quickly.”

Lewis pointed to Microsoft’s latest Work Trends Index, done in collaboration with LinkedIn, which found that 46% of professionals globally said they’re considering quitting in the year ahead, up from 40% who said the same thing during the great reshuffle.

“It’s during these moments of reacceleration that those who are prepared win market share,” added LinkedIn Chief Operating Officer Daniel Shapero. “By taking some simple steps now, you can put yourself in a stronger position to retain and attract the right people for the next inevitable reshuffling of talent.” 

Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, gave similar advice in a statement accompanying an April report from her firm. The report showed that employee confidence in their organization’s leadership, culture, compensation and job market opportunities rebounded during the first quarter of 2024.

Productivity can improve when fewer employees resign, Jezior said. But this doesn’t mean employers should retreat from monitoring employee engagement initiatives because economic conditions can change quickly, she added.

The slowdown in attrition also allows employers to take a more strategic approach to hiring, a Robert Half exec stated in February with the release of a report on the slowdown.

Surveyed employees told the talent solutions and business consulting firm they were staying with their employer for several reasons, including that their current job offered a level of flexibility they weren’t willing to leave. They also said they felt fulfilled in their current role and well-compensated for their work.

Employees have also cited psychological safety in the workplace — the feeling of being able to speak up and take risks without fear of being blamed or criticized — as a reason for staying put, according to a January report from Boston Consulting Group.

Additionally, while rigid return to office mandates may appeal to corporate leaders and managers, they can harm talent attraction and retention in a big way: RTO mandates are likely to drive away high performing employees, women and millennials, according to findings released in January by the consulting firm Gartner’s HR practice.