January always sees a surge of resumes hitting the job market. How can organisations mitigate their risk of turnover and optimise their February hiring strategies?

The Christmas parties are over, and employees are back at work feeling revitalised and refreshed – or at least, that’s the idea. In reality, January usually heralds the start of a wave of resignations and job-seeking activity, followed by an upswing of hiring in February.

While organisations always aim to end the year on a high note, UK research has shown that 31 January is the most popular day of the year for employees to resign. According to Kathy Pallasis, human resources manager at Frontier Software, employees tend to do a lot of soul-searching throughout the holiday period, and many return ready to make some major changes.

It’s a cycle that’s already well known to HR professionals. As employees sip their cocktails at the beach, many will reassess the year gone by and think about their career goals, aspirations and potential opportunities. But what can organisations do to prepare, and how should they adapt their talent strategies to deal with resulting staff shortages?

‘New year, new me’

According to Pallasis, employees often enter a new year with a new sense of purpose, and this usually results in an upswing of resumes flooding the job market.

“The new year is a time when so many employees recognise the need to do something new or to attain meaningful experiences at work,” Pallasis says.

“While money is always a consideration, individuals are also seeking avenues for personal and career growth. Opportunities for skill development, mentorship and advancement become paramount as employees try to align their aspirations with organisational goals.”

Pallasis notes that employees are increasingly valuing a positive workplace culture and better work-life balance. They also look for an environment that fosters collaboration, inclusivity and wellbeing, and will give preference to employers that they feel align with their values and desired environment.

“Companies who ‘get’ this and are proactive in providing avenues for achieving both personal and professional goals position themselves as employers of choice in this very competitive arena,” Pallasis explains.

For employers, Pallasis says a new year should come with a renewed focus on employee engagement. It’s important to recognise how much a motivated and engaged team contributes to overall success, and fostering a positive culture at work is a “strategic imperative”, she says.

The new year can also present opportunities for employers to evaluate their hiring strategies and proactively undertake workforce planning. With staffing gaps usually emerging by the end of January, it becomes a good time to assess the skills that are missing from your team and work out how best to address those gaps.

Refocusing your strategy

To avoid being hit too hard by the January exodus, Pallasis says risk mitigation efforts need to be a year-round activity. This means conducting regular stay interviews throughout the year, gathering insights into employee concerns and aspirations, and addressing any potential pain points before they escalate.

“Accepting that you cannot aim to keep every employee all the time, there are things that you can do throughout the year,” Pallasis explains.

“Employers should have fostered an environment where employees feel heard and valued. Strategic investments in professional development opportunities signal a commitment to employee growth, which helps increase job satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, recognising and appreciating employee contributions, and building a culture that prioritises work-life balance, can significantly mitigate the allure of external opportunities.”

On the retention front, Pallasis says the onboarding process is critical to determining how long the employee will stay with the organisation. With this in mind, optimising your onboarding is a great start-of-year activity, along with refining your recruitment strategy to address your current talent gaps.

Ultimately, Pallasis notes that resignations are a ‘business as usual’ event. Employee satisfaction and engagement should be a constant part of your ongoing strategy. However, employers who are concerned about potential turnover can gather valuable insights directly from their people. This can be via one-on-one discussions or surveys, and it’s important that these produce tangible results.

Professional development opportunities are another great avenue towards greater engagement, as they signal a commitment to fostering your team’s skills and show that the business has a personal stake in their success.

“Flexible work arrangements, where feasible, contribute to improved work-life balance, addressing a key factor in employee satisfaction,” Pallasis adds.

“Recognising and rewarding achievements, both big and small, cultivates a positive workplace culture, reinforcing a sense of value and belonging. A strategic and empathetic approach, coupled with genuine efforts to address employee concerns, serves as a powerful antidote to potential resignations, which fosters a resilient and engaged workforce.”


Article originally published on HRD February 2024