We have daily conversations with marketing leaders about the challenges of keeping up with content marketing. In the first article of this series, we summarized what we hear most. For years, many of the issues have been about the same. However, since the pandemic began, the massive movement of talent from the workforce or between companies has made content marketing even tougher to sustain.
The drastic employment shift started picking up steam in mid-2020 and is known as "The Great Resignation." It continued throughout 2021 into this year, and estimates are that one in five workers worldwide will leave their jobs in 2022.
In this article, we discuss why so many people have left their jobs and offer up a few ideas to help minimize the impact. Admittedly, we are not human resource gurus, but we must come to terms with the same situation everyone does.
HOW THE GREAT RESIGNATION STARTED
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record-setting 47.8 million American workers quit their jobs in 2021. Similar trends have prevailed in most other countries around the world as well. This mass exodus has touched all industries as employers scramble to backfill vacant positions. In addition, forced cuts in operational hours have resulted in large revenue losses for many smaller businesses.
According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article called Who Is Driving the Great Resignation?, rates are highest among mid-career employees between 30 and 45 years old. Furthermore, the average increase in this group grew by more than 20% between 2020 and 2022. The same article highlights that resignations are the highest in technology and healthcare-related verticals. Mostly, these two sectors were very busy during the pandemic, and there is a visible link between excessive workloads and employee burnout.
The bad news is that we're not finished yet! PWC recently surveyed 52,000 workers across 44 countries - although 2021 was a record year for resignations, it's believed that 20% of the global workforce will leave their jobs by the end of this year.
WHY ARE FOLKS MOVING AROUND SO MUCH?
Significant research helps us understand why people are job-hopping in such dramatic numbers. For example, an HBR article, "The Great Resignation Didn't Start with the Pandemic" talks about the title's topic, but also nicely summarizes the root causes of The Great Resignation. For our purposes, we will provide a brief summary of each:
- Older workers have been leaving at accelerated rates, especially those at an age where they are within striking range of full retirement.
- Many decided to spend more time with loved ones or pursue personal interests.
- In COVID high-risk groups, some retired early for fear of potential contact during the height of the pandemic.
- Although the economy has sharply declined since last year, the high-riding stock and housing markets presented tempting career exit points.
- With so much fear and disruption from COVID, many adopted a "life is too short" attitude that motivated them to reevaluate and make a change.
- Women were more affected than men and younger people more than older ones.
- Many in front-line occupations worked under more pressure than ever before while balancing family care obligations at home.
- A 2021 Women in the Workplace report found that one in three women considered leaving the workforce, switching jobs, or cutting work hours.
- In complex white-collar roles like consulting or finance, junior personnel showed high rates of burnout, causing them to reconsider their options. These employees remained busy during the pandemic, but mentorship and training became difficult. As a result, many young staffers felt extreme pressure in unchartered territory.
- A large percentage of job migration has come from what some call the "Great Upgrade" - people were looking to better their situations in terms of pay, working conditions, flexibility, and other parameters.
- The highest quit rates due to reshuffling were in lower-wage (and often underpaid) fields such as accommodation, food services, non-durable manufacturing, and retail.
- Research by the Brookings Institution highlighted that employers in lower-wage sectors have now taken steps towards better retention through pay increases, paid education programs, improved benefits packages, and other strategies.
- The trend affected most specialized professional roles and saw many marketers move to higher-paying jobs with competitors.
- Some workers left jobs because they feared returning to offices or job sites as workplaces reopened. According to a Pew Research Center survey of 5,858 working adults in the United States, 64% of respondents were not comfortable returning to the office, and 57% reported deciding to work from home rather than risk exposure to COVID in the workplace.
- As 2022 comes to an end, it's believed that more than 70% of the world's office workers have returned to the office at least one day a week. However, feedback from numerous studies shows a large majority of people prefer to work only from home or adopt a primarily home-based hybrid model.
- Research by JLL in June of this year highlights that work-life balance and working for companies that support health and well-being ranked as the most important career factors for employees in 2022. Better salaries moved down to third place in the rankings.
SPECIFIC IMPACT ON CONTENT MARKETING
The movement of marketing talent has increased noticeably within our circles these past few years. Unfortunately, it has been difficult for marketing teams to stay ahead of the curve, particularly with their content marketing programs. Although some of The Great Resignation's impact applies to most workplaces, the feedback below is what marketing leaders we deal with struggle with most.
#1 Lost Specialized Skills and Expertise
It's no secret that employees with unique skills and knowledge are hard to find. That's why losing these people has put many content marketing programs in a difficult spot. Becoming a top-tier writer, graphic designer, videographer, or other content specialist takes years. In addition, it takes time to learn about the company and the industry to gain the insight needed for good content development. So, depending on the team size, losing only one or two of these people can make sustaining a content program nearly impossible.
#2 Lost Tribal Knowledge and Know-How
To compound the impact of the point above, people leaving the marketing team walk out the door with the knowledge they brought when they joined, plus everything they have learned since then. This information includes specific knowledge about your company, products, marketing strategies, positioning, processes, and relationships. Unfortunately, you often lose this intelligence, while a competitor benefits from it.
#3 Bandwidth Disruptions
Let's face it, people leaving a department in any company means the remaining employees must pick up the slack. However, as we discussed earlier, when content marketing teams are smaller and the skill sets are single-threaded, this significantly compounds the problem.
It's not as simple as moving people interchangeably to the content marketing team and saying, "Okay, start writing blogs." It's also not sustainable having managers who once worked on the team roll up their sleeves to pick up the slack - at least not for long.
#4 Recruiting Time, Effort, and Cost
One of the most daunting aspects of business is finding and keeping good people. Unfortunately, the pandemic made this even more difficult. In today's business climate, more aggressive recruiting is going on, and unfortunately, good content marketers are seizing other opportunities.
It takes far more time and energy to find specialized talent, not to mention the cost. For example, solid blog writers in the additive 3D printing space are much harder to find than writers on more generalized topics such as travel, health, and beauty.
#5 Morale for Remaining Team Members
Another universal business challenge is developing a culture that keeps people motivated. The workforce chaos caused by the pandemic has taken its toll. People have been living with high degrees of uncertainty, burnout, and isolation. In addition, remote work has made morale much harder to sustain, never mind improve.
If you are part of a small content team that loses someone, you know more work is coming your way on top of what you already have. If people become too overworked, it is another reason to reconsider options. On the other hand, if it's a larger team and people are leaving, that's also problematic as people start to wonder if the ship is sinking. Either way, the working environment becomes worse and, in some instances, toxic.
What Can Be Done? (High Level)
You don't need to be an HR expert to know that The Great Resignation is all about retention. Simply put, how do we make sure key employees will continue working here? The following two sections outline some ideas to consider. Sadly, there are no silver bullets or quick fixes, but hopefully, they get you thinking.
The first actions are to clearly understand if you are having more issues than usual and identify their root causes. In other words, is The Great Resignation causing the chaos, or are things more or less the same? Either way, document exit interviews and dig deep into why people are leaving. Unfortunately, you can't fix what you don't understand!
The next step is to develop retention strategies specific to the problems you're trying to solve. For example, is it money, the work environment, culture, or feelings of alienation? If people leave for more hard-to-define emotional reasons, that gives you less control over finding a resolution. However, if you see emerging patterns that require actionable change within the company, those will be sweet spots for improvement.
A word of caution. If people say they are leaving for more money, your options are to let them go or counter with increased compensation. The second option seldom ends well, even if they stay. That's because money is usually a proxy for some other form of discontentment. Although most people will say they are leaving for more money, the reality is that there are other underlying issues. Ask anyone how long the excitement of pay raise lasts; most will say less than a week. It's important to get straight answers if money is only a smokescreen
What Can Be Done? (Short Term)
Depending on the structure of your content marketing team, if one or two people suddenly leave, all may not be lost. Hopefully, along the way, the team leaders have built in some forms of redundancy or have done some contingency planning regarding key resources.
Assuming the budget is still in place, the obvious first step will be recruiting and filling the vacant positions. However, in parallel to that, the following stopgap approaches may keep the content program on track until the headcount returns to normal and new people ramp up.
Re-Purpose Existing Content
One of the easier ways to keep things moving along is to leverage previous content. Review articles or videos that have performed well in the past (and are still relevant), then update and repackage them. Also, creating topic extensions or more depth from existing content can provide low-hanging fruit. One last thing, and something easy to overlook, is finding out what people worked on before they left and finishing the work already in progress.
Leverage Known Talent
This scenario involves looking at the marketing team's resources to identify those who might have produced content in the past. If the situation is dire enough, perhaps someone in a previous content role can be pulled back to assist temporarily. Of course, this would be "above and beyond" work, so it may require an incentive of some sort.
There could also be people in other departments who have helped marketing create content in the past and seem to have a knack for it. Finally, there may be people in different roles on the marketing team with content skills who are eager for a chance to step in and show what they can do.
Another option is to outsource your content for a while. Going outside for content support is more effective if you have worked with a freelancer or publisher who knows your industry well and has worked successfully with you in the past. For many companies, this "virtual benching" of trusted partners helps smooth out the bumps when employees leave.
If you have never used external help, you may want to try it as an experiment. It may not be a long-term play, but having resources to augment your team's efforts as needed, is good contingency planning.
FOR THE WOULD-BE JOB-HOPPER
For most of this article, we have discussed The Great Resignation from a business and management perspective. But, let's face it, employees (including managers) will continue to leave companies for other opportunities. But, of course, this has always been the case.
We are not telling anyone to leave or stay in a current position as that is a personal decision driven by many factors. However, we do suggest that potential career moves are thoughtful and deliberate undertakings. It's easy to get swept up in all the change and what everyone else is doing - but the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side. So, it's worth taking a deep breath and asking the following questions:
- Is my current job causing more stress or burnout than it's worth?
- Is the way I feel because of the pandemic, and if so, are things improving?
- Can I achieve my career goals at my current company? (lateral growth / upward mobility)
- How important is work-life balance, and am I satisfied with the current mix?
- How do I feel about the current work environment - being at the office versus remote work?
- How do I feel about the company culture, employee morale, and how people are treated?
- What is the value of my company's benefits package, paid education, paid time off, etc.?
The bottom line is that we are all in charge of managing our careers, and it's a highly reciprocal relationship. If companies make it attractive for people to stay - they will. And, if employees deliver good value for the company, they remain employed and have opportunities to enjoy their work and progress.
We hope your marketing team hasn't been hit too hard by The Great Resignation and your content program is thriving. Thank you for reading, and we hope you will join us for the 3rd installment of our Content Marketing Challenges series in the weeks ahead. This article will discuss the struggles of dealing with limited resources in several areas and offer some ideas to cope better.
To help marketers understand and improve issues such as these, we provide a wide range of free resources to help. In addition, we offer numerous services to help augment your team's content marketing program. If we can help in any way, please click below to learn more or connect with us. Thank you for reading, and we hope you will join us for the rest of the series!