How You Can Beat The Great Resignation And Retain Employees

By Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer, Ideal Outcomes Inc.

You’ve probably seen the headlines about the "Great Resignation" and the statistics that show record numbers of people quitting their jobs — according to some accounts more than four million workers per month are quitting.

And there’s no reason to believe that the numbers will get any better during 2022 since research by Gallup reveals a staggering 48% of workers are actively looking to make a change while McKinsey research puts the number at 58%. In that study, some 36% of American workers even said they left their job without a new one to go to.

But what’s really going on here, and what can you do about it? I prefer to think of the Great Resignation as being more of a “Great Reprioritization.” Others have called it a reshuffling, awakening or balancing.

Whatever you want to call it, what it really comes down to is that the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred a seismic change in business mindset the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

The shake-up in working circumstances has led many to reevaluate what is truly important in their lives, and that often means ditching a work-centered life and a frustrating time-consuming daily commute. Opportunities abound. There are so many jobs available that many positions go unfilled for months. Employees can afford to be picky about when and where they work. Quitters today are winners not losers, which may have been the perception in years gone by.

Derek Thompson, author of the Work in Progress newsletter, predicts that we may look back on this time as “a crucial inflection point” in Americans’ attitude toward work with a reconsideration of the "boundaries between boss and worker, family time and work time, home and office."

It’s important therefore for leaders to gain an understanding of their workers’ life priorities and not just their work priorities. You have to appreciate their purpose as much as the corporate purpose. There needs to be an alignment between the two, and for leaders this entails having empathy, being authentic and listening to people so that your teams trust in you.

Not feeling valued or like they belonged were top factors cited in the McKinsey study for employees quitting. In other words, there was a lousy corporate culture. What is the best way to curb the tidal wave of attrition? I believe it is to make sure you have a happy and engaged workforce. Here are some important considerations to that aim. 

Pretend you’re recruiting them.
When you’re hiring talent, you strive to give a good impression to potential recruits. So why not do the same for your current employees? Don’t take them for granted. Share your own enthusiasm for the company and its mission. And even more importantly, explore your employees' desires and ambitions.

Recognize their contributions.
Be sure to acknowledge the part that your employees play. Note that this is not a one-time event. Take every opportunity you can to applaud their contributions — especially under stressful work conditions. It’s remarkable how many employees feel undervalued.

Boost skills.
Looking for new talent? Look no further than your existing workforce. Never mind the cost savings by not having to replace them, you can improve your organization’s capabilities by reskilling and upskilling the people you already have. Acquiring new skills is also a motivating ego boost for the individual.

Be flexible.
Flexibility is right at the top of many people’s priority list. Many workers have come to appreciate the ability to work from home and would prefer the option of continuing to do that — at least on a part-time basis. Parents, in particular, have been stressed by pandemic working conditions — not only enforced remote working but also handling childcare responsibilities at the same time. Going forward they will appreciate a flexible work environment.

Caring for family, in fact, was a top five reason some parents left a job, according to McKinsey research, while for non-parents, it was 18 out of a list of 20 reasons. 

As I have written about before, companies that have a rich, positive culture end up more resilient and not only do they survive but thrive as they face challenges like the pandemic.
Companies that were agile reassured their employees and gave them confidence. An all-hands-on-deck crisis can bring out the best in people, leading to creativity and innovation.

Workers want to be part of a greater purpose. They want to make an impact, and they want to be valued for their contributions. Bear these points in mind more than anything else as you navigate the new jobs marketplace. The bottom line is that leaders need to take the lead in delivering a more fulfilling employee experience.