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Five Ways CEOs Can Prepare For The Great Resignation

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at July 22, 2021

Larry is a 30-year veteran in HR and software systems and the CEO of HCM software company, Namely.

Anthony Klotz, a professor at Texas A&M University, recently coined the phrase “The Great Resignation” in response to what he believes will be a wave of workers quitting their jobs across many industries. And while many think his term is an exaggeration or a fad, it’s my opinion that this really is going to be a thing.

As people reevaluate their post-pandemic lives, they will consider job opportunities they may have ignored during the pandemic and contemplate how and when they want to work. And we are likely to see a burst of voluntary turnover in our companies.

It’s my view that some of this turnover is inevitable, and you may even lose some of the people you thought would never leave. But to minimize the impact to your organizations, here are five things I believe every CEO should be doing:

1. Don’t just drop this in the lap of your people leader.

Workplace culture is everyone’s job, even if the Head of People is the ringleader. Guide your executive team through a weekly discussion of this issue, giving your people leader both time and priority with the group.

Actively discuss every termination (especially critical talent), and reconsider whether you need to have a policy of making counter offers when those people resign. Sometimes just reiterating an employee’s value — along with a sensible adjustment to compensation — can avert a departure you want to avoid.

2. Revisit changes in engagement scores.

Companies don’t often look at engagement score trends across several quarters and miss the signs that there are issues in some departments. Look across groups and dimensions to see if there are noticeable changes, especially in the past two quarters. Those changes will fuel employee’s motivations to return the phone call from a recruiter.

If you’re not measuring engagement, get to it, and if you’ve only paid lip service to meaningful action planning based on score results, consider spending more time on it.

3. Carefully consider your back-to-the-office plan.

I recently met with a millennial who was working for a large corporation and had moved from San Francisco to New York during the pandemic. Her company was pressuring her to come back to California, and she has no intention of doing so. They took a hard line on back-to-work, and she shared with me that 30% of the department had resigned in the past 45 days. She was about to join that number.

There are probably some industries where you can get away with such an approach, but the vast majority of companies should recognize that to be an employer-of-choice in 2021, a hybrid work environment is a must. If you’re a CEO who simply doesn’t believe in a hybrid model, so be it, but you are going to lose at least some of your workforce in the next year.

4. Seek out and address burnout.

For some people, work was a welcome distraction from the pandemic. For others, it was one more gigantic challenge to balance with family, health and social issues.

Some CEOs I’ve spoken to seem to think that with no commute to the office, work stress should be lower. But the reality is that, for many people, the loss of those boundaries (in spite of the short commute) threw off work-life balance. When employees feel like that is out of equilibrium, it’s too easy to conclude that a fresh start is easier than figuring out how to make the current situation better.

By looking for situations where this is happening and proactively introducing change to ease burnout, some employees may abandon their plans to leave.

5. Remember that the labor market is your enemy.

As the economy continues to surge post-pandemic, companies are feeling more confident about growth projections and, with that, expanding their workforces. Adding to that a general fear of increased turnover, many are even proactively hiring beyond forecasts (especially for mission-critical jobs with many incumbents) to maintain staffing. For many professions, the number of opportunities is staggering.

CEOs need to engage with business unit leaders to make sure they’re hiring to targets that will help avoid headcount shortages. Companies that ignore this do so at their peril, especially for critical positions in key areas, such as customer service and sales.

In the post-pandemic economy, there will be winners and losers. Those who can minimize the impact of the great resignation are going to be at an advantage. Make sure you’re one of them.


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