How To Navigate The ‘Great Resignation’ To Build (And Keep) Top-Notch Teams
The balance of power is shifting toward employees, taking many managers and employers by surprise.
As the “Great Resignation” sweeps through industries nationwide, we’re hearing similar stories everywhere: companies who had a huge hiring advantage in their local markets are facing new competition from out-of-state companies offering remote-work opportunities. Employers accustomed to receiving a flood of applications for each job opening they post are suddenly coming up empty. Those with stellar reputations as their industries’ premier workplaces are noticing their best people jump ship to other companies and sometimes entirely different industries.
In the U.S. alone, 3.9 million people voluntarily quit their jobs in June, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates are plummeting, dropping recently to 5.4% (down from a high of 14.8% in April 2020), while job creation numbers are on the rise. In a recent survey we conducted of over 2,700 employees across five countries, 40% of respondents said they had considered leaving their jobs in the last 12 months—raising the distinct possibility that, as the pandemic continues to throw people’s priorities and lifestyles into question, the employment exodus will continue.
So what can companies do about all of this? The good news is, a lot. Here are some strategies for getting started.
Clarify your company’s purpose
When the going gets tough, the feeling that one’s work is connected to a larger mission or purpose can provide the motivation to keep going. And the going is bound to get tough, with tensions running higher than usual these days—amid growing concerns about the Delta variant, widespread disagreement over masking and vaccination and, in many cases, the shift from remote to in-person work. Some companies are reinforcing the importance of purpose by creating titles like “chief purpose officer.” Many, though, still aren’t clear on the “why”: Why do they exist, beyond generating profits? Why should employees care about their work, beyond the paychecks attached? Companies that make a compelling case for purpose, and reexamine how their employees’ day-to-day tasks connect to that broader mission, will be stronger in the long run. This is especially true for younger employees.
Take a proactive approach to hiring
With unemployment rates continuing to fall, companies need to rethink traditional hiring strategies and take a more proactive, creative approach to hunting down new talent. Companies are having success working with their employees to use LinkedIn and other online platforms to look for people who aren’t necessarily looking for jobs, but may be persuaded by the right opportunity and offer. We’re also seeing HR leaders successfully tap workers from other industries that have similar ways of approaching their work, even if these new employees require some reskilling. Of our survey respondents who said they’d considered leaving their jobs, a third said they would look for a position in a different field than the one they currently work in. A lot of people are looking for a fresh start.
When it comes to in-office days, it’s about the “what”—not just the “how many”
Companies are experimenting with all kinds of work-from-home and in-office arrangements. Some are requiring employees come into the office three days a week, while for others the magic number is one or two. At least one company I know of is asking employees to come into the office once every two weeks, but lets them choose the day. Many employees care deeply about flexibility and the ability to continue remote work, in some capacity. It’s also important to maximize the value of in-office time, especially when it’s limited. What is happening during those in-office days? Are you doing the most you can to build connections among employees, align everyone to the company mission and create opportunities for the types of energizing in-person interactions that fell by the wayside in 2020?
Reestablish those one-to-one’s (and find other ways to forge connections)
So what’s motivating the 60% of our survey respondents who said they had not considered leaving their jobs? The top three reasons they cite are flexible work options, strong benefits packages and competitive compensation. The close fourth and fifth reasons: strong support from their leaders, followed by strong career development. We’ve observed that over the past year, leaders have let slip their practice of meeting with employees one-to-one. These meetings are essential. They’re an opportunity to signal to employees that they’re valued, identify career advancement possibilities and connect on a personal level at a time when so many are struggling. They’re also an opportunity to sense when someone is drifting from the organization and intervene before it’s too late.
Demand for top-notch workers is outstripping supply. But plenty of great people are out there—ready to be snapped up by leaders offering connection, recognition, flexibility and purpose