November 18th • 3 min read
#Global Talent #Skills shortage #People power #Workplace

The Great Resignation: How Do You Retain Talent?

Four million Americans quit their jobs in April! And it didn’t get much better. It was 3.9 million in June, another 4 million in July, and a record 4.3 million in August. Whoa! Where is everyone going? Europe is experiencing the exact same phenomenon across the UK, France, the Netherlands, and Germany. These four countries have the highest level of resignations. A global phenomenon is taking hold and it’s called the great resignation. Or the summer of quitting (or season depending on where you live). There’s a global exodus of workers leaving their jobs so let’s find out more.
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Why do people quit? 

No one likes a quitter they say, but when it comes to jobs, well it’s complicated. Sure in some cultures, quitters have a lousy reputation and distaste for hard work, but is this really aligned with reality? In fact, for the large number of workers leaving today, resigning from their jobs means the exact opposite. Workers are feeling empowered and a sense of freedom in a new world order post-pandemic.


So why the sudden change of heart? 

Work has always been well… work. So why are people seemingly rising up to take a stand now of all times? It’s surprisingly simple. When the world outside of work suddenly stops, work becomes your primary (if not only) activity. The new pressure cooker of working from home, ensuring constant availability, and a lack of physical proximity to co-workers can add new challenges that make work harder. This new work environment can emphasize negative qualities and reduce positive ones. When people realise that work might not be meeting their expectations, the singular focuses make it harder to ignore. “We were all able to take a step back in the last year and spend more time doing other things and question the value of what we’re doing at work,” says Professor Klotz.


And what exactly has changed for workers? 

Borderless business has really taken off and companies have been forced to learn to deal with remote workforces that span cities, regions, and even countries. This opens the door to a world full of opportunities that were previously closed. When the world looks like your oyster, it’s easy to see how people are convinced they can more easily create positive change. During difficult times of restrictions, people have begun looking for a greater sense of purpose and for a job that makes them feel fulfilled. And it’s putting a lot of pressure on the job market and causing a record of 10.9 million open jobs in the US at the end of July.

So what retention strategies can be helpful to retain your top talent during the Great Resignation?


1.      Make sure your people have a real purpose. According to Linkedin’s CEO Ryan Roslansky, “It’s clear that this #GreatReshuffle conversation is not just about how we work, but why we work. People don’t work for a company; they work for their sense of self. So whatever they do, it must make sense.” As a leader now is a great time to ask if you know if your people have found their “why”? If not, try Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why”.


2.      Empower your people. The quality of leadership contributes to your quality of life far beyond the workplace. Douglas McGregor from MIT looks at human motivation and control in two ways. The X Theory believes that humans are inherently lazy and will only be productive when forced to do so. The Y Theory believes that humans enjoy work due to self-actualization and autonomy, which are essential human needs. By creating the right environment that feeds the Y theory, companies can achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people. This type of motivation ensures employees are willing to go the extra mile because they find personal satisfaction within it.


3.      Increase wages. People work to make a (good) living so while money isn’t everything, salary is a great lever for talent retention. Although some companies are tightening belts, a growing number are headed in the other direction with increased wages. In the US, average weekly wages have increased more than 4.5% last year alone among private companies. With roles going unfilled, competition for talent is serious business, so it pays to ensure employees are not compensated generously rather than just fairly. Improving people’s quality of life is a strong retention move.


4.      Make an impact. Restrictions brought about the elimination of many activities outside of work like volunteer work, sports, leisure, and social gatherings. Without these elements of a balanced life, it places additional pressure on finding meaning through work. So ask yourself, how are your people making an impact, who are they helping, and how exciting is that change? Sometimes simply reminding staff of the big picture of the value of the work they contribute to can help them to raise their sense of fulfilment and purpose.


5.      Design a work environment for your staff. Working from home carries mixed feelings. Being forced to adapt, however, has much learning to enjoy it. So, designing a work environment post-pandemic that accounts for individual employee preferences is a smart retention move. Did you know that half of the sub-40 workers expressed interest in leaving their jobs if forced back into the office full time? Have you checked to see if your work environment best supports your teams?


Just like a wake-up call, the pandemic has transformed values and changed career expectations forever. It’s shaped a different mindset and put employees in the driver’s seat of their own careers more than ever. In the new normal, people recognise what’s possible and are less likely to accept or remain at a job that is unfulfilling, ill-suited, or lacks key elements of an attractive work environment or package. As worker expectations increase, companies that want to avoid the Great Resignation will need to intentionally review all aspects of how, when, where, and why they work.


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Zoé Braun

Content marketing specialist

Brand storyteller in more than just one language. She writes moving human stories and translates technical topics so they're easy to understand. Pretty nifty. She considers business is about building trust and long-lasting relationships. She gets jumpy if she doesn't get at least 3 weekly hours of sport, running, yoga, kitesurfing, - you name it!

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