The media would have you think that the great resignation has created a market force that is fickle and will leave you with a diminishing pipeline of talent. Yes, in many regions there is considerable movement in the job market right now due to a mix of the pandemic impacting sectors differently and people re-evaluating their work relationship. But not everywhere – in many places the hype does not match the reality. For those who are living in this zeitgeist, it is important to remember that on the flip side of every challenge is an opportunity. When we feel like the world around us is out of our control, it can be easy to forget what is still in our control.
If you are losing people in your business at a higher rate than in the past, treat it as a signal for a ‘temperature check’ on your employee value proposition. Hybrid working can make it more difficult to spot opportunities for development and career progression – which is often a reason for movement. Are your leaders coaching their people to grow through this period of change? Are they spotting opportunities for new stretch experiences with different teams across your business? It is too easy for interactions whilst remote working to become predominantly task based, and for learning moments to be passed over. Have your leaders lost sight of their role in developing and engaging their people during this time?
High attrition could also be a sign that you need to take stock of your culture. Is your organization encouraging and recognizing behaviours that enable your people to be at their best? Are you addressing toxic behaviors or deconstructive counter-cultural behavior? Are you evolving your culture to reflect changing needs of employees? The pandemic has prompted greater expectations from employees around well-being, and flexibility. Social movements have heightened expectations of inclusion and meaningful work. Start-ups and high growth companies with flat structures and empowering cultures, provide a contrast to the often hierarchical cultures in legacy businesses. Organizations need to evolve their cultures to creates places where people want to be.
So rather than referring to the great resignation as a headwind that your organization needs to face into, encourage your leaders to accept that the market is hot and therefore, to use this time to take stock of their team engagement, their talent development and the culture they are creating around them. To turn this challenge into an opportunity, it is helpful for leaders to think about what they can do differently with their team to revive engagement and relook at growth opportunities. But it is not just about their immediate team – leaders have a role to play in creating the culture that attracts and retains talent. Consider what your leaders can do to make their company, team, and the role more attractive to external talent who are looking for a new opportunity. And if you are not experiencing this phenomenon in your part of the world you can still use it as a reason to ask yourself whether you’ve lost sight of developing your team amidst the pandemic chaos.
What you can do as a leader during this time:
Refresh your talent strategy and revive tailored development
Identify the talent you need for a different context
Most businesses have had to change their strategic priorities, significantly change their operation, or establish new partnerships– or all the above. Many organizations have made changes without refreshing their leadership and talent strategies. Make time to reconsider skills, capabilities, and experiences you need to meet your renewed business strategy and partnerships. This is a useful first step, as you can evaluate whether you have the talent currently to be successful, but also to identify growth experiences for your people.
Create succession pipelines
Having identified the type of talent you need to be successful in the future, identify your high potential leaders and work with them to identify the best learning opportunities to accelerate their growth. Career pathways are no longer linear, so discuss multiple options and demonstrate your commitment to help them to close their gaps.
Revive tailored development
The post-pandemic disruption is not going away, so find a way to relaunch the development programs that may have been placed on hold since the beginning of the pandemic. Refresh your leader’s coaching capability, particularly focusing on every day coachable moments that may be overlooked in remote and hybrid working.
Create a culture where people thrive personally and professionally
Re-assess the culture your leaders are creating
Leaders are a significant driver in shaping the culture of an organization. Considering the increased work pressure being felt by colleagues, what steps have you taken to promote a resilient and supportive culture in the business? What signals are you sending to the organization?
Show curiosity, courage and build connection with your colleagues
The last 20 months have accelerated the need for leaders to be inclusive and remote working exacerbates lack of inclusion. Start by assessing whether you are adopting an inclusive mindset across the organization. Ask yourself these questions: Are you regularly engaging with colleagues in the business to understand their needs and challenges? Are you willing to change your work from home policy to meet the new expectations colleagues have on wanting to work more flexibly? Are you interacting with people outside of your usual stakeholder network? Adopting an inclusive mindset can be challenging, leaders should look at incorporating inclusive leadership training into their development plan to build a more inclusive mindset across the organization.
Align your senior leader around your ‘why’ and be vocal about it
It has been shown that the largest resignations have been in mid-career individuals (HBR, 2021). These colleagues are looking for places to work that align with their values and purpose. Now is an excellent time to have a team session to identify and refresh your organization’s purpose and values. This will create a clearer definition of what you stand for. Once you have done this, be vocal and share it. This will help to foster engagement internally and attract the right talent externally.
How to take this forward:
Reframing this as an opportunity for change should be seen as the starting point for all leaders. There is no ‘one size fits all’ to how leaders should navigate through the Great Resignation, and different regions are experiencing it to varying degrees. Organizations are complex and have their own cultures and micro-cultures that all play a role in why individuals leave and join. Leaders should carve out time to reflect and speak to colleagues, to consider what could be the driving force for leavers in their team, or in their organization. Do not let the great resignation be something done to you. Rather, use is as a reason to revive your culture and refresh your talent.