Advice for Workers Who are Quitting, Companies that are Losing Talent and Organizations that are Hiring
On the verge of going back into the office, 4 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in April 2021. 4,000,000!
So, I wasn’t too surprised when, a few weeks back, the editors of LinkedIn reached out to me, other career advisors and HR professionals for their thoughts and perspectives on what economists are calling The Great Resignation. LinkedIn calls it #TheBigShift.
There are lots of reasons behind this wave of resignations. It begins with how workers redefined their relationship with work during the pandemic. For many, there has been an attitudinal shift from living to work to working to live. Many now want more scheduling flexibility, a better work-life balance, and higher job satisfaction. Still, others are quitting in response to how their companies treated them during the pandemic. Finally, some are taking advantage of labor shortages to change jobs to pursue a higher salary and better benefits. Whatever an individual’s reason, the aggregate effect is dramatic.
From both the employee and employer side, it seems clear that this trend is creating a new societal norm around the definition of work. If you are considering leaving your current job or you’re an employer looking to hire and retain employees, here are some ideas to consider.
Before leaping into the job market, assess all of your options.
- Take a Pause– Before you become a Great Resignation statistic, step back, take a breath and perform an unemotional audit of your current role. Do the positive factors outweigh the negative? What proactive steps can you take to manage your career growth at your current company?
- Look internally– If you like your organization but not your current role, spend time looking at other internal opportunities. As it’s much more expensive to onboard and train new employees, many employers are willing to help you job-craft and reskill for another role. As an “insider,” you have existing relationships and leverage, so use them to move into a position that’s a better fit for both you and your organization.
- Get clarity-If you decide to leave, have a clear sense of why you are going and what you are looking for in your next role. If you are looking for greater flexibility or a sense of purpose, define your terms and be specific about what you mean. It is much easier for your network to help you when you are clear on your goals and path, and most importantly, the value you would bring to a new organization.
- Do your homework-Build an ideal job description and ideal employer profile. Having this information will help your network work on your behalf. It will also provide you with talking points for interviews. Establish a timeline and goals so your search can be productive.
- Leave well– As you are walking out the door, thank those who helped you along the way. Offer an exit conversation with HR and give specific feedback on what works well and can be improved. Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn and keep in touch.
For employers that are actively hiring
The job market is hopping. Employers added 850,000 jobs in June. Before posting positions, examine your hiring process.
- Operationalize company values– Revisit your values statement and connect it with specific behaviors, activities and expectations. Keep people accountable by adding a values section to performance reviews. Values that translate into behaviors shape culture and will attract talent with a similar outlook.
- Connect roles with client benefit– Review how your job descriptions are written and, if needed, revise them to create a clear path between the function and client benefit. This connection helps establish a sense of purpose and leads to higher levels of job satisfaction.
- Interview agnostically– Create a diverse team of applicant reviewers for the broadest possible perspective on a candidate. Remove identifying information from resumes to minimize unconscious bias. Project Implicit offers definitions and assessments for understanding unconscious bias. Develop interview questions to understand an applicant’s competencies and interests; spend less time reviewing experience. Set up scenarios around current business challenges to better understand how candidates think and problem-solve.
- Beef up professional development and reskilling/upskilling opportunities– Lack of opportunities for career growth is a significant factor in the Great Resignation. To the extent possible, work with individuals to augment their current skills and teach new ones.
- Set clear expectations from the beginning– From interviewing to onboarding, be clear about what you expect from employees and what they can expect from you. These expectations should be introduced in the interview, repeated during onboarding, and discussed in detail within performance reviews.
For employers losing employees
Now is the time to step back and understand the catalysts behind the departures.
- Conduct exit interviews– Pinpoint the reasons why employees are leaving—all of them. Find out how the departing employees think the organization can improve. With enough data, you will start to see trends to address with new policies.
- Review hiring procedures– Are there observable patterns that connect the departing employees to your hiring decision-making? Consider the tips above in the ‘For employers actively hiring’ section.
- Conduct a burnout assessment– One of the main drivers of The Great Resignation is burnout. The Maslach Burnout Inventory is an easy assessment to administer. From the data gathered, develop new routines and processes.
- Review your company values statement– to ensure that it’s articulated correctly in every outwardly facing communication. See tips in the ‘For employers actively hiring’ section.
- Realign roles– It’s is an excellent time to pause and be sure that your current key positions, and their roles/responsibilities, best serve client needs and employee growth. If there are gaps, now is a good time to realign roles with strategic objectives.
For employers wanting to retain employees
Create better connectivity amongst all employee levels.
- Field an employee engagement survey– Before launching into a survey, be clear on its objectives.
- Act on survey results– Prioritize the results of the survey against the organization’s strategic goals. Communicate the results to the team and create a list of actionable steps, from a punch list of quick fixes to long-range plans. The key is to communicate findings and strategies so that employees feel that their input is valued.
- Senior leadership visibility – More than ever, it is essential for leaders to be visible. Walk the halls (in person or virtual), town hall meetings, social events and office hours are all ways for staff to connect with you. Connect the employees’ work with the vision of the company and its goals. Be the role model for the team.
- Flexibility & clarity– Schedule planning sessions with key staff to establish the boundaries on hybrid work schedules, professional development opportunities, benefits, wellness initiatives and expectations. With clear expectations, there is less room for disappointment.
- Invest in middle managers– Many leave their job because they hate their boss. Often, that boss is a middle manager. Middle managers are the gatekeepers of an organization. Offer management training, coaches and regular check-in’s so these middle managers know they are supported. If a manager’s employee retention rate is on the low side of the curve, be proactive and build a support plan.
We are in a transformational period redefining how we work, live and produce the goods and services that move our lives, industries and society forward. What this time requires are collaborative conversations between employers and employees. Individual and organizational success depends on it.
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You can also check out Forbes.com/CFO blog where I write about communicating with and motivating teams.