The great resignation … what can we do?

In our last blog post, we looked at the great resignation, what it is and why it is happening. Now we’d like to turn our attention to what can we do about it, and how we can retain our stellar employees and attract top talent during these turbulent times. It’s a well established fact that it takes significantly longer to recruit someone new than it does for an employee to resign, work their notice and depart. We therefore need to increase retention and engagement levels within our organisations.

According to a September 2021 research report by McKinsey & Co, the top three reasons that people are leaving their jobs are:

  1. They don’t feel valued by their organisations (54%)
  2. They don’t feel valued by their managers (52%)
  3. They don’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%)

Consequently, providing an increased salary or enhanced benefits is not going to achieve the objective of retaining talent. Leaders have a large and influential role to play in helping their employees feel more valued and developing an enhanced sense of belonging at work.

According to EY, using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to understand motivation can help to understand how we can engage and motivate our people in the “new world of work” and this era of “the great resignation.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Before the pandemic, many organisations were successful because their leaders ensured that the two basic needs of all employees were met. That is, employees were provided a safe work environment and clean facilities along with the right tools to do their jobs (physiological needs). They also had job security through a regular paycheque, were treated with respect and supported to take risks (safety needs).

Today, however, employees want more than just the basic level motivators – they want their top-tier emotional needs to be met too. As leaders and business owners, how can we deliver this to our employees?

Employees are looking for the opportunity to voice their opinions and share their ideas, to feel heard, to have a sense of community and to feel part of something bigger (love and belonging).

The desire to belong socially makes us human. A Harvard Business Review Study in 2019 stated, “It’s hardwired into our DNA, and yet, 40% of people feel isolated at work,” which has resulted in lower organizational commitment and engagement. People want to feel a sense of belonging and part of something “bigger.” On average, people spend over 90,000 hours in work over the course of their lives. It therefore comes as no surprise that nine in ten workers would take a pay cut if it meant participating in more meaningful work. By helping people understand why they are working on a task, why a task matters to a job, and why that job matters to the organisation, leaders can help to build and develop a culture of belonging.

The organisational purpose, the “why,” is the reason people join and choose to stay at the organisation. Talking purpose with employees regularly, and using it to shape what you do and how you do it, will help to boost both engagement and retention.

Creating a psychologically safe space for our employees, where they feel trusted and able to bring their whole selves to work, will help them develop a deeper sense of connection with, and belonging to, everyone around them.

Empowerment, respect, empathy, recognition and feeling valued (esteem)– when leaders put their work aside and make time to connect and build relationships with and among their employees, it not only solidifies their relationship with the leader but also the employee’s relationship with the organisation.

Provide employees opportunities to grow – conduct retention interviews and ask employees what it would take for them to stay and were they want to go within the organisation. Show employees that you value them even more than potential new hires by asking them, and providing them with, opportunities to grow and advance.

Create and maintain a culture of recognition for the big and little things.

Create, innovate, envision (self-actualisation)

Employees overwhelmingly want to work for a company with a meaningful and engaging vision. When employees have a sense of purpose, they engage with one another; when they feel valued, they care for others; when they are informed, they are solution-focused; and when they are empowered they innovate. As leaders, when we create these positive emotions within our organisations, we engage the highest-level emotional motivators.

The companies who are able to weather the storm of the great resignation will be those that develop an emotionally intelligent workforce that is treated with respect and dignity, where each person feels heard and empowered, where everyone understands the purpose of their role and how it contributes to something bigger than themselves, where employees are supported to take risks, and where creativity, innovation and development are encouraged.