Many are baffled by the phenomenon that is being called "The Great Resignation." In August of 2021, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs - that is 2.9% of the U.S. workforce!
While many industries had already been struggling with staffing due to aging-out of seasoned professionals in disproportionate amounts to new talent coming in, such as construction, building maintenance, and the trades, the pandemic amplified the problems that were already bubbling up beneath the surface. This recent surge of team members throwing in the towel has some executives scratching their heads or placing blame on things that are out of their control.
As an executive coach, managing and motivating team members is often a prime focus in my sessions with clients. Team members who are fulfilled, feel included and see a future growth path for themselves within a company tend to stick around. As a business owner or executive struggling with staffing, there is no sense in focusing on what you cannot control, but wiser to take a good hard look internally and see where there is room to improve your company's level of staff attraction and retention. This can often be a difficult pill to swallow, "What?! I am to blame for this?" However, try not to play the blame game. If executives and business owners instead took more time to assess the changing workforce demographic, what competitors are doing well, and what they themselves could do better, they may find that they actually can control their fate within "The Great Resignation."
Here are some things to consider now more than ever:
1- Are your managers supportive, or are they behaving in a manner that essentially pushes your best staff members out the door?
People tend to quit their managers, not their companies. I know a highly motivated and smart woman who is thinking about leaving her company, although she loves her work and what the company stands for. The problem is her direct leader toggles between dismissive and overly micro-managing. He shows lack of care and respect, like setting up one-on-one appointments with her and then canceling last minute or rescheduling with no attention to conflicting appointments already on her calendar. Then when he does engage, it is in a know-it-all, arrogant tone with no actual constructive feedback or space for her to ask for help. The result is a sense of ambiguity about whether or not she is bringing value because she is not being directed or coached. This manager is wearing away at good staff who are highly sought after by competing companies. If HR or someone above him would just take a good look and ask some deep questions about his employee's frustrations, they could either coach this manager or move him to a different position wherein he is not blowing off good staff.
2- Is your company culture inclusive?
This is a big one and yet still so misunderstood. Inclusive leadership means that each of your team members as individuals feel like they are respected, their work brings value, their opinions matter, and that they are not just invited to sit at the table but are actually made to feel like they belong there. Inclusive leadership means employees see themselves in the company, a part of its bones and structure, instead of a hired hand. Again, this requires introspection, asking questions, administering Stay Interviews, and then actually acting on what you hear and learn from the very people you are trying to retain. Don't wait until an Exit Interview to find out that there were serious leadership or inclusivity issues that were never addressed.
I recently spoke to a woman who was being discriminated against for her gender and heritage in the form of angry and lude comments from her boss. When she reported it to HR, after having endured it for over a year and still being one of the most productive project managers in her company, the answer from HR was to place her on a Personal Improvement Plan! Sound like retaliation to anyone? This not only pushed a top producer out the door, but essentially created terrible word of mouth for that company, this woman being highly regarded in numerous professional organizations.
3- Is your on-boarding and training an afterthought?
It is a time-consuming process, laying out the exact steps and scheduling format to properly equip new team members with all the tools, training and time it takes to make them successful. Yet this time well-spent will yield valuable dividends. A team member who is confident and well-trained handles conflicts and problems well, helps others around to do the same, and will go above and beyond to accomplish the company goals. Why? Because they feel like the company is invested in them and their future.
4- Are conditions safe?
HR Directors all over are struggling with this one. We are not only talking about your basic OSHA requirements here. Whether you think that COVID is a real threat or not, there are plenty of people that are very much concerned about their health or that of a loved one they live with. There is still a large percent of the American population that is not comfortable going into a work environment wherein the possibility of exposure exists. This means that jobs which are very client facing and interactive, for example hospitality, property management, teaching and retail, are just plain scary to those who have these health concerns. Some people would prefer to live off of savings, go back to on-line school or get a lesser paying work-from-home job until they feel conditions are safer than to risk their lives or the lives of loved ones they live with or care for. You don’t have to agree with the concern, but you should understand that it is a concern for many and that it is keeping people from jumping back into what they deem to be a risky work environment.
5- Is your compensation package competitive?
With so many companies now hiring, you have to ask yourself, is my compensation package competitive enough? The workforce and its needs are changing. More value is being placed on quality of life and balance than ever before. Compensation does not only mean a salary amount. Many people consider the whole package: things like a good health insurance plan, work schedule flexibility and PTO structure. Many companies, especially start-ups, are offering “unlimited PTO.” Interesting enough, you would think people will just take advantage of that perk, but studies show that people tend more to under-utilize their PTO hours than to abuse them. There are many ways in which a company can add value to their compensation package even if they cannot afford a higher salary.
Just understand that what worked in the past may not be working now because the job market is more open than ever, and conditions are more complicated than ever. I know one executive who told me she normally gets applications in the dozens but is now only receiving a handful if that. The problem is that her competitors are also posting more openings so there are more options for prospective candidates. One other factor to keep in mind is that ex-team members talk about their experiences and word of mouth is a weighty factor in your company's ability to attract candidates.
As an executive coach, I invite my clients to focus and act upon those factors they can control. Factors that include but are not limited to the aforementioned points. The workforce is changing and the companies who understand and roll with those changes in a proactive manner will thrive. This may mean working with a consultant, coach or data analytics team. It requires an honest look at what is there, what is changing and what can be changed for the better from within.
Mitch Savoie Hill, "Engagement Expert", Certified Executive Coach, TEDx Speaker, and DISC Certified Corporate Trainer, is the Founder and CEO of SavHill Consulting LLC.
With over 25 years of experience in Sales, Hospitality, Training and Leadership, she delivers engaging and energetic presentations and training for any company or group wanting to increase engagement and productivity.
As an Executive Coach, Mitch helps her clients clarify their vision, map out actionable strategies, and turn roadblocks into runways to success!
To find out more about Coaching or Corporate Training with Mitch,
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