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Leading during “The Great Resignation”

"May you live in interesting times." This expression is both a blessing and a curse. It doesn’t appear that has ever been truer than it is today. We are exiting a pandemic that has impacted every person, causing both heartache and pain, while, at the same time, creating many opportunities. Some companies have prospered, while others have failed. Companies and people have re-invented themselves and are providing services and tools we didn’t know we needed a few years ago.


For the past several months, I’ve been watching this impact on both people and businesses with great interest. Can people work productively from home? Thanks to technology and the human spirit, everyone stepped up and made it work. For many people, they found they were more productive; however, for others, they can’t wait to get back to the office. It has also created an opportunity for many people to think about where their priorities lie and what is most important to them. They are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time. We have reached a new point in our current journey: “The Great Resignation”.


A couple of data points show it is real. According to Microsoft's 2021 Work Trend Index, over 40 percent of the global workforce is considering quitting their job in the next year. In April 2021, a record four million Americans quit their jobs, the largest spike on record.


As a leader, how does this impact you? How should you respond? Based on this data, almost half of your workforce is actively considering leaving in the next six months! How you respond will directly impact the actions your employees take. Being a great leader is core to keeping your top employees.


The first factor has already passed. How were employees treated during the pandemic? Did they feel supported or did the company take actions that didn’t support the employees? Employees who felt supported are much less likely to be looking for new roles.


The second factor is how you are treating employees as they come back to the office. Are you flexible, supporting the different personal and work needs of each employee? How employees are asked to work in the “new normal” is directly impacting their decisions to stay. Apple’s ask for everyone to return to the office at least three days a week has seen direct pushback from employees. Thousands of employees used an internal Slack channel to collaborate on a letter to CEO Tim Cook and Apples leadership team. Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s SVP of retail and people, responded to the request by saying “in-person collaboration is essential to our culture and our future.” These decisions on how employees are returned to work and what the work environment looks like need to be carefully considered, examining employee engagement, culture, risks, benefits and how it meets the customer’s expectations.


If you treated your employees well during the pandemic and have a solid return to work plan, the third factor revolves around the manager. Do you (or your management team members) have the core traits of a great manager? Critical to keeping your employees engaged are your ability to build trust and engage employees. Seven key traits are:

- Liking people –Personally liking their team members and showing personal interest goes a long way in engaging employees

- Having a vision and communicating it – People like doing meaningful work. Making sure your team knows why you do what you do, where the company and team are going and how they impact it, directly impacts their engagement and job satisfaction

- Walking the walk – Knowing your leader is walking with you builds loyalty. If you don’t stand up for your convictions, your employees are not going to believe in you.

- Making the right decisions at the right times – Making timely decisions and removing roadblocks helps your team members succeed. This builds both trust and loyalty

- Having courage – Having the tough conversations and showing your vulnerability takes courage, doing this with your team members, peers and leadership builds trust across the organization.

- Delegating to, developing and trusting others – Having the opportunity to grow is a key factor in why people stay with an organization. People like/need challenges to stay engaged and grow. Are you actively developing those you want to stay in your organization?

- Having a positive, enthusiastic attitude – As you lead through change, your team is looking to you for guidance. Your attitude is contagious. Sharing a positive attitude will ensure your team makes the most of the changes.


The final factor is your pay and benefits. Is your pay equal or higher than your competitors? Do your benefits attract great employees? Glassdoor found low salary as the top reason employees leave. Their findings “suggest improved workplace culture, competitive base pay, and regular employee advancement into new roles is clearly associated with lower employee turnover.”


How are you managing during “The Great Resignation”?


Keep leading, learning and smiling and the results will come!

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