Becoming an employer of choice during the Great Resignation

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and the way we think about work. Dubbed the “Great Resignation” by Dr. Anthony Klotz, the “Great Reshuffle” by LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, and the “Great Realignment” by Dr. Kirstin Ferguson,[1] there is clearly a Great Desire for change, and it’s being led by the younger generations. Consider this: 41 percent of employees in the global workforce are considering resigning from their roles.[2] And this: 36 percent of those leaving their roles do so without having their next job in place.[3]

Many employers are faced with a workforce that seems more demanding and less conciliatory—often with good reason. As with any crisis, this also provides opportunities. Let’s give some serious thought to how to attract and keep our valued employees in a world turned inside out.

Younger workers have always been more restless than their older counterparts, and more likely to change jobs if they can. Today, there are more opportunities for them than there have been in decades, as COVID has pushed many boomers into retirement. Today’s younger workers are more confident in their ability to fight for and find jobs that will give them more money, better job titles, and more opportunity for advancement. They are less tolerant of bad bosses, bad cultures, and poor-to-no worklife balance. Can you blame them?

We need their ideas and their enthusiasm. Their deep understanding of today’s interconnected digital world and their ability to use social media and technology in new and innovative ways offer hope for employers, and for society as whole. So how do we meet their needs?

Fair wages and working conditions matter. Beyond that, the leadership culture has a huge impact. We can listen to the demands of the younger generation and create competitive but satisfying workplaces that attract good staff and also contribute to building a culture that makes them want to stay. And that starts with leadership.

The pandemic has magnified bad bosses and bad companies.[4] Organizations that lack trusting leadership cultures have not coped well with employees working remotely. I speak from experience. I was not always a good remote leader, as I found out when my team worked remotely during the construction of our new building. I was skeptical about whether staff were pulling their weight and became a micro-manager as a result. I learned the hard way that suspicious, over-involved leadership doesn’t work, won’t work, and can never work. We need to trust that our staff are motivated to be productive (unless they show us otherwise). We need to create results-oriented accountability structures so we know what they’re doing, but also build in flexibility to allow them to look after children or attend appointments. We need to ensure roles and responsibilities are clear, and then set realistic deadlines and follow up with structured check-ins. We’ll know we’ve created a trusting culture when we don’t need to chase staff for deliverables; the results will be there and may in fact exceed our expectations.

High salaries and titles to match are often the initial attraction to a workplace, but they don’t necessarily keep people engaged. This is where leaders who take the time to get to know their staff as individuals come in. For instance, as COVID restrictions continue to ease, finding ways to provide options with regard to working from home, going to the office, or some combination will be important, while also providing a clear rationale for positions that do not permit flexible or hybrid models. The days of one-size-fits-all policies may be limited.

In the end, culture is key to keeping staff happy and engaged, especially when coupled with flexibility. It’s all about our employees: who we hire, how we treat them, and how we trust them. Let’s pay them fairly and show we respect their abilities and their contributions. Let’s create thoughtful, intentional, and inspiring cultures and leadership strategies that fit today’s workplaces.

Let’s go from resigning to re-signing.

Kathrina Loeffler is the Chief Executive Officer of Facilitated Improvement for Corporate Success, Inc. (FICS). FICS provides a number of services to not-for-profit and charitable organizations including: leadership and management services; accreditation services including the facilitated development of standards and the development and management of accreditation processes; and, leadership development to leadership teams and coaching services to leaders within those teams.

[1] Noakes, J. & Landmann, J. (2021). The great resignation: A global risk? Transforming Workplace-#1. Global Publication.

[2] Mahoney, M. (2022, January 5). How to attract top talent in 2022. Harvard Business Review.

[3] Mahoney, M. (2022, January 5). How to attract top talent in 2022. Harvard Business Review.

[4] The Stream. (2022, January 9). Will the ‘great resignation’ change the way we work? [Radio broadcast].