great resignation

From One HR Leader to Another: How to Survive the ‘Great Resignation’

Just as HR leaders were ready to take a breath and celebrate the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Anthony Klotz, a Texas A&M University professor, sat down with Bloomberg BusinessWeek and blew up the remainder of our 2021 recruitment strategy. From that interview, the term “Great Resignation” was born. This is the phenomenon where workers consider a job change as pandemic restrictions ease and employees go back to the office. As a result, 30 percent of the workforce (and that’s likely a conservative estimate) is predicted to leave their current jobs for greater flexibility. In addition to that, more than 75 million Baby Boomers are planning to retire sooner than previously expected. With this in mind, you’re likely wondering how you’ll bring stability to your company. It’s the perfect HR storm.

Significant turnover translates to an incredible workload for HR teams. It’s also costly to businesses and company culture. As HR leaders, what can we do to ensure our companies don’t fall prey to excessive retirement parties and exit interviews?

Take care of your HR team first.

It’s been a tough year for everyone, but HR teams have been hit especially hard with pandemic-related stresses. HR professionals are concerned about their own personal health and well-being in addition to that of employees. They also have the added responsibility of helping employees through COVID-related issues. It can become a lot to bear.

There’s a reason why parents are told to secure their own oxygen masks on a plane before helping children. We can’t be of help to other teams if our HR departments are struggling. The remainder of 2021 is likely going to be a bumpy ride. Taking the time to check in with your team throughout the year shows them that you’re committed to their well-being. It means a lot for a manager to acknowledge that someone’s contributions are meaningful and appreciated. Continue this throughout any hard season. Ensure your team has what they need to perform at their best. And when they don’t, step up to help them in whatever way you can. Getting ahead of HR burnout will be key to your success, and will help your organization avoid the fallout of the “Great Resignation.”

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

As pandemic restrictions ease, business leaders must now decide how and where their teams work best. These decisions are vital to keeping your team happy, thriving, and on your payroll.

As of December 2020, 71 percent of employees that could do their jobs remotely were choosing to work from home. More than half of those employees said they would like to continue to work from home post-pandemic. But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. It’s all about personalization.

Personalizing the employee experience means understanding the broader culture and sub-cultures within teams to accommodate employees, whenever possible. Consider surveying your team regularly to take a pulse on work preferences. You’ll likely find the needs of your employees will change. Some employees want to remain remote. Others need the structured collaboration that an office provides. And finally, some will want a hybrid work option. You may also have a subset of employees considering retirement, and that group may benefit from a part-time transitional schedule. This would allow your team to fill in gaps while giving your future retirees the chance to ease into retirement life. Give people less of a reason to join the “Great Resignation.” Have an open mind and consider working options you may not have previously allowed.

Work as a leadership team to provide the flexibility needed for employees to be successful, in whatever way is meaningful to them. Embracing agility and allowing your employees to personalize their work experience will set you apart from the competition. A study by KPMG showed companies that invest in the employee experience are four times more profitable than those that don’t. There are now far too many companies that are willing to personalize and offer flexible work solutions. If your business isn’t doing it, your team will find one that is.

Allow your managers the chance to shine.

Too often, we blame work culture when employees leave organizations. But in my experience, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Because of this, you must spend a significant amount of time choosing, mentoring, and empowering your managers. These are your front-line leaders who have the most access to and time with your team. Managers are responsible for creating, bridging, and communicating your company’s culture. They are your lifeline to your organization. You must work to cultivate empathetic and understanding managers and give them the power to make decisions for employees that support flexibility and the needs of the business. When they fail to do these things, people leave, contributing to the “Great Resignation.”

Leaders who are focused on supporting and empathizing with their employees can form better connections and understand their needs. The pandemic had a huge impact on workplaces and we’re now seeing employee burnout. Uncertainty, transitioning to new ways of working, and changing expectations all factor into burnout. Proactive, empathetic managers can make all the difference in ensuring that employees want to stay with a company. When assessing leaders, measure emotional intelligence. Look at their ability to listen actively, understand employee needs, and engage in an empathetic way.

We all know the grass is not always greener. But with job openings reaching a new high of 9.2 million across the country, it’s easy to see why employees are eager to update their resumes. By taking care of your employees and empowering your managers, you’ll deal less with the “Great Resignation” and more with the great service anniversaries you’ll be celebrating.