“The Great Resignation”: Trend or Not, Why Turnover Still Needs Our Attention

The Great Resignation is upon us!

Or is it?

A recent Globe and Mail article claims that for those of us in Canada, “The Great Resignation” is not a real thing.

“Official” trend or not, I have clients in an unprecedented staffing crisis. We need to talk about turnover. For them, even as the great places to work that they are, attracting, onboarding and retaining top talent has never been more challenging. We need to talk about turnover and what to do about it.

Here’s what no one is really talking about: Your biggest “competition” for talent isn’t necessarily other employers. You are at risk of losing your best people to the employee him, her or themself.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Now, employees and leaders alike are making intentional choices about sticking around based on:

Image of happy man with box of belongings giving his great resignation– the work they most prefer
– the commute they can avoid
– the lifestyle they want
– the hobby they can turn into a biz
– the side hustle they can scale up
– the team with people nicer to them
– the lifestyle changes they’ll make to compensate for less pay

In other words, people are redefining what career and life success looks like for them.

Employees, middle managers, and even executives are realizing they don’t have to sacrifice sleep, incivility, lifestyle, focus, “work-life balance,” and happiness (among other things) in a role they climbed to because they thought they “had” to be there.  The world of work is being redefined as you read this.  Sometimes the thing isn’t the thing.

The Great Resignation – real or not – isn’t the issue. It’s a symptom. 

The issue is: Do people have a reason to stay

Now, more than ever, we must pay close attention to the “Employee Experience‘, where you might hear someone say:

  • Employee Experience Graph to avoid the great resignationI feel my work is meaningful
  • I feel valued and appreciated
  • I am respected
  • I have similar values to the organization
  • I am healthy and well

Work offers tremendous indisputable value in people’s lives: connection to others, a sense of contribution and meaning, opportunities to grow, and do interesting work (to name a few). These things cannot always be found by leaving to work for yourself, going back to school, and starting from the “bottom” in another industry.  Yet, in unprecedented numbers, people are willing to give that up if other costs are too high.

The Slow Burn

This has been building for a while. Before you think:

  • “It’s COVID”
  • “It’s those Millennials!”
  • “It’s this policy or that policy” (e.g., vax’ing)

Cherish your health to avoid the great resignationJust like we saw the collapse of loyalty in the 90s after massive rightsizing and downsizing, these last 19+ months have shown us that we have to cherish our health, decide what’s important to us, make intentional choices about who earns their way back into our “bubble.” We are forever changed, and one of the first things to go was our assumptions about work.

Here’s an example:  An HR company that does engagement surveys and recognition programs was hit hard at the start of COVID and laid off 75% of its workforce. Okay, not great, yet understandable. The issue: they didn’t call folks to check in with them when furloughed. Okay, truth bomb: if you profess to care about people, and then when the economic chips are down and don’t treat your people with care, you haven’t earned them back.

A paycheque isn’t enough. Everyone gives one of those. Want people’s hearts, minds, attention, skills and time? Make that human experience we call work so enticing that it’s an easy exchange of value.

If you’re in a turnover tsunami, instead of asking “how many people are leaving,” I suggest asking, “what reason do people have to stay?

PS. If you need some help with navigating turnover and want to come out the other side with a delicious employee experience, let’s talk. I’ve been doing some intensive deep dives with clients lately with huge success. Let’s grab a tea and have a quick chat about it.

Looking for ideas to appreciate and inspire your team to avoid tumorous turnover? Check out the resources below:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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