Chris Roebuck, Leadership Speaker

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How to combat the Great Resignation

How to combat the Great Resignation
There is more to the “Great Resignation” trend than most people realise. The key questions people are asking are : How to retain employees in during the Great Resignation and how to hire during the Great Resignation.

But it’s not just the Great Resignation, it could also be considered the great “non-return.” To defuse this ticking time bomb kickstarted by COVID, it’s critical that both leaders and organizations ask themselves why this is happening. Why are people leaving what organizations claim are perfectly good jobs? The problem is that from the perspective of the person who left the job, it wasn’t perfectly good.

Otherwise why would they not return, or resign after coming back? The harm isn’t just in having a vacant position. It’s also that finding a new person costs up to 33% of the role’s salary.

As someone who has worked to encourage people to give their best in military, government and business roles, and developed others to do the same, there is one underlying reason behind this time that hasn’t been widely discussed. It is a key driver of the great non-return and resignation. It has to do with the quality of leadership—or lack thereof—in organizations.

Often our decision to take up a role is based on our perception of what our experience will be like. But our decision to stay in or leave a role, or indeed give our best while in it, is based on a simple cost-benefit analysis of the good things and bad things about the job. This includes the work we’re doing, our colleagues, the organization, its culture and values, the working environment, our career path and other factors. But above all, the greatest impact comes from our boss.

The saying “people join organizations but leave bosses” is true. This time bomb existed before COVID, but it was less widespread and less dangerous for organizations, and the level of resignations was tolerable. Even so, U.S. organizations were losing $550 billion a year due to poor employee engagement. The problem has since become much larger. Why?

COVID made everyone re-evaluate what is important in their lives. The personal contact with illness and tragedy has made people view family life as significantly more important than work. So the cost-benefit calculation involved with staying in a job means that the positive factors of the job must significantly outweigh the negative ones. We are now less tolerant of a work environment and a boss whom we aren’t happy with. So people who had been thinking  about leaving prior to COVID have probably since resigned.

People are also less likely to tolerate low-quality leadership. Improving leadership quality requires first recognizing that there is a problem. However, it seems many leaders and organizations are not considering their own performance a factor in the great resignation. They assume people are leaving because they are lazy or unreasonable. The flaw in that is that most of those people are not just sitting at home — they are now in a job they view as better than the one they had before.

This implies that I’m blaming the leaders themselves, but the buck stops at the boardroom. If you were never shown how to lead effectively, then you probably aren’t doing the best job. You might find some success with trial and error, but there’s probably plenty of room for improvement.

There are three steps leaders and organizations can take to defuse their talent and people.

Great Resignation Time Bomb:

  • Establish a firm foundation of excellent task delivery skills. This ensures people are only focused on work that adds strategic value. It’s delivered on time and delegation is optimized so leaders have time to focus on inspiring their team. Communication ensures everyone knows what to do and why, and everyone receives regular feedback that inspires them to be better.
  • Leaders must get the best from everyone. Through simple, day-to- day actions, leaders can inspire people to give their best by building trust. That costs no money. Research suggests that the more engaged people are, the less likely they are to leave. In fact, employees who were committed to performing 20% better were 87% less likely to leave the company.
  • Focus on key strategic objectives that enable success. Enabling everyone to understand the big picture, the organization’s purpose, its vision and its key objectives ensures people are motivated, agile, innovative and customer focused.

There is a fourth step that is enabled by the previous three:

  • Ask your people to find more great people. When your people think your organization is a great place to work, they will be happy to recommend it to friends and family. That provides you a steady flow of pre-vetted candidates who know what you do and are genuinely likely to give you their best.

Slowing the effects of the great resignation within your company starts with instilling some of these skills in your leaders. It’s a minimal investment of time that could potentially significantly increase your organization’s performance.

Until organizations recognize how critical good leadership is to retaining people in the post-COVID world, the great resignation will continue. Organizations that take simple steps to address the issue will see high-performing teams, a competitive advantage and a wealth of talent hoping to join the team.

Chris Roebuck ⁠— Keynote speaker on high performance, leadership and transformation

Chris Roebuck ⁠— Keynote speaker on high performance, leadership and transformation

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