What can we learn from the great resignation?

It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile. To say times have changed would be a gross understatement. Some would say that things haven’t changed for the better. Nevertheless, the seismic change we have seen over the past 24 months in how work is done, where and by whom is breathtaking. And now, the Great Resignation has every business leader rethinking their talent strategy – at least if they’re paying attention and wanting to stay competitive.

What’s behind this so-called Big Quit? In their recent Harvard Business Review article, Frank Breitling, Julia Dhar, Ruth Ebeling and Deborah Lovich observe: “There is a growing disconnect between the work environment that employees want – and now expect – and the one available to their organizations. This may explain why so many workers have quit their jobs and why companies are struggling to fill the millions of openings in the US economy today.

With that in mind, here are three things any leader can do right now to attract and retain great talent.

1. Focus on creating belonging at work

Many articles and columns have been written recently on diversity, equity and inclusion, and they all point to the larger ideal of belonging. Belonging is the experience of being seen, heard and welcomed with all that we are. Everyone needs to belong.

The need to fit in can lead to what is called “covering”. Covering up occurs when a person intentionally hides certain aspects of themselves that might make them seem like an outsider. As Rhodes Perry explains in the book Belonging to work“Covering occurs when a person intentionally minimizes or withholds a known stigmatized identity in order to fit in.”

A recent Deloitte study found that 61% of people in the workplace cover some aspect of their workplace identity. Coverage occurs among 83% of people who identify as LGBTQ. The numbers drop to 45% for straight white men. These numbers show the disparity – the gap – in the integration experience and how much some people have to cover to belong.

A leader’s main job is to ensure that each member of the team is able to perform at their best. It means creating an environment where everyone feels like they belong and no one feels pressured to do the extra work of covering up who they really are. When people are free to give their all at work, not only will they be able to contribute at their highest level, but they will also feel more connected to the organization and their colleagues.

2. Step away from the status quo

People are struggling right now. Illness and quarantines, financial instability, school closures, and Zoom fatigue are all very real. It’s not business as usual. In fact, that old normal may never return. It is therefore important to recognize that the goals and standards that were previously set for the organization may not be realistic in the current environment.

It’s the code to stop driving people who are on the brink.

Instead, look at the life of your team and think of ways to offer support, help, or encouragement. This is a great opportunity to innovate. Can we offer time off for people to catch their breath? Are there ways to distribute funds to help? Is it possible to make more room for listening and concern?

Now more than ever, we need to make room for people to be human. They are not machines that can continue to produce results no matter what. The pandemic has taken its toll on most people. People are worn out with a kind of fatigue that a brief walk around the block won’t solve. The message to leaders: Stop pretending “as if nothing happened” when it is not the case.

3. Create a culture of caring

Being a good leader is not about results, sales and more customers. Being a good leader means caring about people. Of course, caring about people seems so obvious. Every leader must communicate that he cares about his people. But compassion is about actions, not just words.

When people feel safe in their work environment to show up and be themselves, they are more productive. They know it’s okay to share their concerns, strengths, vulnerabilities and creativity. This is what you want as a leader. And that’s exactly why every leader has to work hard to show they care. This is how people will know that their leader is supporting and supporting them. This is the kind of leader and company that people want to be associated with.

Caring about people also impacts employee engagement. A Gallup Survey on what employees expect from their managers (“much more”!) found: “Among employees who strongly agree that they can raise any type of issue with their manager, 54 % are engaged. When employees strongly disagree, only 2% are engaged, while 65% are actively disengaged.”

Similarly, as the HBR article “Good bosses create more well-being than well-being plans” points out that when people have a good relationship with their leaders, they’re more motivated, they perform better, and they’re more likely to go the extra mile to support their team.

Simply put, attention creates trust and trust creates loyalty. This is what makes the right people stay and take good care of your business.

These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary leaders continue to learn and lead in new ways. This is how you will attract and retain great people, even in the midst of the Great Resignation.

About Mildred B.

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