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How to Beat the Great Resignation and Retain Talent

Where do you see yourself in five years? It’s an old saw of an interview question but it has, over time, served a purpose. Executives are always on the lookout for motivated individuals, so we and our HR teams probe job candidates’ future plans to find people who are, as they say, going places.

Today as we stare into the maw of the Great Resignation, however, employees who are going places seem to be departing their employers to get there. In fact, as many as 95 percent of workers in a June 2021 survey said they are considering leaving their jobs. Although other research puts the number of potential desertions closer to 25 percent of the workforce, the risk of losing even one in four employees has CEOs asking how to keep their companies out of this turnover tsunami.

Stemming the Tide

The sharp spike in turnover, which saw 3.9 million Americans quit their jobs in June alone, presents a twofold challenge to businesses across North Carolina and the U.S. First of all, it’s incredibly damaging when skills, experience, and institutional knowledge walk out the door. A company’s ability to serve customers and reach revenue goals will often suffer. What’s more, the costs of recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees can be exorbitant.

Complicating matters, replacement talent is especially hard to come by right now. The ratio of job openings to new hires continues to hover at historically high levels and employers are struggling to add staff. A Vistage CEO Confidence Index found that 62 percent of top executives say hiring challenges are currently affecting their ability to operate at full capacity.

Clearly, it’s not an ideal time to lose key members of the team, but how can senior leaders prevent employees from abandoning their posts en masse?

As with any people-focused issue, solutions will vary. At companies where employees feel overworked and underpaid, a reorientation of expectations and rewards will be in order. Elsewhere, though, CEOs must dig deeper to identify the root causes of employee discontent, and they may find it helpful to ask themselves one question:

Why should a rising star at your company who is contemplating where they will be in five years answer with enthusiasm, “right here”?

The Role of Professional Development

As Vistage Chief Research Officer Joe Galvin wrote in Inc. magazine, “People are hungry for a career with meaning and purpose rather than just a job where they punch the clock.” He praises businesses that attend to workforce development as a means to prepare team members for more fulfilling roles. Gallup points to the same factor—a sense of purpose—as critical in boosting employee engagement, which in turn slashes turnover.

Professional development isn’t just a “feel good” thing, either. Research published by Korn Ferry indicates that $11.39 is added to GDP for every $1 invested in human capital. This data point indicates that CEOs can capture growth by spending on their people. And with such substantial returns on offer, the details of professional development are worthy of attention in the C suite.

A Matter of Management

Professional development can engage employees and encourage them to see a future within the company, but where to start? In my experience, nearly every business could stand to aim more leadership development initiatives at the middle of the organization, where such efforts are frequently lacking.

In fact, targeting mid-level management can have outsize impact company-wide. Why? Consider another old saw of the HR world—people don’t leave their companies, they leave their bosses.

This means that if your supervisors, directors, and VPs aren’t fully engaged and highly capable, they may not only resign their own jobs in the coming months but also drive other employees away.

Unfortunately, it is relatively common for companies to promote great individual contributors to management positions and then fail to assist them in acquiring the skills necessary to motivate a team. As long-time General Electric CEO Jack Welsh said, “Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is about growing others.” There is much to be gained by helping managers make that transition.

This may hold especially true now as Millennials have become the largest generation in the workforce. A SuccessFactors-Oxford Economics study, for example, found that this cohort prefers to get more feedback from their supervisors more often, a trait that is also rubbing off on Generation Z. Younger workers want to be coached, inspired, and surrounded with great people—and that takes great management.

Preparing Emerging Leaders

If you’ve read this far and are starting to think that your company could benefit from a highly focused professional development track for managers, I have a suggestion—the Vistage Emerging Leaders program.

This two-year course specifically targets the development needs of individuals in the middle of an organization, where the bulk of employee engagement and strategy execution happen. Emerging Leaders participants spend half a day per month honing their team management, change management, performance management, and communications skills; learning business strategy, finance, and customer focus; and improving their executive presence and emotional intelligence, which are so vital to leadership.

Imprint Talent Readiness was among the first firms in the nation to lead Emerging Leaders groups and we’ve witnessed substantial professional and personal growth among our members. One of our clients had this to say about the program:

“These sessions are a great motivation and having them every month keeps me engaged and gives me time to practice what I have learned as well as experience the results.”

Motivated, engaged, and enjoying success—that’s not the attitude of someone preparing to join the Great Resignation. It’s the mindset of a rising leader ready to inspire others.

Do you have someone in mind who could benefit from such a learning opportunity? Imprint has an in-person Emerging Leaders group forming in the Research Triangle Park area, as well as a virtual group available to participants anywhere. Simply contact us for more information.
















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