Out of all the byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the one that is seeming to have the most impactful and long-lasting effect on the world of business is the so-called Great Resignation—
the wave of Americans who are voluntarily leaving their jobs for new opportunities. The numbers make it clear that this isn’t a temporary trend: Last year, about 4 million Americans quit their jobs each month, marking the highest-ever recorded average; in November alone, more than 4.5 million workers left their jobs.
What’s driving the exodus? Research points to a number of factors: Stress and burnout among workers has never been higher. Many Americans, especially in frontline positions, are concerned about safety. And, perhaps the biggest driver, is that the pandemic has prompted scores of employees to reconsider their priorities and the type of company culture and mission they want to be aligned with. But months into this evolution of the workforce, it’s no longer time to analyze what’s behind the Great Resignation but rather what HR and business leaders can now be doing to turn things around.
One way to begin to answer that question is by reframing how we think of the Great Resignation—not as an inevitable loss but rather as an opportunity for reinvention. With that shift in mindset can come new ideas and an eagerness to innovate—which could ultimately make the difference in whether your employees hit the road or stick around.
Here are a few areas to focus on as you travel down the path of reinvention:
Before workers head for the door, it’s important for business leaders to have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the workplace. If the predictions are true that millions of Americans are leaving their jobs because they no longer align with their values and priorities, it’s imperative that leaders know that first—so they can tackle issues with the organizational culture to hang onto their talent.
Having a transparent flow of information between the workforce and leadership is essential in any environment, but particularly in today’s climate. Leaders and managers may need to redouble their commitment to communication to ensure the organization is rooting out any issues that could cause workers to leave—and that may include having some tough conversations.
The ability for employees to work on their own terms has become crucial in light of the pandemic—but flexibility doesn’t just have to relate to when and from where work gets done. To reinvent talent processes, leadership may want to consider trending more toward flexibility across the board—being open to saying “yes” to employee requests that would typically get a standard “no” and considering new and out-of-the-box ideas.
While pay and benefits that respond to employee needs, along with a strong company culture, are all a must for the eventual post-pandemic workplace, employers also need to deliver on the learning and development front. Especially as the pandemic dramatically reinvents the workplace and our emphasis on digital know-how, employees are eager to learn. A recent study by TalentLMS, for instance, found that nearly three-quarters of surveyed employees whose employers did not offer them learning opportunities would prefer to leave the organization for a job that did prioritize their development.
The pressures of the current labor market have many HR and business leaders feeling pessimistic—but with a shift in perspective can come a shift in outcomes. Instead of being focused on the threat of employees leaving, if leadership instead embraces the potential of this moment, that moment itself can transform from the Great Resignation to the Great Reinvention.