It seems like the past 15 months have featured one big story after another. Now we are facing the next big thing, the mass resignation. How can we as HR leaders process this? Work to retain employees or accept that some employees want a fresh start? If so, this feels like the classic advertising joke that 50% of ads are effective. Just not sure which half. How can we know which employees will stick around with some guidance?
The great resignation is something that will happen according to experts by the large number of people who were/are dissatisfied by how they were treated during COVID they will soon start fleeing for the exits.
Whether or not this will happen is something time will tell. Whether or not the human resources leaders I talk to are greatly worried about it is something I can tell you is for real. I find two groups of people right now. The first is people who are worried and the second is the group of people who worry they aren’t worried enough about it.
What’s necessary for the HR community to deal with this is to continue to engage employees. As we transition from a fully remote work force to one that is a hybrid, or maybe full return model,we have to come up with a new model of engagement. We need a model that will stem the damage of a possible great resignation.
New challenges call for new solutions. The best part of this situation is that the solutions already exist, we just need to adapt them to meet the reality of the situation. When I’m talking to my HR colleagues there are 3 that I find I’m always suggesting, they are:
- Facilitate direct managerial feedback and praise
- Communicate values
- Employee statements
Let’s look at these in more detail
Facilitate direct managerial feedback and praise--It’s been a long 16 months but we can now sit in the same room with those we work with. But, most organizations are using some type of hybrid model so your managers probably aren’t seeing everyone. The key thing is that they should do everything they can to meet as many as possible.
This is less difficult than it would seem. For one thing, the HR professionals I deal with are telling me that hybrid work schedules aren’t going to be when ever, where ever. For a number of reasons, health concerns being the biggest I would think, office schedules need to be coordinated. This works for managers because they can coordinate their own schedules in order to maximize facetime with employees. (Assuming they aren’t working remotely)
Right now I can’t tell you how important facetime is. If you are really worried about the great resignation then your managers need to be telling employees, to their face, your feedback on their performance. The current environment still requires a great deal of praise. If you don’t want your employees to quit, get them to stay by letting them know they are making a positive contribution. The fact remains that feeling like a small cog in a giant machine will drive employees from the organization. Add in the stress of remote work and COVID and that drives employees for the doors in greater numbers.
What your managers need to do is build off the extra face time they found with your teams during the COVID lockdown and do it face-to-face. Simply put, facetime builds those relationships that are a lot less expensive than replacement costs and the costs of ramping up someone else.
I say this a lot but it bears repeating, if you don’t have the time to face your employees and engage them, then you’ll have less time when you’re covering them, replacing them and training the new person you hire for the role.
Communicate values--When I bring this concept up with KangoGift’s clients I hear almost immediately that we clearly communicate our values to our employees. I tell them there is a difference between communicating your mission and communicating your values.
Your values are based on your people. You tell them why they matter and what they mean to you. The great resignation is based on the premise, created during COVID, that employees are expendable and considered nothing but expendable elements. Those who weren’t laid off see how their friends and colleagues were treated and now stand ready to leave the organization that treated them so poorly in their minds.
It is up to the managers, and the larger organizations, to let employees know what the values are of the organization and why they matter. Pretending that the events of last year didn’t happen is a great way to send your employees to the door. There are a great number of tactics you can use but it is vital that you don’t simply tell your employees that they matter, that would be the worst thing you could do, you should tell them HOW they match the organization's values.
Employee statements--It is essential that the higher ups in your organization have at a glance some type of record of what is going on in their teams. It’s my experience that this is an area where organizations come up short. But you need to have something like this if you want to prevent that mass exit of your best and brightest.
So this is where your front line managers come into it. They need to be tasked with providing their managers with what they are hearing from their employees good, bad or otherwise. The statement needs to share what they are hearing but it also needs to tell higher ups what is going on in regards to their teams. This could be some type of life event, professional event like an anniversary or some type of personal recognition. But it’s up to the senior and executive levels of HR to make sure these steps are being taken.
Whether or not the “great resignation” takes place will be determined soon. In any case there are three action items I’ll strongly suggest you take. They are:
- Managers need to invest in direct, person-to-person, physical facetime as much as possible.
- The organization needs to clearly communicate its values and must do so to the employees. Trotting out some 5 year old mission statement won't suffice. Your employees need to know how they are a part of the organization accomplishing its values.
- You need to know what your employees are thinking and saying at a glance. It is up to the senior level managers to know what’s going on and it’s up to front line managers to engage with employees on the product line level so those important events that engage employees are closely monitored and shared with higher ups.
When I’m meeting with senior level human resources leaders on behalf of KangoGift, the great resignation is one thing I keep hearing a lot about. Quite honestly, they don’t know what to make of it because they’ve never seen anything like it before. There’s been a lot of that the past year and a half. Follow the steps above, keep your employee engagement strong and at the forefront and know that employees who are satisfied and believe they are doing something are less likely to leave.