January 27, 2022

Building a Strong Executive Team: Surviving the Great Resignation

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This is part nine of our Building a Strong Executive Team series. To start at the beginning, click here.

Starting in April of 2021, economists noticed that millions of Americans were quitting their jobs each month and dubbed this period The Great Resignation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 26 percent of their survey respondents stopped working for their employer sometime over the past year. For the past nine months, businesses have worried about how The Great Resignation will affect them. And while it’s easy to focus on the short-term effects caused by losing a large number of individual contributors, businesses that want to survive The Great Resignation need to look at how it’s affecting their executive pipeline.

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What is The Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation, sometimes called The Big Quit, is the period of time beginning in early 2021 and currently ongoing, where US employees are voluntarily resigning from their jobs on a large scale in order to seek better compensation, benefits, or working conditions elsewhere. One of the main catalysts for The Great Resignation was the US government’s refusal to implement worker protections during COVID-19, which resulted in rising costs of living but no real change in wages across the board. Because many employees realized they weren’t being compensated fairly at their current jobs, they began to look elsewhere for a safety net.

NPR has a good point here: People aren’t just quitting their jobs and riding off into the sunset, never to work again. They’re leaving their jobs to find a place that will appreciate them and compensate them fairly for their work.

Why are people quitting their jobs?

So, why are people deciding that their jobs no longer serve them? Well, for one, some jobs are now requiring employees to come back to the office, despite the fact that they’ve been working productively from home for over a year. Rather than accepting this unnecessary requirement, workers are looking elsewhere for companies that will allow them to remain at home. Working from home saves employees commute time that they can now spend with their families, keeps them from having to pack or buy their lunch, and typically provides a quieter environment than an office.

Pay is another major reason. The inflation rate in 2021 was a whopping 7 percent, yet cost of living raises stuck around the 2 to 3 percent range. Employees can’t be expected to stay at jobs where their salary isn’t keeping up with inflation when they can get a new job with a significant pay bump. Unfortunately, you can’t pay for food or housing with experience.

The work environment also plays into their decision. The last two years have been difficult for most working people, and a toxic work environment only compounds the stress they’re already feeling. Micromanagement, coworkers who dump work onto other people to avoid it themselves, and management’s refusal to fire ineffective employees who make more work for the rest of the team can all cause good workers to burn out and look for other employment opportunities.

Also Read: 6 Ways to Reduce Employee Attrition That Have Nothing to Do with Beer

What does The Great Resignation mean for executive recruiting?

The Great Resignation isn’t just affecting individual contributors; managers and executives are feeling the pressure, too. And because many companies like to promote from within rather than hiring externally, organizations are losing major pieces of their executive pipeline. In order to keep the employees they have left, the business will need to reexamine its policies and benefits.

“In 2022 there are very few “active” candidates and many “passive” candidates,” says Scott Garfield, Executive Vice President of CIBR Warriors, an IT staffing firm. “This means the way we attract executive-level talent — really all talent — needs to evolve. Passive candidates most likely won’t respond to ads or traditional methods used to find candidates, so organizations need to rely on their hiring partners to strategize on how to present themselves in the best light to attract and retain A-level talent.”

How to survive The Great Resignation

While a big deal, The Great Resignation is survivable if organizations take it seriously.

Listen to what your employees want

Your employees will tell you what they want if you give them the opportunity to. Give them a survey or somewhere to submit anonymous feedback, and take their suggestions seriously. If your employees were productive at home and don’t want to come back to the office, don’t make them. More money for raises isn’t always in the budget, but typically it’s much more expensive to hire and train someone new than retain current employees. If you can’t give them a raise immediately, explain your position and make a plan for future raises. The transparency will go a long way.

Also Read: The Key to Employee Retention: Knowing What Your Individual Contributors Care About

Provide flexibility, fair pay, and good benefits

The only way you’ll be able to keep current employees and attract new ones is to provide flexibility, fair pay, and good benefits. You can’t get away with paying under market value anymore if you were, and now that employees know how flexible their jobs can be, they’re not going to go back to the rigidity of eight hours in the office five days a week. And healthcare and paid time off aren’t the only benefits you have to consider anymore, although they are still important. Look at options for professional development or a gym stipend, as well. Flexibility, fair pay, and benefits should be written into company policy, published for accountability and transparency, and taught and enforced from the top down.

Also Read: 7 Lesser Known Benefits that Make Employees’ Lives Easier

Go on the recruiting offensive

There’s a good chance that passive candidates you’ve had your eye on may be ready to make a move during this time. But to take advantage of this, companies have to position themselves correctly to prove that they’re a better option than where the candidate currently works. Garfield says, “First and foremost, companies have to effectively sell their story because everybody has options, as mentioned above. In order to present themselves in the best light, organizations need to look at C.L.A.M.P.S. — Challenge, Location, Advancement, Money, People, Security. These are absolutely the six most important buckets both job seekers and your employees routinely evaluate.”

“If you’re taking more than two weeks to get somebody in the door, you’re losing candidates.”

Scott Garfield, Executive Vice President of CIBR Warriors

The length of your recruiting process has to get shorter, as well. “Previous to 2020, the hiring cycle was anywhere from 6-12 weeks. Now, it’s now 1-2 weeks. If you’re currently taking more than two weeks to get somebody in the door, you’re losing candidates,” Garfield says. If a candidate gets a job offer before even getting to your second round of interviews, they’re probably going to drop out of your process to take the offer or pressure you to make an offer before you’re ready.

Also Read: The Best Tools for Effective Employee Recruitment

Stay informed about employee engagement levels

Managers should be meeting with their direct reports one-on-one every week or every other week. Not only does it allow both parties to get to know each other and build trust, but it also gives managers the opportunity to understand how they’re progressing professionally and what their needs might be. Within these meetings, managers should be able to spot signs of a frustrated employee and attempt to solve the issue before it’s too late.

Garfield explains, “When a manager or team leader invests the time to get to know a team member, that team member will be more engaged and will ultimately perform better. This is also a great way to retain talent. As a manager, if somebody resigns and you had no idea they had those feelings, that’s a failure as a leader in the organization.” People ultimately want to feel valued in their position. A manager can make or break your time at a job.

Also Read: Using Performance Management Software to Combat Burnout

Engaged employees are less likely to resign

When employees feel that their employer values them and treats them fairly, they’re going to be more engaged with their work because they know their opinion matters. This starts with executives and trickles down to managers and then individual contributors. Executives have to be engaged if they expect the rest of their team to be.

Engaged employees are typically more satisfied at their job and, therefore, less likely to leave for other opportunities. Employee engagement is the best way to retain employees and eventually work them towards those upper management and executive positions. If you aren’t currently using employee engagement software, use our Employee Engagement Product Selection Tool to find the right option for your business.

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