Fighting the Great Resignation; How to Keep Staff Happy, Engaged and Make Them Stay

Penny ZenkerLEADERSHIP

disgruntled employees protesting the great resignation

The great resignation does not appear to be slowing down. Employees are still leaving their jobs in droves. We already realize that happy employees are more creative, productive, and less likely to quit. This in turn leads to higher profits and lower turnover. With the great resignation, we’ve confirmed that our people are the most valuable assets and they are leaving because we are not doing a good job of providing growth and development opportunities, keeping pace with market rates, and truly connecting them to the organization.

So how do we make our employees happy, keep them engaged, and make them stay? It isn’t enough to provide a Fussball table and provide a few free lunches. Also, the general understanding was that happiness meant providing higher pay, benefits, vacations, wellness programs, and such. The truth is the more we focus on these aspects, the more we realize that higher pay does not always equal higher motivation, especially in higher-paying positions. That’s why we need to return to the drawing board to make the right changes that make it less appealing for employees to quit.

Focus on who people are, rather than what people do to combat the great resignation

As a keynote leadership speaker, I have discovered that we’re focusing on the wrong things when we assess our people according to what they do instead of who they are as a person. It is time to change the narrative.

It is important to realize that our people are much more than cogs in a wheel – they are first and foremost people with responsibilities beyond the office. They have other responsibilities too—as parents, caregivers of children and aging parents, investors, and more. Building a workplace culture that acknowledges them as whole people will help them, gain a sense of being valued. McKinsey research discovered that inclusive organizations have the edge in attracting and keeping their employees.

This is because they focus on relational factors like work schedule flexibility, diversity, and policies that acknowledge and encourage individuality. Look for means to build a community within the organization to foster loyalty.

Regarding their work, empower your people to be responsible for how they complete tasks and projects. Coach them to solve their own problems and let them have autonomy over how they solve their own problems and combat day-to-day challenges. Overcoming their own challenges give them a sense of pride and value. Too often, leaders try and fix the problems for their team and this only disempowers the team and they are less likely to solve their problems on their own going forward.

I am a big Dan Pink fan and he writes about autonomy in his book “Drive“.  Also, HBR shared Studies on autonomy showing the results lead to higher productivity and high-quality work, as opposed to a micro-management culture. Consider coaching and mentoring options that help connect with people inside and outside of the organization.

Above everything, prioritize policies that respect and care for your team as a whole person, not just their output. When employees are valued and appreciated, they become driven to do more. Not sure where to begin, consider why people are leaving in the first place, as shown below:

employers do not fully understand why employees are leaving

Make benefits and rewards people oriented

That said, benefits and rewards are still vital factors in retaining your people. You only have to approach it differently by focusing on features that your employees desire. A recent survey by Prudential Insurance discovered that 4 in 10 people surveyed would leave their current jobs for better benefits. 80% further said that they prefer benefits that can help them achieve financial resiliency. In light of the anxieties, furloughs, and unemployment that crippled many from COVID-19, it makes sense to prioritize financial well-being. Think of benefits such as retirement plans, disability, health insurance, emergency savings programs, and life insurance.

Furthermore, mental health benefits are equally important, especially in light of the recent fallout that has driven most people to come to terms with their humanity. Some employees have been struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Hence, providing mental health services is a surefire way of showing your employees that you care about their mental health.

Help employees realize that they are part of a bigger picture

There’s a critical difference between a satisfied employee who is okay with doing nothing and advancing nowhere and an engaged employee who feels an intimate and emotional connection and is driven to make contributions to the company’s goals. The former may not leave the company, but the inefficiency and unproductivity are equally alarming. You want to take steps towards driving loyalty and responsibility in your employees. This is why you shouldn’t try to ‘buy’ employees with perks and offerings.  Another excellent way of keeping employees engaged is by showing them what their contributions look like to the company as a whole. You can achieve this through clear and frequent communication on the company’s happenings, individual and department direction, and big company direction.

The number one reason why people are leaving is they feel like they don’t have a career advancement plan in the company.  What are their career goals? Beginning from the hiring phase, help them discover clearer paths towards advancing in their careers.

You can achieve this through provisions for opportunities for taking on new desired challenges or responsibilities, courses for learning new skills or furthering knowledge of the company.

Find the cultural fit

There is no doubt that the skills and abilities of your potential employee are important. But you must also ensure that their values align with your company’s culture and operational values. Think about the unique traits and characteristics that you want from your people. Clarifying the traits and attributes you truly want makes it easier to set the right expectations from the onset. This is why a clear and transparent onboarding process is a critical part of ensuring better job performance, greater commitment to your organization, and increased retention. You should also test for cultural fit using those set traits and characteristics desired by conducting behavioral-based interviews.  

Check out this episode of Take Back Time with Lou Adler about hiring during this period and what to focus on.

So, your onboarding process should help them understand the goals, work expectations, policies, and how to use your facilities. It should detail every benefits package and how they will access them, alongside potential promotions. Your onboarding process should also help them understand in detail the goods and services that their job produces, the general skills and knowledge they need to be successful, and how their work will have an impact on the organization.  Consider using a quality onboarding process tool that makes sure no stone is left unturned during the onboarding phase. Ask for feedback on your onboarding process after new hires settle in to make improvements for the future. 

Ensure your culture is factual                                                        

According to Johnny C. Taylor, President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), businesses tend to make cultural statements about things they aspire to be rather than the true state of their affairs. You must avoid making confusing statements about your company’s culture. No matter how strict or lax your culture is, it should remain consistent everywhere; from your company’s press releases to hiring, firing, onboarding, rewards, and recognition, performance management, and product development to growth. These cultural statements should imbed your corporate identity and the guiding ‘why’. The promises it makes to the team members, customers, investors, and industry in general, should be adhered to. Always remember that your cultural statements can be the fuel for your company’s growth when you really live it. A survey by Glassdoor further shows that most people will consider an organization’s culture before applying for a job. Alternatively, not ensuring that your culture and core values show up in every aspect of decision-making makes it difficult to build trust and employee morale, which are vital to attracting and retaining a high-performance team.

Conduct check-ins to maintain consistency

As your business evolves, your company culture can change and the principles established may unconsciously take the back burner. Through quarterly check-ins and feedback surveys, you can use your staff as a wake-up call to make sure that your cultural statements are still applicable. If your business operations and principles have moved past them, then it’s time to revise them. The bottom line is that you must craft a consistent message.

Create a supportive leaving culture 

With the record number of employees quitting, there is also a wave of ‘boomerang’ employees who are returning to former employers. This offers opportunities to get employees back after leaving. While it’s never ideal to wait until they leave to make vital changes to your workplace culture, you can also implement policies that can provide them with a “graceful exit.” Jellyvision offers ideas on how this works. From the day employees begin, they also learn about their “graceful exit” program, which lets employees realize that the company supports their need to explore leaving sometimes. This approach creates an amicable relationship and leaves the door open, so if an employee decides to explore a new opportunity, there’s a chance they might return.

Concluding thoughts

To combat the great resignation and make your staff stay, you must develop a people-oriented culture. This should be based on the specific traits and attributes that align with your company’s values. Let your culture uphold how much you care and value your people. Let your leadership demonstrate this with their actions. This in turn drives them to take ownership of their work and the impact they make on the organization’s growth. With the right steps, you can significantly minimize your staff turnover, and increase innovation and collaboration which in turn, leads to higher profits for your brand.