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The Great Resignation – Seven Ideas to Attract and Retain Your Best People

Great Resignation

Cue Narrator…“In a world where uncertainty is certain, change is inevitable and autonomy reigns, emerges a force so powerful, so disruptive, the likes of which we’ve never witnessed before. The Great Resignation! Coming to Netflix this week.”  

Okay, I’ll admit that mock movie trailer is a tad dramatic, but The Great Resignation is real, and the fallout of losing talent and not being able to attract new people could spell disaster for many organizations. People are the organizational engine. Without them making things happen and contributing their knowledge and talent, organizations simply can’t succeed. 

Last September in the US, the number of people quitting their jobs hit record numbers at 4.4 million, and this phenomenon is going global. According to a Forbes article by Jack Kelly, it’s been driven by a number of factors brought about by the pandemic: burnout, lack of flexibility, continuous organizational change, well-being not supported by the company, non-competitive compensation, and insufficient benefits. 

This time can also be described as The Great Prioritization (another good movie title). The pandemic has shone a light on what is most important to us and for some, it has exposed the pointlessness of their work. It has helped us re-prioritize our work values and has opened new options and opportunities to better integrate our work and lives. People are no longer willing to put up with low pay, bad leadership, or tone-deaf organizations who refuse to adapt.  

Autonomy Reigns Supreme 

The pandemic has also given us unprecedented levels of autonomous flexibility, which we’ve come to value. We like being self-directed. And we’ve always had a love affair with flexibility.  

An HBR article on the topic “Forget Flexibility: Your Employees Want Autonomy” cites a study that shows employees want flexibility by way of autonomy and are willing to seek employment elsewhere if they’re not given it. Fifty-nine percent of workers say they would not work for a company that required them to come into a physical office five days per week. 

In today’s context, heavy-handed mandates feel like a violation of autonomy and that has huge implications for organizations in every industry. As the article says, “maximizing employee autonomy is becoming less of a workplace benefit and more a necessary element to remaining competitive and relevant as an organization.”  

There’s a new power dynamic in town, and it belongs to the employee.  

Navigating The Great Resignation 

So, what can leaders and organizations do in the face of these wild times? In addition to our own explorations, we put this topic to our Leaders Collective to learn what they were doing to attract, retain and keep people engaged. We have seven ideas to stoke the fire. Some of them are practical and easy to do, while others require a bigger plan of action.  

1.Re-imagine job descriptions   

Rather than do a catch-all vague description, which can be a red flag for candidates, be discerning and focused. Be clear on the core mandate for the role (what is most important) and realistically identify your ideal candidate and the most essential competencies and qualities for the level. Also think about what you can offer them. What makes your organization a truly compelling choice? Then ask for feedback and a reality check to ensure your expectations match the market.  

2. Appeal to what matters  

As we re-prioritize our values, many people have come to see the truth that work is less about money and more about meaning. Highlight the most important organizational strength that matters to people you want to attract and that you can authentically and consistently deliver.  

3. Review and adapt your processes 

Survival requires adaptability. While you want to make a good decision, a competitive market dictates that time is not in your favour. It’s not about lowering your standards; it’s about determining how you can make better decisions faster. Revisiting your recruitment processes takes courage and humility because it asks you to consider how you are getting in your own way. Identify your blind spots, follow up with people who didn’t accept your offer or stepped out of the process. Engage diverse internal and external perspectives to help you generate ideas for a more agile talent attraction process.  

4. Re-recruit and show your existing people the love   

We put time and money into recruiting talent and throughout the process we make every effort to impress people. Then they sign on and the honeymoon ends. What if that torrid affair never ended? What if you kept earning the affection of your people? Remind them why they are part of your team and show them you care and appreciate them – every day. Demonstrate how you are investing in them and helping them grow and develop as professionals and leaders. Highlight how they are making an impact and contributing to the bigger goal.  

5. Ignite learning and development 

If people aren’t learning, they are leaving. People are looking to expand their minds and grow their skills, and our dynamic uncertain work climate requires us to be constantly learning. Leaders we know are being more intentional about investing in their people and teams by offering longer-term professional development and team training programs to equip people to level up, lead, and contribute in bigger ways.  

6. Provide fresh challenges 

To keep things fresh and broaden an employee’s perspective, leaders are providing opportunities for people to exchange similar roles in different environments (such as head office to regional office). Some of those leaders are even making that exchange part of the job requirement. Others are encouraging their people to take on a secondment (temporarily work on another team) to challenge, energize and expand their people.  

7. Pay attention to relationships  

The most important thing a leader can do to engage and inspire people is to genuinely get to know their team members as people and build trust. A great leader holds a strong intention of getting to know his people personally through regular check-ins and conversations. By understanding their personal context, commitments, and pressures, they can support their people, provide flexibility where needed, and track their well-being.  


One thing The Great Resignation highlights is the need for good leadership. While it isn’t a panacea, we know people don’t leave their companies, but they leave their leaders. We also know people are looking for vulnerable leaders who care, listen, and connect. They’re looking for leaders who are self-aware, lead by example, help people grow, and inspire people to be their best. They are looking for those special leaders who know how to build and galvanize inclusive, positive teams that make an impact. And in that process, those leaders will have a much better opportunity to retain their best people.  

Which of your legacy recruitment processes are working against you?  

How can you attend to your team relationships?  

What does your 2022 plan for team development and growth look like?  



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