Managing the Great Resignation

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Business Leaders are Concerned about Employee Retention

Great Resignation” was coined by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, to describe “a wave of workers across many industries quitting their jobs.”

It’s a catchy phrase for a serious problem.

One that labor analysts had already predicted due to a pent-up desire in the workforce to quit.  The voluntary departure rates in the United States throughout 2020 were less than normal.  At least 5 million people chose against resigning (during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic) as compared to 2019. 

Confirmation of the trend arrived with the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, revealing a dramatic leap in voluntary nonfarm turnover of over 2.4 percent, the highest recorded in 20 years (since this data has been tracked) in March, April, and May (the latter is preliminary) of 2021.  The largest increases were seen in retail, professional and business services, transportation, warehousing, and utilities.

Employers are bracing for a “Turnover Tsunami,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).  The costs to your business will be significant, “in both time and money to recruit and train new employees—not to mention the loss of institutional knowledge and reduction in productivity while positions remain vacant.” There is also the impact upon your existing employees due to overtime, scheduling gaps, and decreased morale that can further create a cycle of poor productivity and even more resignations.

Survey Says

Numerous surveys, reports, and studies also spotlight this worrisome movement:

  • According to Oxford Economics, 2.5 million Americans (double the amount in 2019) decided to retire during the pandemic. Historically, they are unlikely to return to the job market.
  • The Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index, a survey of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, revealed that 41% were thinking about leaving their current employer.
  • Another HR study via Personio and Opinium of 2,000 employees from the UK and Ireland shared similar results, “Over a third of employees (38%) are looking to change roles in the next 6 or 12 months (both 12%) or once the economy has strengthened (14%).”
  • For the 2020 COVID-19 Workforce Burnout Survey, Eagle Hill Consulting polled 1,003 random employees across the United States about their post-pandemic plans. One in four respondents indicated they would be looking for new employment.  The likelihood increased to one in three, if the workers were women with children participating in remote learning or were Millennials.
  • Per the 2021 Engagement and Retention Report conducted by the Achievers Workforce Institute (which surveyed 2,000 employed Canadian and U.S. workers in February of 2021), “With COVID-19 still in full swing, we didn’t know what to expect from the 2021 survey. Most years we see incremental changes, but in 2021 a surprising 52% of employees said they intended to look for a new job. Everyone we interviewed was employed, so this isn’t a reflection of the increasing unemployment rate.”

Why are these Employees Leaving?

There is some consensus among the various research papers.  One factor is tied to the location of work.  Some workers plan to quit if remote working is no longer available.  Others are struggling with remote work.  People are unique and there is not one workplace solution that is ideal for all employees. 

Childcare and eldercare are often cited as a reason why commuting to a physical office may not work for some.  Work/life balance and the realization of new priorities brought on by a pandemic is another.  People are reevaluating their careers seeking personal growth and professional advancement either from a new position or as an entrepreneur.

Burnout comes up, frequently, as a reason for voluntary departures.

Overwork, stress, and concerns about productivity while working at home, has allowed the boundaries between home and work to blur.  People are starting early and working late, responding to emails at all hours.  They are experiencing overload from too many emails and Zoom meetings. 

Those with occupations that involved having to go to a physical location may be motivated by the delay and/or lack of accommodations made due to COVID-19.  Not providing worker protection through social distancing policies or supplying PPE, not offering sick days, etc.  They have also been asked to do more with less, experiencing increased workloads without increases in pay.

While salary or wages plays a role, it does not appear to be the main motivation for this exodus of employees.   As management consultant Michelle Arentz shared in an article about the money myth, “when I reviewed Glassdoor’s Top 100 Companies 2021 back in April, and counted which words showed up the most in employee reviews of organizations, anything directly tied to pay, salary or compensation didn’t even make the list, let alone the Top 5 or Top 10.”

This is especially seen in low wage hourly jobs.  People will switch positions for relatively minor increases such as a quarter an hour.  It’s not about the money…

The main reason is evident: examine any survey results and most of the reasons for attrition are directly, or indirectly, tied to an immediate manager.  Toxic workplaces are typified by how a manager mishandles company culture, internal communications, and resources.  Other reasons such as lack of career advancement opportunities, work/life imbalance, and threats to mental and physical well-being are also strongly influenced by these middle managers.

People quit managers, not their jobs.

Employers have demanded that their employees be more agile and flexible.  Now, employees want the same from employment and, specifically, their direct supervisors and managers. 

Your Managers are the Secret to Employee Retention

The training and development of your managers is key. 

The 2020 Retention Report from the Work Institute makes this connection:

“Manager behavior concerns are described as unprofessionalism, lack of support, poor treatment of employees, generally poor behavior, poor communication, lack of manager competence, and lack of manager fairness. Employees are likely to find a different employer to get what they expect in supervision if their manager does not demonstrate acceptable competence. Employers must ensure managers are well trained in their conduct and relationship skills otherwise they will continue to pay the high price of employee turnover. Organizations must revisit their current training programs to verify the supervisor and manager practices expected and taught align with current requirements learned through employee feedback.

“Skill, knowledge, and attitude behavior requirements include:

  • Coaching with emotional intelligence
  • Conducting meaningful stay conversations
  • Developing people
  • Developing teams, including collaboration among peers and with supervisors
  • Change management: understanding and communicating personal, group, and leadership practices at each stage of the change cycle
  • Communication, business writing, presentation skills
  • Conducting effective meetings
  • Finance for nonfinancial managers
  • Negotiation
  • Conflict Management/Dealing with difficult situations, including the importance of immediacy
  • Professional image/demeanor, courtesy, appropriate display of emotions
  • Ethical behavior.”

Managers who are strong critical thinkers and lifelong learners inspire longer employee retention from their teams.  They are capable of all-of-the-above.  These managers enable collaboration, increase engagement, and improve productivity.  They possess, most importantly, the ability to influence and impact change.

They maximize your talent resources and your organizational performance.

Empower Your Managers to Reach their Greatest Potential

Insight Assessment offers a three-step solution to boost the existing skillset and mindset of your managers.

  1. Assess the decision-making and problem-solving abilities of your direct supervisors and managers through validated and reliable measurement. Each instrument has been psychometrically evaluated in collaboration with researchers, educators, trainers and working professionals. They are customized per the intended industry as well as the organizational responsibility level of the test-taker.

The INSIGHT Business Professional package is an assessment that evaluates both the critical thinking skillset and the lifelong learning mindset competencies of your managers.

Skills include problem analysis, evaluating alternatives, precise contexts, ambiguous contexts, quantitative contexts, and overall strength of critical thinking.  Mindset attributes include being motivated, judicious, committed, honorable, foresightful, professional, focused, tolerant, adaptable, and resourceful.

  1. Analyze the insights generated using a common shared language and the intuitive rating system provided by the individual and group reports. Gain understanding of the status quo before unexpected turnover happens.  Individual reports provide helpful feedback, assisting your managers to identify their own hidden strengths as well as blind spots.  This can allow them to focus on self-improvement to become better managers. 
  1. Act to further incorporate assessment insights to guide the training and development of your managers.  Don’t ignore deficiencies that can harm your bottom line when your managers are rated “skills not manifested.”  Additionally, moving your managers from moderate to strong, or from strong to superior in their assessment rating results in a greater increase in your employee retention. This is the metric that you need to move!

INSIGHT Development Program offers 24/7/365 online convenience of eLearning modules, available on any device, anytime, anywhere through our secure platform.  INSIGHT Development can be incorporated seamlessly into existing training courses or function as stand-alone independent study. 

Be proactive.  Assess, Analyze and Act in order to prevent a Turnover Tsunami just as the economy is recovering.  Don’t let the Great Resignation happen to your organization!

Call us at 650-697-5650 or contact us today.

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