The Great Resignation


“What does the research say?” is one of my favorite go to questions when working with clients to develop confident and courageous leaders.

In a recent article from Harvard Business Review, Ian Cook asks the question, “Who is driving the great resignation?” Looking at the data we see that more Americans are quitting their jobs than ever before.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, resignations peaked in April. According to the article, these resignations have remained abnormally high over the last few months, creating a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July.

I encourage you to go and read the article.

Ian Cook offers insights into why he thinks this is happening. He provides organizations a practical and straightforward way to consider how resignations are impacting the company.

Now back to my original question, “What does the research say?”

When people ask me what I do for a living, one of my standard answers is to say I read the research and then I work with organizations who want to help their leaders grow their confidence and lead with courage.

I look to see if my experience inside of that organization lines up with what the research says. I use the research to help my clients make informed decisions.

I also offer my own ideas and insights. In the case of a great resignation here are a few ideas worth considering that the writer doesn’t include in the article.

We are at an inflection point in business today.

The last 18 months has revealed that the state of things is not great. People were given the opportunity in many cases to self direct their work. They had the flexibility to do their work from home. And overwhelmingly the research supports not only that work from home is sustainable for the long term, but a lot of people prefer it over an in person work arrangement.

Unfortunately many businesses want to return to, “But this is how we’ve always done things.”

They want to return to the world of work in the pre-Covid world.

Sadly that does not exist and for the foreseeable future it doesn’t seem that will be going back there anytime soon.

With that in mind here are my own practical ideas to consider.

  • Have you taken the time to ask your people what their preferences are and have you made an effort to accommodate them? There’s a BIG difference between listening to your people and then going ahead and doing what you wanted to do in the first place versus listening to them and doing something with the information that you learn. Perhaps pre-Covid this process was one that could work but today’s worker has reached a point of intolerance when it comes to a standard practice of “we pretend to listen to our people and then do what we want.”

  • Are you staying operationally minded and forsaking the interpersonal and relationship piece of doing business? There is a lot of pressure on companies and organizations to be productive. A profitable company is always the goal and you simply can’t stay in business if you’re not making money. But if that’s happening at the expense of your people, then be prepared for your people to leave. Gone are the days of our parent’s generation where they would simply tough it out and count the days to retirement when they received a pension and a gold watch. Today’s worker simply doesn’t operate from that mindset. They can and will leave you.

  • When is the last time you benchmarked salaries and benefits packages? This should be done every 2 to 3 years, looking at not only organizations in your profession and industry, but looking at the market place in which your organization resides. If you cannot offer a competitive salary and benefits package, be prepared for your people to leave you. The reality is few people begin and end their job with one organization. Many people have read the books and articles that tell them, “If you want to grow your salary leave your job”. They are acting on that information. I have heard multiple stories of people who left and increased their salary by 20%, 30%, and a couple of cases where the person doubled their salary.

  • Do your people have a good work relationship with their manager/supervisor? Overwhelmingly the research supports that one of the top reasons a person leaves their job is because of the relationship that they have to their immediate supervisor. It doesn’t matter how great your organization, if they have a miserable manager who doesn’t treat them with respect and dignity, who micromanage their every move, and who simply don’t listen to their ideas and input, then prepare for them to leave. Again, gone are the days that a person will suffer through having a terrible manager. What mechanisms do you have in place to assess the quality of your managers and supervisors? How close attention are you paying to these critical roles of manager/supervisor and how they treat their people? If the only metric you use is output and you judge a manager by the bottom line you may have an issue.

If this week's newsletter feels a bit preachy, my apologies. I tend to get pretty fired up about this topic. All too often companies bury their head in the sand and pretend that it’s not them who have these problems--these kinds of articles are for other organizations, not ours. But at this point, if you are experiencing a great resignation, it is paramount that you take the time to understand why.

If you don’t know where to begin, consider working with an outside organization. We work with organizations all over the world to help them grow confident and courageous leaders. Inside of that work is numerous opportunities to dig in to these challenges mentioned above.

So if this hits close to home, let’s talk.

Libby