Staff turnover caused by the ‘Great Resignation’ can be a good thing

A more significant changeover in personnel allows businesses to find people that fit with their post-Covid cultures, argues Rita Trehan

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As the great wave of resignations continues to sweep through our offices, leaders, recruiters and team members will be facing extraordinary pressure to plug the gap. The talent shortage was predicted in May 2021 as economies reopened and employees found themselves, for the first time in a year, supported by state handouts and able to freely leave bad jobs. Nearly one year later, 44 per cent of employees are still actively looking for work and little has been done to address the problem.

In the short term, high staff turnover presents a challenge. But recruiters must not be tempted into rushed hiring decisions, feeding the engine of staff dissatisfaction. The ‘Great Resignation’ presents an opportunity for a dramatic rethink of company purpose, hiring a new team more closely aligned with the overarching project.

A brave new world

Few sectors have been left unscathed by the pandemic. Missions have changed as new budgets and regions have shifted priorities. The dream teams of 2019 no longer fly in 2022, and managers must readapt for a new style of play.

As an Arsenal fan, I understand the pain of letting go of former glory. When key players leave, it is tempting to look for a like-for-like equivalent to replicate known successes. It rarely works out. Times change and good managers will look to understand and improve upon their weaknesses rather than living on the borrowed time of an inflexible strategy.

Staff turnover is an opportunity to recognise and adapt to the trends driving resignations. Higher demand for staff is not enough to draw them away from good jobs, and leaders must now redress the purpose gap inspiring team members to seek out a move.

Speaking and listening

Late last year, McKinsey published a report reflecting upon the trends underlying employee decision making. 70 per cent of staff reported tying their work to their sense of purpose, and nearly as many said that the pandemic had pushed them to rethink their purpose in life. Businesses face huge pressure to soothe the mind, body and soul of their employees, delivering a holistic and consistent experience of work that makes life seem worthwhile.

This is a tall order. But as the lines between home and work have blurred over the last two years, corporate culture must adapt. Staff turnover provides recruiters with an opportunity to solidify a strong sense of corporate identity and hire like-minded individuals who slot neatly into a workplace experience. The post-pandemic period or rebirth is the opportunity for companies to ratify their commitments to staff and work in inclusive ESG policies, workplace expectations and cultural norms and traditions. Leaders should invite current and potential staff into consultative conversations to help shape a more purposeful, transparent environment in which employees can thrive.

Know your limits

Do not promise your team Champions League football if you cannot guarantee Champions League football. The quickest way to turn hires off to your mission is overpromising or under delivering on meaningful work. Employees would rather see evidence of a project under development than sit and wait for something to materialise. They would rather be pleasantly surprised by an expanding job description than underwhelmed as promises are broken.

In some cases, it might be appropriate to accept that you, the company, cannot meet all the needs of your staff, and instead to focus on hiring those who will gel more naturally with your remote/hybrid/full-time office set up. Leaders should democratise the internal politics affecting staff but recognise that the Great Resignation opens the door to transparency and honest conversations about what the company can offer and what the candidate can expect to receive. These fair, open interactions are what will secure loyal, committed staff in the long run.

Where possible, the aim should always be to flatten hierarchies and to invite staff into conversations about the decisions that affect them. But there is maturity – and long-term sustainability – in knowing that the ‘perfect’ candidate is not always the one with the most qualifications.

A fresh start

The Great Resignation puts short-term pressure on companies but offers a shot at long-term success. The businesses that fare best in 2023 may suffer the most in 2022 if they can use the learnings of poor retention to build a stronger, more aligned team for the future. 

The pandemic has profoundly affected the way we work, the values we aspire towards and our vision for the future. Leaders must relearn how to articulate success before they can find the team best suited to manifesting it. In chaos there is opportunity, and in change there is room for growth.

Rita Trehan is founder and CEO of DARE Worldwide