According to a recent NPR article, 2.9% of the entire American workforce quit their jobs in August. And while stimulus payments and discretionary workers had some hand in that, most of the data shows that the pandemic caused people to not only behave differently, but also to revisit their priorities. Understanding the cause of the Great Resignation is important if you want an effective strategy to adapt.
Don’t Panic Spend
Most people who are resigning aren’t doing so because of compensation, other than at the lowest levels of the pay scale. Throwing money after talent isn’t a long-term strategy. In a hyper-competitive environment, they may just use it as leverage to find an even better deal somewhere else, compounding the problem.
Focus on the Intangibles
Covid brought all of our priorities into sharp focus. The prospect of disease and death will cause an existential shift in perspective. Employees value trust, flexibility, and autonomy over compensation, titles, and acclaim. I know a very successful professional who left her job of 17 years to work at Trader Joe’s: “The benefits are great, there is a ton of flexibility, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m home for dinner every day, and I’m not chained to a desk.” Focus on what you can offer employees in the way of respect, trust, empowerment, self-determination and flexibility. Seeing a person (not just an employee) and creating a meaningful experience is more likely to engender loyalty.
Re-think Work as a Whole
In the same way that Covid forced employees to re-prioritize, it forced a reckoning with our idea of work. Do employees need to be in a physical office? Do they need to be answering emails on Sundays? Could productivity and engagement both be increased with additional flexibility, support, or different expectations?
This is a very different talent crunch from the early 90s where cash and equity were king. It’s less about feeding a wallet and more about feeding a soul. Resist the urge to use 90s tactics on a post-Covid workforce. It’s a recipe to lose both money and talent.