David Wray

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Retain Talent Through the Great Resignation!

Dilbert cartoon describing how not to retain talent! Credit: Scott Adams

What does retain talent mean, exactly?

It is being referred to as the “Great Resignation,” and as Gallup found, it’s not an industry, role, or pay issue. Gallup concludes that the current inability to retain talent is a workplace issue. Workplace issues are pervasive and linked to one of four underlying themes. Namely, communication, harassment and bullying, gossip, and general morale. As a result, leaders face one key question:

How can organizational workplace issues be overcome within a specific team?

Unlocking the answer to this question will lay the foundation necessary to retain talent. Individual leaders are ideal to eliminate, or at least reduce, issues simply by being attentive. That is, being attentive to what’s happening at all levels of the organization and identifying ways to solve problems when they arise. 

Why is this important? Let’s consider the organizational costs to replace lost talent:

  • Approximately U$1,500 for hourly roles
  • Between 100 to 150% (of the annual salary) for technical roles
  • Up to 213% (of the annual salary) for C-suite roles

So, retaining talent is resurging as a hot economic and human topic for all organizations and leaders.

Issue Management as a conduit to retaining talent

Before getting too deep, it is important to remember that within a generation, such as Millennials, there is a range of needs. A one-size-fits-all human resource solution will not be effective. For long-term success in attracting and retaining the best talent, organizational cultures depend on desirable principles. For instance, flexible working conditions, contemporary benefits and policies, and an entrepreneurial environment that wants to benefit its people, and the community at large. 

Beyond the organizational focus, we need to consider personal leadership. So, let’s turn our attention to understand some tangible actions individual leaders can take to retain talent. 

Communication as a tool to retain talent

When leaders appear closed to listening or implementing improvements that make life easier for team members, they can easily be perceived as uncaring or cold-hearted. The impact of this perception often leads to employees losing respect for the leader (and sometimes the organization). Next resentment surfaces and it deteriorates from there…talent is quick to leave. 

When leaders are empathetic communicators, team members feel safe and heard. The key is using every opportunity to practice this communication skill, including team meetings and one-to-one meetings. 

Retain talent by assigning purpose-driven work 

A growing proportion of employees seek autonomy and purpose-based or meaningful roles in workplaces. Although this is typically thought about from an organizational point of view, it applies equally to roles within the organization. For instance, a team member wants to understand what’s behind the problem the organization works to solve, and how the organization’s products or services impact the world. Bringing this idea down from 10,000 meters, the employee wants to know how their specific role contributes to that process. Leaders that understand and respond to these needs can take concrete steps to create purpose-based teams. 

For instance, leaders can foster teams that practice respectful communication and link roles to meaningful activities and responsibilities. Why is this important? 

Consider how you would feel (as an individual contributor or leader) when you’re recognized for the value you bring to the organization. It is powerful! We perform better, we deal with adversity more effectively, and tend to be more loyal to the organization. In fact, this organizational approach may be the difference between an employee that resigns and one that remains committed. 

Stamping out toxic workplaces

Toxic workplaces come in all shapes and sizes and will eventually infect even the best performers. Toxicity can manifest as bullying, gossiping, or harassment, where bullying and gossiping are generally between employees of equal level, whereas harassment typically occurs where one person exerts their authority (or control) over someone in a subordinate (or weaker) position. It happens most often when an individual or a group gang up on one or more other individuals to isolate them. Individuals on the receiving end of toxic behaviours often shoulder more than their fair share of the workload, while other individuals tend to take credit for their efforts. 

Leaders need to listen and remain alert for toxicity, stamping it firmly out however it surfaces. A few decisive steps eradicate this destructive environment, for both individuals and the organization. Individuals themselves can also take steps to minimize the risk of conflicts escalating to the point of toxicity.

Final Thoughts

Employees generally leave managers or leaders, rather than the organization per se. This makes individual leaders an influential factor in resignations. The good news is that it is a controllable factor. By creating meaningful work, linking work activities to the bigger picture, communicating openly and regularly, and stamping out toxic workplace behaviours – talent is much more likely to remain with the organization.

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your views and ideas for actions leaders could take to retain talent, or what human resources could do to help the organization attract and retain talent. 

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Scott Adams

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