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We've never seen anything like it.
All over the world, people are walking away from jobs. In just one month, and in the US alone, four and a half million workers called it quits.
The phenomenon dubbed The Great Resignation is something everyone is now familiar with thanks to the many articles that have been written on the matter. However, most economists will tell you that quitting is usually an expression of optimism. And yet, 2021's exits happened against a larger economic picture that remains difficult to interpret with confidence.
Pandemic-related factors are involved in the reasons why people wish to leave a role, but it's clear from various surveys probing the situation that a chronic lack of leadership and motivation is undermining companies' attempts to hire, retain and get the best from their people.
Why workers are leaving.
The phenomenon is very much driven by employees and the top reasons cited by experts continue to be lack of adequate childcare and health concerns about Covid, more recently exacerbated by Omicron.
There is good reason to suggest the framing of the Great Resignation places heavy emphasis on the idea that even executives and senior leadership workers are quitting from stress and burnout or sympathy with the budding anti-work movement. However, there are just as many reasons to suspect that many quit searching for better work opportunities, self-employment, or, simply, higher pay.
The grass is greener where you water it.
Richard Branson was right to say that employees trump even customers because "the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers". They're the ones "making the magic happen" so they need to be cared for and prioritized. This is especially the case as new freedoms such as work-from-home and hybrid policies are giving more choice as to how and where we work.
As a result of demand outweighing supply, in many countries, the talent now has greater control than employers and can pick and choose from opportunities.
But, outside of the ivory towers inhabited by pampered sports stars, how many leaders go the extra step to understand their people and invest in them as individuals who can excel at every level? Not many: a Microsoft survey suggests that 37 percent of workers feel their employers are asking too much of them, while one in five say their employers don't care about work-life balance.
This fundamental disconnect is at the heart of a massive ongoing shift in working patterns. The lingering effects of the pandemic and trends such as the Gig Economy reframe how we all think about work and life outside of work. But the backdrop reality has not budged an inch: good organizations still need good people to propel them.
We know that applying best practices to hiring is critical but we appear to have lost that rigor when it comes to caring for people once they are onboarded and on the payroll. Somewhere along the line, the individual gets lost in the hamster wheel of the perpetual need to grow, make profits, and appease shareholders and analysts.
The cost of the Great Resignation
The costs of such significant shifts in labor are steep. Based on insights from a survey by Predictive Index, the average cost of a single resignation is now approximately $11,372 per employee. This same survey shows that on average, turnover has been roughly 20 percent over the past six months. So for a firm with 1000 employees, if 200 people leave, that would cost the business almost $3 million.
That cost is why many organizations are formalizing how they improve the employee experience. Ensuring their employees can shape the worklife that they wish is an incredibly powerful motivator for retention.
Offering employees coaching services that were previously only provided to executives and high-performers is a big incentive. The advice and mentoring at every step to make the employee happy, empowered, understood, and able to overcome workplace challenges is a small price to pay compared to the losses of having an open door and no retention support.
By investing in coaching, you provide your people with pastoral care and attention via expert coaches that can provide an outside-in perspective and augment your internal processes and culture. Select a provider that offers qualified human coaches. Your employees will be able to set and meet unique worklife goals, identify and address blockers to progress, and delve deep into the complex psychology of what excites people and ignites their passions. They will be there to help instill or restore a sense of purpose, drive, and enjoyment. But they will also correct imbalances and focus on what people want from their lives as a whole and their working hours.
This kind of talent optimization is a practice that covers a wide variety of needs, reconnecting the disconnected and disenfranchised but also maintaining and increasing motivation for those who are already engaged. It needs to be applied broadly as a resource on tap for various scenarios. Ultimately, at its best, it will make people advocates for the brands that back them, providing the best of people to outperform and inspire others. These recommenders create a virtuous circle that makes it easier for you to hire the most talented people and spread the word about how great you are as an employer.
So, what are some of the scenarios where this can be applied? In brief, think of six significant opportunities:
- Retention. About three-quarters of employee turnover is preventable. People say: "I wouldn't have left if..." and retention is about doing everything within reason to stop unnecessary exits.
- Engagement. Only about a third (35 percent) of the global workforce say they feel engaged. Coaching means people feel heard, cared for, and confident that employers will respond to their needs.
- Development. Nearly 60 percent of employees say adding skills and personal development would enhance the culture of their organizations. And those organizations need to imbue a culture of lifelong learning.
- Mobility. Employees stay twice as long at companies that offer and encourage internal talent mobility. Employees shouldn't feel locked into a task, job, or department and often they can be a better fit, feeling fresher and able to grow elsewhere in the organization.
- Inclusion. Over three-quarters of staff say they want an inclusive work environment. Coaching can help every person, including those from under-represented groups, feel safe, empowered, included, and able to offer a perspective that prevents groupthink and a false consensus based on dominant groups.
- Onboarding. The first 100 days of a new hire are vital to the success of that employee from both the employee's perspective and the employer's. Therefore, reducing the employee's time to ramp and assisting their adaptation to the new role diminishes possible risks.
Improving these areas needs a formal program combining both human touch and excellent technology to make it easy to use and deliver for the employees and analysis and dashboard for the HR team to understand if progress is being made with its retention, development, and inclusion goals.
It's clear that the Great Resignation is costing employers far more than just talent, and its financial implications are more significant than ever.
If your business can adapt to changing worker attitudes and behaviors, you will be in a good place to navigate an unpredictable future. But right now, you need to ask yourself, is your organization doing everything it can to keep, upskill and inspire people? If not, it may be time to take a new coaching-led approach.