Is My Organization Vulnerable to the Great Resignation?
The COVID-19 pandemic kickstarted one of the longest quitting strings in nearly 20 years. As pandemic life allowed workers to evaluate their lives and take a good look at the jobs they had, nearly 57 million Americans quit their jobs between January 2021 and February 2022. And, that number continues to rise.
The question posed to leaders is no longer “what do we do to stop the Great Resignation?” This is a high-speed train with no stops in sight. Rather, leaders need to be evaluating the areas of vulnerability within their organizations that already exist. We may not be able to stop the train, but we can minimize the damage along the way. Your organization is vulnerable to the impacts of the Great Resignation. But, a strategic approach can mitigate the damage and keep your best employees.
The Status of the Great Resignation
During the first wave of the Great Resignation, workers looked for organizations with flexibility, an emphasis on health and safety, and work/life balance. Now, the core motivators for changing jobs seem to have shifted. Many of the workers who stayed throughout the pandemic are restless as problems continue to exist.
With inflation on the rise, stagnant strategy, and increasing disenchantment with waiting for things to suddenly resolve themselves, an increasing number of workers are looking for alternative options. It’s estimated up to 40% of American workers are at least somewhat likely to leave their current job in the next 3–6 months. If you haven't yet felt the impacts of the Great Resignation, imagine what losing 40% of your workforce would mean for you. You can't afford to keep avoiding this cultural phenomenon any longer.
These issues are not new to a pandemic era of work. The pandemic exasperated existing concerns to a breaking point. In a sense, the pandemic was the straw that broke the camel's back for many.
How to Evaluate Areas of Vulnerability
Each organization has its own unique challenges and reasons why employees are leaving. It may feel overwhelming or even like this is an impossible problem to resolve. Thankfully, retention and engagement are closely intertwined. The Great Resignation is often referred to as a "cultural phenomenon," but it is not one you are unable to address and combat. In fact, an effective way to evaluate if your organization is susceptible to the Great Resignation is to look at BCWI’s 8 Drivers of Engagement.
Several of the motivators workers cite as reasons for leaving jobs amidst the Great Resignation are also attributed to one of the eight factors. The most obvious factor is compensation.
While providing adequate and rewarding compensation is important, it is not the primary reason people came to your organization. And at the same time, not the only reason people will leave. Isolating compensation as the only factor to address will be less effective at attracting or retaining highly capable employees than other drivers. Rather, retention in light of the Great Resignation is most effectively addressed with these key drivers of engagement in mind:
Sustainable Strategy: happens when areas are resourced with the people and tools needed to do effective work and see a positive outcome from team member efforts, without burnout or chaos.
Life-Giving Work: gives people increasing responsibility with authority. Train and equip people to perform their roles well and allow them to make decisions efficiently without requiring escalation and authorization of timely decisions.
Outstanding Talent: create career paths that develop people, that recognize and reward their growth, and show them a future.
Rewarding Compensation: provide pay that is fair to your compensation philosophy, has an element of merit and includes a higher level of increase during inflation or times of economic uncertainty.
We'd also like to include Healthy People, which emphasizes work-life balance, reasonable working hours, the ability to use PTO, flexibility in work hours, and work-from-home (WFH)/ hybrid work arrangements. This factor is often packaged with rewarding compensation in the form of benefits.
We often hear from ministry partners how compensation is the number one reason people are leaving, but there just isn’t enough funding to increase pay. Thus, people leave. But, especially within ministry contexts, many employees are not motivated by pay. Rather, they want to work in places where they feel valued, appreciated, and can grow while also being fairly compensated. The motivator is not to make the most, but to work somewhere that is healthy and pay is sustainable.
What Does This Look Like?
Of course, employee engagement does not occur in a vacuum. The solution involves many layers and is more than just one "problem" to solve. Let’s look at a case example of what this might look like within your organization.
Margaret has been a core contributor to your organization for the past 5 years. She applied because she wanted to make a difference and be a part of something bigger than herself. However, over the past few years, she has become discontent with the lack of effectiveness in the organization. She feels like leadership talks the talk, but nothing ever changes. She has been waiting for years to see effective strategies and changes implemented, but it seems like it is all empty promises.
Despite her deep love for the mission, Margaret feels like it is time to find a place where she has a voice and leadership follows through with their commitments. While on her job search, she learns she can also make significantly more money in another field and eventually takes a new position. In her exit interview, Margaret cites compensation as her reason for leaving.
While it may be true that Margaret is leaving in part due to compensation, it’s not the whole story. Instead, at the core of Margaret’s exit is actually a lack of Sustainable Strategy.
When staff perceives that the mission is ineffective, they often look to other ways to feel that they are supported, valued, and strengthened. Looking for higher pay is one of those ways. But, no amount of compensation can make up for their desire to see an impact, so people do not become more satisfied with their pay. Even if you offered Margaret more pay, the solution—pay—does not solve the problem—effectiveness.
Leaving patterns are in fact patterns. If one employee leaves because of a lack of strategy, more are sure to follow. So what can you do to retain future employees in similar situations as Margaret?
Provide the appropriate people and tools needed to do effective work and see a positive outcome from employee efforts, without burnout or chaos.
Keep leadership accountable for implementing changes.
Give agency and voice to your employees to impact change
Develop a strategic plan which includes a vision, mission, core values, and goals and objectives.
When a strategy is sustainable, there is a consensus on organizational goals, and employees have buy-in. Additionally, a strategy that sticks also addresses all the other factors - including compensation.
You have the opportunity to turn The Great Resignation into the Great Attraction if you decide to take a concentrated effort to address the key areas of vulnerabilities in your organization. Workers are looking to trade toxic and unhealthy cultures for healthy and engaged cultures. You have the opportunity to be that place. Not only will evaluating the health of your organization help you retain your best employees, but you’ll also attract some of the best talent leaving your competitors.
Are you up for the challenge? Schedule a consultation today to learn how the BCWI Employee Engagement Survey can help your organization take the next step into a flourishing future and address the key areas of vulnerabilities within your organization.