American workers are quitting their jobs at an astonishing pace. At the end of July, a record 11 million positions were unfilled, and two-thirds of all employees in the U.S. are looking for new jobs – a phenomenon termed “The Great Resignation” by Texas A&M professor Anthony Klotz.
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified these drivers by dissolving traditional geographic constraints. Remote work has provided employees the opportunity to reevaluate their company’s environment and associated work-life balance, and has increased employer competition (and corresponding pay) for knowledge-based talent.
These factors raise an important question: “How can business leaders maintain a competitive advantage in the midst of record-setting labor volatility for the foreseeable future?”
I find it compelling that leadership-related factors account for 13 of Indeed’s top 16 reasons why employees leave their jobs. The remaining three are salary, location, and the company’s financial health.
This begs another important question: “How can business leaders effectively lead their organization through the ‘Great Resignation’?” In other words, how can business leaders attract, develop, and retain talent to maintain a competitive edge?
Assuming your salary structure is competitive, I’ve found that the answer to this question boils down to three key leadership focus areas:
Attract Talent by Creating a Culture That People Want to Be Part Of
Your culture is the set of shared values, mindsets, and behaviors that characterizes an organization. People are attracted to and thrive in cultures characterized by trust. To develop a culture of trust, focus on the content of your character, the caliber of your competence, and the capacity of your composure.
When you as a leader demonstrate strong character, I, as a member of your team, can trust your intentions. When you are competent, I can trust your actions. When you are composed, I can trust your emotions. A culture of intentional, actionable, and emotional trust is like a gravitational force that attracts great people.
Develop Talent by Creating an Environment Where People Can Grow
Creating an environment where people can learn and grow centers on three things: respecting your people, knowing your people, and taking care of your people. Respecting your people establishes the foundation for growth by ensuring your employees know that their contributions are valued. Knowing your people enables you to understand their unique professional growth areas and personal priorities. Taking care of your people involves providing opportunities to help them grow professionally while affording them time away from work to grow personally.
Regular one-on-one feedback is an essential part of a growth environment, and studies show that feedback at every level is crucial for high-performing companies. Over 80 percent of employees appreciate positive and negative feedback. Forty percent deliberately disengage when they get little or no feedback. And nearly half of highly-engaged employees receive feedback at least once per week. Embrace regular feedback sessions as an opportunity to respect, know, and take care of your people to help them reach their full potential personally and professionally.
Retain Talent by Creating a Mission That People Are Inspired By
People stick with teams they’re emotionally invested in. As a leader, how can you create emotional investment from your employees? By wrapping your mission in a vision that makes your people feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves.
Start by clearly articulating your mission. Ensure it’s purpose-driven by including both what you need to accomplish together, and why it’s important. Next, wrap your mission in a vision that paints a picture of what success looks like for your team. Then illuminate your vision by continuously communicating to your employees the meaningful difference they’re making in the world, and showing your genuine appreciation for their part in it.
If you’ve read my previous blog series, you probably noticed that these three focus areas are the same ones I unpacked in The Leadership Triad when describing how to lead a high-performing team. It’s not a coincidence, because I’ve found that the keys to leading a high-performing team are inextricably linked to building and sustaining a high-performing team. To maintain your competitive edge during the “Great Resignation,” create a culture that people want to be part of, an environment where your people can grow, and a mission wrapped in a vision that will inspire them to stay.
To dive deeper on the subject of how to build, lead, and sustain a high-performing team, check out my new book, The Substance of Leadership: A Practical Framework for Effectively Leading a High-Performing Team, available on Amazon. In the meantime, if you want to find out if you’re leading a high-performing team, take my five-minute Performance Pressure Test.