October 29, 2021

The Great Resignation: How Employers and Employees Should Prepare

You have probably heard a lot about the Great Resignation or “turnover tsunami” as a threatening trend for employers everywhere. 

The trend is real: People who stayed put during the uncertainty of the last year have spent months reconsidering career goals, prioritizing work-life balance, and exploring alternative career paths. 

And, now, as the world begins to return to normal, many of those employees are making the changes they have been dreaming about. A study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year.

But turnover tsunami—although it might be stressful in the short term—is not all bad.

For Organizations, It Is an Opportunity in Disguise 

Maybe you are already feeling the effects in your organization. While nobody likes employee turnover, sometimes big changes lead to big opportunities. This “crisis” is a chance for organizations to follow employees’ lead and to do some reinvention themselves. 

With a slew of new employees and new ideas, it is time for organizations to rewrite the rules of talent management, establishing better ways to: 

  • Improve employee satisfaction and motivation 
  • Build community and workplace culture 
  • Create alternative career paths and working arrangements  

Organizations that do not evolve will be left behind. 

Organizations Need to Become a People-First Workplace 

To attract or keep talent in this new environment, intelligent organizations must create a people-first strategy. A people-centered approach does not just satisfy employees; it is a boon for organizations, too. Organizations that empower talent have improved creativity, increased employee motivation, more trust in leadership, and are up to 21% more profitable

Salo’s workplace model provides nine interdependent factors that organizations need to cultivate to put people first. 

Talent drivers set up talent for success and satisfaction on the job by providing these foundational elements:   

  1. Purpose—A persuasive reason why the organization (and each person’s work) makes a difference in the world. 
  2. Empowerment: The flexibility for people to make decisions and choices about their work within clear guidelines. 
  3. Vision: An exciting future the organization wants to build and each person’s role in getting there.   
  4. Community: Supportive, diverse colleagues that work together and learn from each other. 
  5. Engagement: Satisfying work that keeps people learning and growing. 

Talent catalysts help people to do their best work by emphasizing these cultural factors:  

  1. Optimism: Confidence in future success (and the tools to get there).  
  2. Diversity: Exposure to people with different backgrounds/points of view and various teams/tasks.  
  3. Recognition: An environment where people feel heard, rewarded, and valued as an essential part of the team. 
  4. Safety: The psychological safety to make decisions and choices without retribution.

To get started creating a people-first workplace, organizations need to evaluate how successful they are in each factor. This process only works with significant employee input. By methodically working through each factor, organizations will learn where they excel, what areas need work, and get great employee ideas for making things better than ever before.

Employees are looking for a more personalized approach to work. They want more than a paycheck and are looking for work that interests them, fits their skillsets, and aligns with their values. They want to chart their own career path and enjoy freedom and flexibility in how they work. Finally, they want appreciation for what they do along the way.

Employees: Take Charge of Your Careers

If you are an employee—or looking for a new job—you are not alone. The good news is: you are more in demand and have a bigger voice than ever before. 

The events of the last couple of years have led to mindboggling evolutions in business. Sure, there were technology breakthroughs and innovative new products, but the most significant changes were around how, where, when, and why people work. Necessity forced organizations to focus on their talent resources in unprecedented ways. 

If you are looking for a job, take the time to explore what you want from a career:

  • Define what you want from your career and how work affects your life. 
  • Explore career options that meet your work (and life) goals. 
  • Think about what kind of workplace environment makes you happy and productive.
  • Identify what type of work interests you most and what skills you need to do it. 

If you currently have a job, be upfront about what you need. Many people think their leader knows what they want or need, but that may not be the case, so ensure you talk about what you need and what is not going well if you are frustrated. You might be surprised by the reaction. So, advocate for yourself:

  • Discuss your career goals and preferences with your manager.  
  • Partner with your manager to work on your development goals. 
  • Share workplace frustrations and challenges you are facing and offer solutions.

And, if you are looking for a new job, ask prospective employers about some of the people-first work factors, for example:  

  • What is your company’s purpose, and how does the position help fulfill that purpose? 
  • How much freedom and flexibility do I have to get my job done? 
  • How can I grow my career? What are development opportunities available to me? 
  • Describe your culture and employee community?

It Is Time for Action

Whether you are reinventing your talent management or reinvigorating your own career, focusing on the elements of a people-first workplace will help you thrive in today’s competitive talent market.

Ensure you are asking prospective employers about the people-first work factors and how those will affect and impact your daily goals.

Lisa Brezonik is the CEO of Salo.

Get the top recruiting news and insights delivered to your inbox every week. Sign up for the Recruiter Today newsletter.

Read more in Career Planning

Lisa Brezonik is CEO of Salo, a leading talent and consultant firm. Salo connects vetted experts in finance, accounting, or HR with organizations that need their expertise. These connections propel both the experts and the organizations forward. Lisa has built her career around helping people and organizations grow and thrive. She is the author of the book "Fire Yourself! Reignite your career and live your life with intention," which provides tools that help established professionals figure out where to go next. Prior to joining Salo, Lisa spent eight years as owner of Brezonik Consulting, an executive coaching, and organizational consulting firm. She has also held leadership roles at RBC Dain Rauscher, Integ, and Room and Board. Lisa serves on the board of directors for Bridgewater Bank, the Hennepin Health Foundation, and KIPSU.