There are headlines being banded around talking about ‘the great resignation’. A term coined by US academic Anthony Klotz used to describe the many people leaving their roles and careers in the wake of the pandemic. But how can you stop your employees resigning, is it a mass exodus? Be prepared, you might not be able to stop them – and perhaps you shouldn’t.

But is it as bad as all that? I am not so sure about millions of people leaving in their droves is overly accurate. The media has conjured up images of swarms of people clambering aboard career life rafts and setting sail for pastures new in a Truman Show style. However, there is definitely something going on.

The change with flexible working

There seems to be a sea change in what people want and deserve in their place of work, and leaders are reacting. Well, the good ones are at least. It seems over lockdown and with the clear emergence of more flexible working and the fact that business doesn’t stop if, shock horror, nobody is physically in the office has allowed for some valuable insight. It’s shifted the onus to employees and allowed them some bargaining power.

Good leaders listen

As a recent piece in The Guardian pointed out, ‘retention’ is the new buzzword. Many businesses are falling over themselves to keep good people, but in their panic are failing to do the one thing in order to do that – talking to them about what would make them stay. Communication is key here and all leaders worth their salt know this. They have been clearly communicating to their teams throughout the pandemic which, for many, has imparted a sense of deep loyalty and camaraderie. The ones that didn’t, however, are worried and this is evidenced in the number of resignation letters that are being handed over.

Now is the time for leaders and managers to listen to their people. And not just listen but do so with empathy and understanding about why they stay and why, perhaps, they don’t want to.

From conversations with many businesses, here are some suggestions for retaining great people and how to stop your employees resigning:

Getting the basics right

There are the fundamental expectations of a good place to work. Values, policies, communication, flexibility and social impact are the basis for employees to judge where’s a great place to work. As leaders it’s time to nail this and ensure you fix the fundamentals as a strong business foundation for growth.

Sustainability and flexibility

Working for a sustainable and net zero-focussed business is expected by many, so do check in on your eco-credentials. Are you doing all you can to be sustainable? What more do you need to do and learn in order to be so? There are some great resources for businesses large and small so no excuse not to be on point here. Alongside this, there’s an expectation for flexible working to be offered. As is an open-door policy with leaders in the business as well as supporting mindset and wellbeing throughout the organisation. Of course, these are all great things to say, but are you actually walking your walk?

The retention winners

By this I mean, what are the special things that make good people stay, and not only stay but invest emotionally? What is unique to you? Do you allow them to bring their pets to work (I mean everyone has got a dog over lockdown!), do you have an association with a charity, or could employees choose their own to support under your brand? Do you offer a clear promotion plan with transparent pay structure? Are you an inclusive company who celebrates diversity and equality and it shines through in your brand and culture? All your employees need a good understanding of where they are and what they need to do to grow.

Visibility as a leader

This, in my experience, is key. Being visible as a leader is everything and allowing people to feel comfortable enough to be open and honest with you is worth its weight in gold. The emergence of the vulnerable leader is a very welcome one and a long time coming. A business and a brand are only as good as the people in it. So this has to be front and centre of all your thinking and activity. It’s your job to constantly assess how to make your place of work as enjoyable, inspiring and aspirational as possible.

With these suggestions, you should be able to stop your employees resigning, or to let them go gracefully if that’s the right answer.

Photo by Junseong Lee on Unsplash