The ‘great resignation’ is a term coined by Professor Anthony Klotz to describe the wide scale resignations that businesses are experiencing since the start of the pandemic. It’s a global phenomenon and is disrupting industries and markets in all sectors.
There are no silver bullets when faced with the ‘great resignation.’ You can’t fix the problem and then walk away. Creating an environment in which your team is happy, engaged, and valued is constant work. It’s also an incredible opportunity for you to take your business to the next level.
You might be in the fortunate position to be able to throw a bonus or pay increase at people and buy yourself a few more months. But don’t be fooled– if you’re not taking a holistic approach to team engagement, you’re buying yourself a little extra time, and nothing more.
When introducing initiatives to increase team engagement and fulfillment, you’re looking for the win-win scenario. Fostering a culture where your team is happy, motivated, developed, challenged, and valued will help them do their best work, yield substantial tangible value for your business, and ultimately allow you to reduce staff turnover and attract new talent.
Team engagement is a complex challenge, and different types of businesses will have different types of challenges to solve. But there are a few basic things to look out for:
1. Decide what your company culture is and then live your values
Fostering a professional, vibrant, and engaging company culture is one of the most important things a business owner can do to make their company an attractive place to work. When supported by strong company values this can lead to better ownership, mission buy-in, productivity, and reductions in employee churn.
Identifying your company values - the qualities or behaviors that define you and what makes your company successful - is crucial. It aligns your existing team and sets expectations for how your employees should work together. A word of caution, however: if you define your values you then need to embody them in everything your company does, from hiring, promotions, project execution, and strategic outlook. If your values initiative ends with posters gathering dust, you’ll do more damage than if you hadn’t bothered in the first place.
2. Hire selectively and pay appropriately
Once you have defined your company culture, make sure you’re hiring people who align with your values. This isn’t about finding drones who all think the same, it’s making sure the people who join your company have a similar approach to doing things.
Making a mistake here could easily lead to an early exit for the individual, resulting in time and effort wasted on both sides. It’ll hurt your short term productivity, slow down your organizational growth, and potentially cause reputational damage. In the age of online reviews and social media, news can travel fast!
When you have found someone who aced the interview, who aligns with your values, and would be a great addition to the team, you need to ensure that you are offering them a compensation package that’s competitive with the market. While budgets for pay and benefits will differ between companies, and you can only pay what you can afford, if you’re paying your team at the bottom market rate, don’t be surprised if they jump ship early on.
The bottom line is pay people what they are worth, and keep a close eye on the market!
3. Empower your teams to learn, develop, and progress
A key aspect of employee engagement is focusing on training and development. If you employ someone and don’t encourage and support their learning, odds are they will stay at the same level of performance. Ownership of a team member's development should always be the responsibility of the individual. However, supporting them as their employer to develop will not only help them with their future career goals, but will also pay dividends to the company by increasing their productivity.
Training and development doesn’t have to be costly. If you have the cash to spare there are plenty of fully curated courses and learning paths that you can sign up for. But with just a little effort you could investigate and curate your own training plans using the plethora of free resources that are available.
The final piece to this puzzle is ensuring that for those who are actively learning and developing, there must be something for them to aim for within your organization. The creation of progression paths can really help here, comprising clear and concise details on what’s expected for each role, and instructions on what’s required for promotion or lateral moves.
4. Feedback, feedback, feedback
Now, this isn’t just a pun related to buying houses, there’s a reason why feedback is important - and included three times. Maintaining a culture of frequent, candid, and immediate feedback is an incredible tool for making sure your company is the best it can be. But keep in mind, feedback shouldn’t just be top down, it should come from above, from below, and from the sides.
Think of clear and consistent feedback as a series of small course corrections that stop small problems from becoming big ones.
The reason why feedback is mentioned three times is because it’s not just the individual team member who benefits from it. Feedback can be useful for:
● The individual. How are they doing? What changes could they make to increase their effectiveness? Line or project managers, peers, and stakeholders can all provide useful action items for how the individual can improve.
● The team. How is the team doing? Are their interactions with other teams as effective as possible? Managers can gain crucial insights into how their teams are performing by requesting feedback from the departments they work with.
● The company. How is your company doing as a whole? Are there things that could be better? An employee survey can yield really useful and constructive feedback that can make your entire organization better.
5. Be flexible (where you can)
There are many conflicting opinions on flexible working in the media. However, it’s simply a fact that employees place huge value on increased flexibility. Remote or hybrid working, amending start and finish times, reducing hours, or allowing part-time work are all tools that can be used to increase overall flexibility.
Now this isn’t to suggest that every business (or every team within a business) is able to offer every type of flexibility to their employees; for many job roles this isn’t practical. However, talking to your employees to understand their needs and trying to find a compromise that works for the business would always be welcomed, and if accommodations can be made, then it would be a huge win for staff retention. If accommodations can’t be made, make sure you have that conversation with your team so they understand the reasons for the decision.
It’s worth keeping in mind that flexible working doesn’t just have to be a perk for your employees, as there are many tangible benefits for businesses that embrace a more creative approach to work. As well as increased staff retention, flexible working options can help you attract a wider pool of candidates when hiring, reduce absenteeism and sickness, extend your working hours to best suit your business needs, and for many types of roles, it can even lead to increased productivity.
6. Embrace diversity and inclusion
Workplace diversity means respecting and embracing the differences and individuality that each member of your team brings to the workplace. Creating an inclusive environment for all workers regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, beliefs, neurodivergency, socioeconomic, or educational backgrounds can yield substantial benefits for both the employer and the employee.
For the employee, an inclusive workplace creates a welcoming and nurturing environment that can empower employees to feel more valued, more engaged, and in turn, perform to the best of their abilities.
For the employer, team members from different backgrounds think differently and approach problem solving differently. Combining the experiences and opinions of a diverse workforce can lead to more creative and innovative solutions to the daily problems businesses face.
When looked at as an opportunity rather than a threat, employee retention is both a strategy and tool to boost all aspects of your business. If you build an environment where your team feels valued and engaged, where learning and development are supported and demonstrate genuine care for your employees’ well-being, you’ll be maximizing your chances for business continuity, growth, and success.